A year in review

This last year was a big one. I gave birth to my first child and I decided to leave my corporate job. It was a LOT of change, really fast. It was the first year, in a long time, in which I felt incredibly present. This sudden lifestyle change and entirely new focus gave me the ability to think more creatively. Ultimately enabling me to tap even deeper into my love for gardening. Lucky me! I learned a lot this  year, but even more, my passion and interest in edible gardening GREW big time! img_5666

When I think of ONE word to describe my gardening life in 2016, it is “productive”. I did a much better job at planning. I put seeds in the ground early enough to take advantage of growing food all year long. I invested the time to thin, weed, and fertilize, resulting in productive and healthy plants. When I think of ONE word to describe what I am aiming for in 2017, it is “diversity”. megan-11

Now that I better understand garden planning, timing, and growing cycles, it is time to have a little more fun! I tend to grow what I know I will eat i.e. what I can find at the grocery store. How boring. In 2017 I want to try growing vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers that are new to me and my family. I typically dedicate the space in my raised beds to edible food only. In 2017 I hope to create a larger ecosystem of vegetables, herbs, and flowers grown next to one another. Thanks to The Fake Farmgirl who opened my eyes to the concept of a Potager garden in which flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruits are intermingled. Ultimately, creating a stronger ecosystem to pollenate, fertilize, and protect against unwanted pests. 2017 is the year of a more diverse, colorful, and experimental garden.

Last year at this time, I documented my key accomplishments and lessons learned. THIS IS A MUST to get closer to the garden that you want to have. I am happy to report that I put my learnings into action in 2016. So here I go again.

Key Accomplishments

  • Grew more of everything. I grew more vegetables, herbs, fruit, and flowers than the year before. This is because I actually planned and most importantly understood the timing of when I needed to get seeds and bulbs into the ground. To do this, I suggest having one or two really great gardening books on hand. Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard lists out what you need to do in the garden each month. Read the instructions on seed packages. I am embarrassed to say that I have not done this and then the seeds or bulbs don’t sprout because I planted too deep, didn’t soak bulbs, or planted at the wrong time. This seems so simple but is often overlooked.
    • Timing: directly planted seeds for my spring garden by end of March , summer garden in early May, Fall garden by end of July, and last planting beginning of September.
  • Had beautiful roses from May – October. We bought and planted bare root roses in February and enjoyed roses starting in May! Visit your local nursery for bare root roses that will do well in your environment.
  • Expanded my gardening community and knowledge. Through this blog, social channels, and reaching out to gardeners within my local community, I have created a network of people that inspire me to grow food, eat real food, and treat Mother Earth with love and care. I look forward to continuing to grow and connect with this community in 2017.

 Lessons learned

  • I want to and can grow more. This will require another raised bed. I plan to build this bed in January to have it ready to roll for planting in March (blog post to come).
  • Grow more herbs. I learned how to air dry herbs this year and it was a success. These were great holiday gifts and I now have a container full of flavor from my own backyard. I definitely want to do this again in Fall 2017 and hope to have more herbs on hand to make twice as much. My two favorite herbs to air dry are Oregano and Thyme. dsc_0113
  • Grow more flowers. I said this last year. I did grow more flowers, but not nearly as many as I could have. Not only can these help create healthier vegetables, but who doesn’t want fresh flowers in their house all year long? I’m all about these flower recommendations from Seattle Urban Farm Company. img_4596
  • Onions need to be started as transplants in January. I directly seeded my onion seeds into the garden in late March. This didn’t work. Because I did not read any directions about growing onions, I just assumed I could directly plant the seeds into the garden in spring. It is best to plant onion transplants into the garden in late March and allow them to grow for 5-6 months before harvesting.
  • Sungold tomatoes rock! We had great success with this tomato variety and they are delicious. I personally like planting my tomato plants in large pots because they are easier for me to manage and don’t take up a lot of space in my raised bed.
  • Plant winter squash in the spring. I completely missed the boat on planting winter squash this year. You can direct seed winter squash and I will plan to do this by end of May. I hope to grow New England Pie Pumpkin and Honey Bear Acorn Squash.
  • Grow a “lettuce salad mix”. I love growing lettuce, I eat a lot of it and it is easy to grow in the PNW. This is the first year that I grew a lettuce mix. Not only was it fun to have a variety of lettuce leaves, but it also thrived in the garden. DSC_0022
  • Plant a fall garden. This year I was diligent about getting one more round of seeds into the ground at the beginning of September. This was well worth the effort and resulted in vegetables through January. It is such a treat to harvest carrots, beets, leeks, kale, and swiss chard on a cold, dark evening in the winter. dsc_0113
  • Reference a few key gardening resources. As mentioned before, it is so important to have a book or two on hand that makes it easier for you to know when to plant what. These are my go to gardening resources:

What has been your biggest learning in 2016? What is one thing you want to do in your garden in 2017?

I want to give a special THANK YOU to all of you who read my blog and support my gardening habits. Gardening would not be nearly as fun without those of you that help me learn, dig in the dirt, harvest, and enjoy the food!

Cheers to community and spreading the good gardening word in 2017!

With gratitude,

Megan megan

 

 

Meet Hilary – making edible gardening possible for everyone

Do you want to grow food but don’t know where to start? Or maybe you have an edible garden, but like me, still have so many questions. Wherever you are at, one thing holds true, we all need a little guidance, support, and inspiration.

I can’t think of a better way to inspire you than to introduce you to a woman that has motivated and educated me about urban, edible gardening. Meet Hilary Dahl, Co-owner of Seattle Urban Farm Company and Creator of Encyclopedia Botanica Podcast. Not only is she wicked smart about gardening, but she distills the science into an easy guide that makes growing food possible for anyone. Plus, she is a super talented photographer, so don’t forget to follow @SeattleUrbanFarmCo on Instagram to get a daily dose of her amazing photos.hilary-pruning-peas-2

I had the opportunity to ask Hilary a series of questions about how she started her urban farming career, advice and tips for those that want to grow food, and helpful knowledge for those that are already working on their green thumb.  Plus, at the bottom of this post you will find a list of helpful resources from Hilary and Seattle Urban Farm Company and a GIVEAWAY. Enjoy!

Megan: What is your gardening mission?
Hilary: My mission to is make edible gardening accessible for everyone. I try to create content, such as the podcast, blog and social media feed, that help take the mystery out of home food production. Edible gardening is possible for anyone, our goal is to provide resources that empower people to get out there, be successful, and enjoy themselves.summer-harvest

Megan: Why did you decide to start a career in urban farming?
Hilary: I became interested in urban farming while in college. I attended the University of Washington and studied the relationship between environmentalism and urban planning. Urban agriculture seemed like a great tool to connect city dwellers to the natural world, improving their quality of life and providing a tangible way to increase their own environmental sustainability.

Megan: What advice would you give to those who are thinking of trying to grow food?
Hilary: I would encourage beginners to start small and read the instructions. You definitely want to start gardening with a space that you can easily manage, and to be honest with yourself about how much time you can spend in the garden each week. An hour a week is a reasonable amount of time to spend, which means you might want to begin with only a couple of small raised beds. A plant doesn’t have instructions per se, but seed packets and plant tags contain a surprising amount of information, as long as you read it! Beginners who do not heed the advice that accompanies their plants will almost always make mistakes that are easily avoidable! kale

Megan: What is the most difficult part of growing food?
Hilary: It can be challenging for people to accept that, as a farmer, they must deal with the vagaries of nature. Gardening provides a wonderful opportunity to connect to the natural world. However, crops are exposed to a wide range of threats including freezing temperatures, insect pests, fungal diseases, viruses and animals. Therefore, you have to understand that food production will have failures and that to be successful, you simply must persevere and try again!

Megan: What is your greatest learning from helping hundreds of people to start their own gardens?
Hilary: Growing food can be easy. However, it has been remarkable to see how many people make the same mistakes when they are getting started. Honestly, I think people just need to take a little bit of time before they get started to understand the basics. They should take a workshop, read one of our books or spend a few days helping out a friend who is already a gardener. There is a wealth of gardening knowledge out there waiting to be accessed, so get involved in your local community. hilarys-garden

Megan: If you were given a few more hours in the day, what would you choose to do?
Hilary: I could always spend more time taking photographs of the garden. I love being out with the plants first thing in the morning, and a mid-day and in the evening. It is amazing how much can change during the course of a day, and I’d love to have even more opportunities to capture everything that is happening out there.

Megan: What are the top 4 things someone should consider before starting their own garden?
Hilary: A few keys to getting the garden started properly: first, make sure your garden gets great sun exposure (at least 6 to 8 hours). Second, start with a space that is easy to manage (perhaps only a couple of raised beds). Third, use good quality soil and add organic fertilizers to your beds before planting. Lastly, always follow the plant spacing guidelines for each crop and make sure to water your crops regularly! If you do those things, you will almost certainly have a great first gardening season.

Megan: Do you think everyone should grow food?
Hilary: I think that growing food is good for people. Just about everyone would benefit from spending more time outside, getting their hands in the soil and eating more vegetables. Having a garden makes all of these things inevitable, so it’s a very healthy habithilary-and-bush-beans

Megan: If someone can only grow 3 plants? Which ones should they grow and why?
Hilary: Choosing only three plants would be challenging. I think the crops might be different for everyone. One of the things we have learned from working with lots of different gardeners, is that each person has their own tastes and preferences. Some people might only want to plant tomatoes, while another might only want salad greens. If I had to choose only three crops, they would be beets, kale and beans. I’d grow beets simply because they are my favorite vegetable to eat; kale because it has a long season, produces a ton of food from each plant and is very nutrient dense; green beans are also big producers and are easy to store by canning, drying or freezing, so you can eat them year-round. beets

Megan: A lot of people don’t have yards; can they grow edible food on a deck or in pots?
Hilary: You can definitely create an edible garden on a deck or in pots anywhere you have room. Make sure the space gets at least 6 hours of sunlight, make sure you can easily get water to the space so you can irrigate your plants (pots dry out really fast), and make sure to use a potting soil in the containers. Potting soil is essential, because regular garden soil will become compacted and too dense in a container for crops to grow well. There is no such thing as a space that is too small, even growing one pot of basil is a fun gardening project! container-garden

Megan: What is your most favorite edible plant to grow and why?
Hilary: I have too many favorites to choose only one, but I really like growing lettuce. Because lettuce grows really quickly, you can keep replanting it all season long. I plant 3-4 heads of lettuce in the garden every week or two and this means that I can have a salad pretty much any day of the year. Lettuce is a great crop because it is easy to grow, it matures quickly and pretty much every meal benefits from the addition of a salad. salad-greens-in-a-pot

Megan: What is next for you?
Hilary: I am really hoping that our new podcast, Encyclopedia Botanica, will find a nationwide audience. I think there is a need for a down-to-earth edible gardening resource and I love the podcast medium. Podcasts are such an easy way for people to learn and I am just trying to get the word out there so that everyone knows what we are up to.

Helpful gardening resources from Hilary and Seattle Urban Farm Company:

Podcast
Encyclopedia Botanica

Books
Food Grown Right in Your Backyard – a must-have!

High-Yield Vegetable Gardening

Blog 
Seattle Urban Farm Company Blog

Instagram
SeattleUrbanFarmCo

GIVEAWAY!

Last but not least, Hilary and I have teamed up to give away a copy of the must-have book “Food Grown Right, In Your Backyard” by Seattle Urban Farm Company’s Co-Founders!

Giveaway begins Tuesday, November 15, 2016. Check Instagram on Tuesday for details! 
 
To enter for the chance to win:

  1. Follow both SeattleUrbanFarmCo and SeedSproutGarden on Instagram
  2. Leave a comment and tag a friend sharing why you love gardening
  3. Chance to enter giveaway ends Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 11:59pm PST
  4. Winner will be announced on both SeattleUrbanFarmCo and SeedSproutGarden Instagram accounts on Friday, November 18, 2016megan-8

Good luck! While your waiting, listen to the latest episode of Encyclopedia Botanica.

Photography by Hilary Dahl