We have had a garden for well over a decade, close to two decades now. (Since my boys were young, they are now adults or close to it. Ages 21, almost 19 and 16.) The garden was always in the back corner of the yard, leaving the majority of the yard for the boys to play or swim or swing, etc. In 2020 I switched my main growing area to a raised bed kitchen garden. (Though I still grow in the old garden spot and various spots around the yard with containers and grow bags.) In the years my boys were young and we were very busy, the gardens main purpose was to grow a few food crops each year so we could have some fresh homegrown fruits or veggies. Some years we grew only in containers on the patio if the corner garden was just too much to handle, which is perfectly fine and what worked for us in that a season of life. In case no one has told you and you need to hear it, it’s okay to grow as little or as much food as you want in any given season. Farmers markets are a great resource for local seasonal ingredients for meals when you either don’t have enough time to garden or enough space to grow large amounts of food. I still go to farmers markets to supplement to what I grow. They are great for buying large quantities of food crops to preserve too. Today I am sharing some reasons why I have been shifting my focus in the garden again. You’ll find as the years pass your focus or reason for gardening may change. My has changed over the years and I have no doubt that it will shift again as my families needs change.
Time – First, my boys are older and my mom role has shifted, which has given me more time to dedicate to the garden. Each passing year I have been able to find more time to garden by squeezing in a few minutes here and there. Being able to find/have more time to garden has really allowed me to extend that amount of food I can grow. I am able to tend to the garden for longer periods of time. Again, this “extra” time is because my sons are generally off doing there own thing and I have less hands on time with them. Second, I have the ability to structure my days as a nutritionist and garden coach around the best times to harvest or be in the garden. I have set my availability to work outside my optimal gardening time as the seasons change. In the heat of the summer, I make sure my schedule is free in the mornings so I can get quality time in the garden before the temperatures rise. I also can scale back availability during peak harvest times so that I can handle, cook, process, or preserve the food I grow.
Food Security – Pretty much anywhere we look theses days there is someone talking about food shortages or supply chain issues. Before when my kids were young it wasn’t an issue, so growing just enough to add a little bit of something from the garden to our weekly meal rotation was fine. I didn’t have to worry about not finding something at the farmers market or the grocery store. Today in our current world, it is a different story. We have gone into the store to see shelves empty. Sometimes our produce section at the local grocery store is so sad looking with empty spots where piles of fruits and vegetables used to be. (Farmers markets are doing better than grocery stores and you definitely have more options when shopping there. Plus we get to support your local farmers, who need our support more than ever!) I don’t ever want to be in a situation where I am unable to provide food for my family for whatever reason. Expanding my gardens and shifting my focus to grow more food, preserve more food and ensure our families food security is a top priority for me. Instead of just growing enough to eat fresh throughout the season, I am now focused more than ever on preserving the harvest, extending my seasons and growing as much as possible in the space I have.
Cost of Food – Beyond the issues mentioned above, the cost of everything as risen significantly since 2020. Back in 2020 when we were building our raised beds I saw the price of cedar triple in a matter of weeks. Shifting my focus to grow higher yields of food and preserve more means that I can spend less at the grocery store. As a bonus, it also means that I will have more money available to spend at our local famers market to purchase those things we can’t/don’t grow in our garden. Some say growing your own food can cost more, but when you look at the bigger picture (food miles, etc.) it can be less. Especially when we work with nature and the seasons in our gardens. Saving seeds is always helpful when it comes to saving money in the garden.
If you let your garden journey unfold naturally over time you will notice shifts and changes happen to fit your needs. That is the beauty of gardening, having the freedom to do what works for you in that season. As I shift my focus from growing food to eat in the season with some preserving to growing food with a purpose of providing as much homegrown food as possible throughout the entire year and preserving a lot of it, I will share my learning journey with you. I haven’t grown food in such large quantities before. (I am ever expanding my gardening space.) I will continue to share and teach about beginner gardening and all that goes with it, as I love working with new gardeners and seeing their successes is wonderful! I will also share more about preserving the harvest beyond cooking. I don’t have a huge space so I will be sharing more small space practices to get the most harvests with the space you have. I am shifting the way I approach gardening for maximum output and preservation versus growing just enough for fresh food with a little bit of preserving. I am stepping more fully into a homesteading approach to growing our food. I hope you follow my journey!
Follow the journey on Instagram: @candicecullen