Today I am lucky to have another guest blogger!
My friend Scott had a big life upheaval last year, and it’s so incredibly inspiring to see how he’s totally turned everything around, and is creating exactly the kind of life he wants. I’m doubly impressed by his ingenuity in creating all of this on an artist’s budget. ps. Scott also does super awesome illustrations. You might remember I bought one for my dad for Christmas last year.
And with that, take it away Scott!
I’m an urban city dwelling kind of guy that now lives in the burbs. I’m a vegetarian, I try to eat healthy and I support “locally grown” vegetables to help replenish the community. Like many others, I was hit pretty hard with the recession and all of the sudden “$4.99lb for tomatoes” was not an option anymore. It got me thinking about just where did those tomatoes come from when they aren’t even in season and what chemicals are sprayed on them and could that be unhealthy.
My thoughts were confirmed when I watched the movie Food, Inc. and read Fast Food Nation. Both explained that our vegetables can travel 1500 miles to my grocery store and are chemically treated to retain freshness. Between my desire to support local farmers and my even stronger desire to avoid developing some odd cancer, I decided to educate myself on what I can do.
I talked to my girlfriend and we thought it was best if we used a cooperative food program to support local farmers (we use Grow Alabama). This has been a great alternative for us, however it’s still costly. One day I thought “hey how hard could it be to build a garden?” So I thought I’d take a whack at it despite never having successfully grown anything but a beard before.
Income and time are hindrances for me so I don’t have the cash to really plop down for a compost bin, landscape materials and fancy garden implements but I do know how to research and use a hammer.
I learned that the south facing wall (for maximum sun) of your house is your friend, building square foot gardens out of scrap wood is easy and asking other gardeners for tips are free. The result? I have a working garden and things are sprouting up.
This is what our garden plot looked like before I started it
I started with a compost made out of an old garbage can. I learned how to do this by
watching this youtube clip.
I read The Square Foot Garden by Mel Bartholomew. Between the scrap wood I found from pallets, Home Depot’s culled wood section ($.51 wood! woohoo!) and some elbow grease I was able to construct three raised beds, which probably cost me fifteen dollars.
We had a lot of containers laying around doing nothing but collecting rain, so I took some old pallets and converted them to tiered tables to set them on.
I had some left over pallets so I built a shed/compost area to hold our wheelbarrow, compost bin and other gardening supplies. After all, this is the burbs and we don’t want to offend the neighbors.
I hate paying exuberant prices for mushrooms so I decided to make my own Shiitake garden. With one pallet, some wood from a local lumber yard, a drill and this youtube clip, I was able to start a Shiitake garden (I got the starter kit from here.)
I built a potato box with scrap wood laying around. (I found the instructions here.)
Raccoons and pests live around the area, they’ve already raided my potato box and stolen most of them. So I have started building cages for everything
Those Topsy-Turvy strawberry planters sure look neat, but I was able to make my own by cutting holes in a gallon milk jug. Effective AND earth-friendly!
In addition to my compost bin, I’ve started a worm bin. I have 1,000 red wigglers (I bought mine from here) and I feed them our table scraps. So far they have not been devouring food like I had hoped, but they are making compost and I’ll be putting them in the garden once the last frost has come and gone.
I’ve been able to keep my costs way down by asking businesses if I can have their pallets, going to the culled wood section of home depot and using scrap wood laying around (just make sure it isn’t treated or have any toxins on it). I have access to a table saw and drill and the things I didn’t have, I borrowed my neighbor’s (such as a chainsaw).
The result? Well I don’t know what’s going to happen. Perhaps this whole garden thing will be a huge failure or maybe we’ll be yielding large quantities of vegetables this spring/summer. I’ve already got garlic and onions coming up and I’m optimistic that more is soon to follow. Speaking of following, want updates on how my garden is doing?