Sustainable living has been our family goal for several years. I encourage everyone to try to grow their own vegetables. It will reduce your carbon footprint, save money, and children like vegetables more when they help! Let me spare you some of the mistakes we made during our first attempts. Here are some tips to help make the most of your early efforts.
Step 1: Do your children like vegetables? What does your family realistically eat?
There is no point to growing vegetables that no one will eat. It wastes seed, soil, space, water and time. Do cherry tomatoes get popped in like candy in your house while slicers rot on the counter? Does edamame always seem like a nice, healthy idea, only to get pitched when it molds?
Step 2: Sustainable living requires stockpiling. How will you store your vegetables?
You’ve established that everyone likes cherry tomatoes, carrots, and peas. They’ll even go for a little zucchini in their spaghetti sauce. But, chances are, you will get too many zuchs for sauce, even if Italian Night is every night. Make a plan to can, pickle, dry, or freeze. There are a number of options that work, even for busy families.
Step 3: Reducing your carbon footprint a lot or a little? How much produce do you want?
This is important when planning out your space. Think about whether your goal is to completely replace what you buy at the store, or simply supplement your store bought foods with some that were freshly harvested.
Step 4: Grow your own food using the space you have. Plan out your garden.
Do you want to dig into the earth or use raised beds? You can bolt containers to outdoor buildings making walls of food. Think vertical! Tomato cages can support vine squash. Know which plants grow well together, which need sun and which need shade. Refer back to Steps 1 and 3 – don’t waste precious space on food that will get wasted.
Step 5: Stagger your planting.
Plant a couple rows of radishes, wait a couple weeks, and plant more. You can do this with several vegetables. In many climates, a second crop of green beans or lettuce in September will do great! If gardening isn’t your full time job, major harvesting events resulting from everything being ready to pick at the same time will present a huge storage and cooking task. You will risk wastage and exhaustion.