By Nancy Grundahl
The recent Philadelphia Flower Show inspired me. I bought 3 kinds of asparagus roots and seed packets for those sweet, round yellow watermelons that are hard to find, corn and green beans. Already in my garden are blueberry bushes and a sour cherry tree. I have found that growing my own food is fun, relaxing and educational. Here are some of the lessons my garden has taught me.
Conditions need to be right or your seeds won’t grow and your plants won’t thrive. If a plant needs to be in the sun, plant it in a sunny area. If a plant needs moist soil, keep it moist or it and you will not be happy.
Create a healthy garden environment and wildlife will come. Birds love berries, even when they are not ripe. Bunnies love small tender plants. Deer? If they are in your area they will probably find you, as will slugs and beetles and on and on. It means your garden is healthy and inviting.
Nothing tastes like fruit and vegetables you grow yourself. They are typically way better than what you can find in stores. Ah, there’s nothing like eating a warm tomato that you just picked! Plus, you can plant unusual varieties, like heirlooms, to experience tastes you didn’t know exist. Biodiversity is a very good and yummy thing.
Using water you’ve captured (like in a rain barrel) is a better way to water your plants, particularly if your tap water is chlorinated. You might even just run a hose from a downspout into your garden. And, capturing stormwater can help reduce flooding from run-off. And, you’ll save money!
Mosquitoes love to breed in standing water, so don’t have any. Turn buckets upside down. Getting attacked by mosquitoes while you are gardening is very annoying and they can spread disease.
Weeds almost always grow better and faster than planted plants. That’s why they’re called weeds.
Native plants grow better than non-natives. That is unless you are unlucky enough to have a non-native plant that’s invasive, like kudzu. Natives can be hard to find, but search them out — they are worth it.
Don’t trash your yard waste; turn it into compost instead. Recycle! Reuse! Your plants will grow better with compost.
Yes, I’m ready to get going outside in this earlier-than-normal spring in the Northeast.
About the author: Nancy Grundahl has worked for the Philadelphia office of EPA since the mid-80’s. She currently works in Program Support for the Water Protection Division. Nancy believes in looking at environmental problems in a holistic, multi-media way and is a strong advocate of preventing pollution instead of dealing with it after it has been created.