Thursday, October 6, 2011

Growing Food in the Suburbs

     Growing a garden in the suburbs as part of a self sufficiency lifestyle is a great option for generating food for your table. If you plan to harvest your own food and preserve it for later use gardening is a great option for increasing your food storage preparations. Lots of people use pressure canning, water bath canning, or dehydration to preserve fruits and vegetables they grow in their own gardens. I'm new to the gardening concept, and I'm learning lots of new things every week it seems like.

     I wish I could have a traditional garden, but I can't. I live in a neighborhood that has a strict Home Owners Association (HOA).  I cannot have any part of a garden visible from the street, and I live on a corner lot, so my entire backyard is visible from one street or the other. As a result, I have to be very careful about what I can plant and where I can plant it. I have to be very conscious of using "blocking" plants and shrubs, so the things I do plant can't be seen.

     The soil in my yard is another problem I have to contend with. It is almost entirely red clay. If any of you are familiar with southern red clay, or even SEEN southern red clay, you know exactly what I'm talking about. One solution I came up with is digging a trench in the clay 1 foot wide, by 1 foot deep, by 3-4 feet long. Next I line the trench with old newspapers.  Finally I fill it with a mixture of 1/3 potting soil, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 compost. Basically I have created my own clay flower pot that will hold 3 or 4 plants and I can plant directly in that.  I top it off with some mulch to hold moisture, and water with a 2 gallon pitcher 3 times a week. It's low to the ground, away from the house, and is easily camouflaged behind a couple of Knockout rose bushes.

    The things I grow are Garlic, Jalapeno Peppers, Banana Peppers, Bell Peppers, and herbs like Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Rosemary and Fennil. I even have a peach tree, a fig tree, an olive tree, and a black berry bush. I think I'll try some container tomatoes, and blue berry bushes next spring. For obvious reasons I can't grow corn, pumpkins, watermelons etc. Even traditional tomato plants are too tall with the stakes or cages required to help them grow straight.

     The herbs and several pepper plants are grown only in containers. The picture above is an olive tree on the left and Spicy Basil on the right. I like to be able to move them to follow the sun, or expose them to rain. I would not recommend growing anything within 15 feet of your house because most residential pest control treatments spray up to 15 feet out from the foundation. I would take precautions against food plants being sprayed with lawn treatments designed to kill weeds or promote green grass. If you have anything in the planted in the ground, cover it with trash bags prior to spraying. You don't want to eat anything that has been sprayed with poisons. I don't yet have any solutions for avoiding chemicals that can seep into your plants through water that has run off of chemically treated areas such as a neighbors yard.
     I'm sure we will cover this topic several more times in coming posts as it is a broad and interesting subject. My adaptation of  container gardening and variations on square foot gardening are still in the trial and error phase. I hope some of these tips might work for you. If any of you have suggestions please share them with me so I can see if they work for myself and others.

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