It's been an exciting few weeks in our edible garden since we got started two weeks ago. First of all, I realize now that I knew even less about gardening than I thought I did when I started this project, so this has been a big learning curve for me. Thank goodness for my partner in this experiment, Lauri Kranz, from Edible Gardens LA who has been teaching me all of her tricks.
Lauri and I started by digging up a small piece of my yard that was totally overgrown but receives tons of light throughout the day (very important for growing). We then built what will hopefully be the first of several above ground beds made of untreated redwood (wooden beds that are treated contain lots of nasty chemicals that can leach into the soil and wind up in your fruits and vegetables) because they're easy to maintain and usually yield a larger amount of edible goodies because they're so deep. We finished by dumping out most of the old, dried up dirt in all my planting pots in back of the house and filling them, the above ground beds and the newly cleared piece of the yard with nutrient-packed soil and compost.
Now that all of the planting beds and pots were fresh and ready, Lauri and I got to planting (aka the fun part!): Lemon Verbena, three varieties of thyme, opal basil, sage, African basil (great for attracting bees for pollination), white and Japanese eggplant, four varieties of tomatoes (and even more varieties to come), purple tomatillos from seeds, two kinds of lettuce, carrots, Blue Lake beans, Persian and white cucumbers -- and this was just round one of our planting! As exciting as this was for me, it was even more mind blowing for Kenya and Chloe. You’d have thought we built an amusement park in our backyard. The kids had the best time dropping seeds into the soil, digging little holes, putting the baby plants into the ground and covering their roots with more dirt. Finally, we pulled out Kenya's watering can and let him drizzle all of the plants with a drink of water (which in hindsight may not have been necessary since it rained nonstop for the following few days). For my kids, this was dream come true: being able to get really dirty, play in the water and have the opportunity to watch the process of food growing from seed to edible treasure.
Lauri has taught me that 80% of the success in growing healthy, delicious plants starts with the soil you plant them in. For example, we've had an apple and pear tree for over four years (the first fruits Kenya ate actually came from these trees), but in all that time they have barely flowered. Lauri and I decided to move the trees to a sunnier area of the yard -- placing them in richer soil -- and in just two weeks they have already sprouted green buds all over. Kenya and I were totally shocked by their rapid transformation and have loved watching them flourish every day. But back to the soil, just remember that if you're going to take the time to build your own edible garden, it’s a wise investment to buy the best quality organic soil and compost you can find. You will likely offset the extra cost with the size and quality of your yield and thus have less produce to buy at the supermarket to supplement what you grow.
One of the other highlights of this experience came when Kenya was helping me make dinner last week (Veggie Frittatas). All of a sudden, he was struck with a brilliant idea: "Mommy,” he said, “we should get something from the garden for our dinner!” My heart nearly burst. Obviously we had just planted the new garden and so nothing had grown yet, but one remaining potted plant from our previous garden still had tons of chard growing in it, so Kenya, Chloe and Daddy went out into the pouring rain to pick it and bring it back for us to wash and chop up in our frittatas. The best part was watching the kids talk on and on during dinner about our veggie and cheese filled baked egg dish and how much they loved it. I think knowing that an ingredient in it came from our own edible garden made both kids even more excited about eating it as well as about the prospect of having a veritable farmer’s market that they helped plant, right in their own backyard.
Stay tuned for our next installment in two weeks. This will be an interesting experiment as we all continue to learn, grow and enjoy the fruits of our labor!