Grow Food, Not Grass

You are finally going to do it.  The time has come and you are ready to tear out some of your lawn and create a place to grow your own food.  It’s a trend that is gathering momentum as people are tired of eating GMO, chemical ridden food from sometimes as far as several thousand miles away, under conditions you really don’t know the details of.  The “Grow Your Own” lifestyle is giving back to the homeowners who are joining, and to the communities that are benefiting from the change.

 

From the large inner cities to the neighborhoods in urban areas of our nation, people are making a change.  Although a well manicured front lawn is attractive and comfortable, its real potential lies just beneath the surface.  The potential for the freshest and most nutritious food you have ever eaten is right under your feet.  The health benefits go further than just eating locally grown, organic wonder vegetables.  Studies show that gardening is a stress reducer.  Being in the garden has been shown to lower blood pressure, and reduce overall stress levels.  Not to mention you get the benefit of the sunshine which we all know is healthy.

Inner City Garden (courtesy of calpirateparty.org)
Inner City Garden (courtesy of calpirateparty.org)

 

It is possible to grow all or most of the fresh vegetables needed for your family on an average sized residential plot in Anytown, USA.  Now, take into consideration there are a wide variety of factors to consider in this statement.  How much is open ground, what kind of tree cover do you have?  Do you have good sun exposure, shade, soil types and also what might be the biggest hurdle for you is your HOA.  Although many home owners associations are changing their tune and realizing they can’t stop the grow your own movement, you may want to check with yours before ripping your entire lawn out only to end up with a battle on your hands.  With careful planning and some involvement, maybe you can be the change that makes it happen.

Backyard garden (courtesy of wildramp.wordpress.com)

Backyard garden (courtesy of wildramp.wordpress.com)

Lets assume that you have all your ducks in a row and are ready to take the leap to a more self sufficient existence.  Are you going to do raised beds? Or are you growing right in the ground?  Most likely its a combination of both methods.  At The Landscape Doctor, we can help you design an efficient layout to optimize your growing potential.  We can construct raised beds and help you begin to create the perfect garden soil for your in ground areas.

Soil quality and amendment is a key factor and will be an ongoing process for your garden for years to come.  Here in the Fort Collins – Loveland area we see a mostly clay type soil with areas of sand and clay mixed.  Your soil quality can vary from here to there and may be quite different in quality from one side of town to the other.

Although we could spend many pages and make much to do about this process, I will leave you with a simple soil test to get started with your new garden.  We will address many other elements in future posts.

A very simple way to find out what your soil is made up of is to do the poor man’s soil test.  This involves a glass or plastic jar. An old peanut butter jar (organic of course), a few hand fulls of soil and some water.

Test Jar

1.) Tear the label off your jar so you can get a good look at the contents.  Fill the jar about half way with soil from your prospective garden area making sure to get a good sample from not just the top inch or so but down to a depth of about 8-10″. This will give you a better representation of the the complete soil profile.

2.) Fill the remainder of the jar with water from your hose and shake this mixture very thoroughly in order to suspend all of the soil into the water.

3.) Now, just let this set overnight and then look closely at it in the morning.

 

After overnight settling

After overnight settling

After the soil has settled, you will see defined layers. The heaviest material, sand, stones etc, will settle at the bottom.  Next will be the silty layer that is made up of clay particles.  Finally you will have the organic matter.  Some of that may be floating on the top of the water and some may have settled onto the surface of the soil in the jar.  This is the good stuff. This is what we want to see more of as your soil profile changes over time. It will change as you build your soil for certain.  You can do a rough estimate of the percentage of each of these elements you have by measuring the entire depth of the sample (not including water area) and deciding what percentage of each you have.  We want to have more organic matter almost always here in Northern Colorado.  So begins your journey of soil amendment. More to come…..

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