Sweet potato growing at Chinese camp student garden El
If you plant a garden of delicious edibles, you can look forward to your harvest. When you plant your own garden, not only do you get the freshest produce knowing how it was grown, but if you plant widely available seeds, the cost savings are almost like printing your own money. You can eat fewer processed foods and help reduce food deserts by growing your own food.
From rural farms to urban backyards to urban patio gardens, we can all be a part of this endeavor. Produce varieties range from lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, cucumbers, celery, scallions and radishes for a salad garden to root vegetables of carrots, parsnips, potatoes, bulb onions, leeks or even beets for a soup garden .
Think creative specialty gardens. A pizza garden adds oregano, thyme or other favorite herbs. A salsa garden adds jalapeños. A 5 gallon container of potatoes can make Potato Leek Soup. Make borscht with your beets; use vegetables to make broth for soups. We could all grow something simple like herbs or lettuce in a patio garden for ourselves or to share.
You can get seeds from big box stores, seed catalogs, seed sharing groups, or friends sharing their favorites. If you are growing from seed, get that seed from a reliable source. Buy farm-to-fork garden plants and shop at local farmers’ markets with the university’s master gardeners.
When I was young, my grandmother taught me how to plant the pickle garden I asked for. We planted cucumbers and dill. After our harvest, I learned the art of pickling and canning. It took years before I discovered that other types of pickles were also sourced from the grocery store.
When I started my gardening journey, my grandparents were my mentors. One had a large vegetable patch and a flower garden. She was my pickle teacher and my other grandmother had fruit trees. I was lucky enough to remember picking and eating hot tomatoes right next to the vine. Or sitting on top of a ladder with sticky hands and peach juice dripping down my chin. I have been exposed to planting, growing, harvesting, pickling, jam making and canning for as long as I can remember.
In my first house with a yard, I dug up the front yard grass for my vegetable garden. I planted, harvested and canned my front yard bounty, battling weeds all summer. It was glorious. Now in my seventies I have a patio container garden with various sized pots and waist deep containers including a horse trough, half wine barrels, laundry sink and ceramic pots.
With my bounty left over and a few dedicated gift items, I transitioned from water bath canning to steam canning or dehydrating (new skills I learned from the master food canners of the university). My experience with the Gardening Wonder has been a lifelong adventure and has provided me with so many memories.
So start this specialty garden wherever you are and in whatever container you can, no matter the size. Eat well, save money while enriching your life and enjoy your salsas, soups, pickles and jams. Enjoy your lunch!
Diane Miller is a Master Gardener at the University of California Tuolumne County Cooperative Extension.