Growing a Garden is Fun!

Every year, I swear that this year’s garden will be my best. Usually that fails to materialize. Rats, squirrels, possums, birds, or the weather usually conspire to thwart my plans. This year, the stars seem to have aligned in my favor. It is really shaping up to be a great year in the garden for us.

A view of our backyard from our deck, showing one veggie bed, the herb garden, and chickens coop.
View of our backyard with one of the veggie beds, the herb garden, and chicken coop.

My little “farm” sits on a normal-sized (6500 sq ft) southern California urban yard, which is small. In 2007, after reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” I was inspired to change our landscape to accommodate growing more food at home Like Kingsolver, I am a locavore, ie, someone who tries to eat locally grown food as much as possible. It takes fossil fuel to bring food from far away, so every pound of food that you can grow at home helps to combat global warming. Sadly, we are now seeing the effects of all that excess CO2 in the air Many gardeners from Washington to Texas had to contend with unseasonable triple digit temps this whole summer, and their gardens fried. We have lucked out here in coastal southern California with temperature so far this year.

Food doesn’t get more local than from your own yard. Hubby and I altered our landscape by cutting down some trees that needed removing anyway. I planted fruit trees around the perimeter, and added raised beds wherever I could. We added a chicken coop in 2009, and our transition from urban yard to mini farm was complete. I tweak my growing space from time to time, adding containers in the driveway or adding a micro bed here and there. This year, I had the most growing space that I have had in this yard, with 110 sq ft of raised beds and a lot of containers.

You can join the movement to grow your own. One of the easiest ways to start growing your own food is to plant an herb garden. Mine changes from year to year. Right now we are growing rosemary, two varieties of sage, sorrel, mint, watercress, chives, oregano, marjoram, parsley, and basil. The squirrels ate my cilantro and dill. Not everything succeeds. But it is wonderful to have herbs fresh from the garden. Below is a view of my herb garden with raised beds for veggies behind it.

herb garden
View of the herb garden wth veggie beds in back

I built two new tiny raised beds this year out of scrap lumber. One is 12 sq ft and the other is 9 sq ft. I am growing pole beans and corn in them. One is shown below I am a 79-yr-old great-grandmother. If I can do it, you can do it. And if you don’t want to build your own beds, hire someone to do it.

My newest bed, a mere 3′ x 4′, with corn and pole beans
Three main raised beds in back
View from our deck looking west onto 3 raised beds

Tending a garden is fun. My garden gives me exercise, time in the outdoors, and something to look forward to. I love the anticipation of seeing seeds sprout, and seeing what a new vegetable variety will taste like. By growing your own, you can enjoy varieties of food not available at your local farmer’s markets. For example, this year I am trying Dragon Tongue bush beans, Gete Okosomin winter squash and Georgia Candy Roaster squash.

We usually get between 280-300 lbs of produce a year, plus anywhere from 400-750 eggs, depending on how many hens we have, and their ages. Right now, we have 2 lovely Lavender Orpingtons, a Buff Orpington crossbred, and a French Black Maran. Our son Scott has a family of six, and they take all the excess eggs we can produce. It has been a joy to share the ins and outs of raising hens with the grandkids, and to give them the experience of feeding chickens and gathering eggs.

Buffy Blacktail on the left, Marie the French Black Maran, and Lady Violet, one of our Lavender Orpingtons

In addition to chickens, we raise Monarch butterflies. All you need to do it plant milkweed, keep an organic yard, plant other flowers for pollinators, and the butterflies will raise themselves. We usually have 2-4 Monarchs flitting about, plus other species of butterflies and loads of honeybees.

Tell me about your garden. How big is it? How much food do you produce? Why do you love it? And how can we encourage others to grow their own?

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a retired medical researcher, retired professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I wrote a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent for many years. I also supervised environmental restoration projects and taught at the Orange County Conservation Corps before retiring in the summer of 2016. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks. I am also dedicated to combatting global climate change.
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