Resolution: How to Grow Your Own Food

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Riverfront Times’ Five Days of Resolutions. Start living right.

If you’ve ever sliced into a warm just-off-the-vine tomato and put a piece of that pure sunshine on a sandwich, the taste of a mealy out-of-season grocery-store guy just might make you weep in disgust. already if you live in a tiny four-family flat or can’t keep a cactus alive, you can grow at the minimum something to eat this summer.

Start small. Chuck a little basil plant and some dirt into a bucket and plop it in the sunniest corner of your yard/porch/fire escape. Maybe a cherry tomato, too, and a pepper plant if you have space. Do it after Memorial Day. Water them most days, and keep an eye on them. You can try starting your own seeds and planting spring crops in the wintertime, but those are kind of varsity moves — maybe save that for your ’23 or ’24 resolutions.

Truthfully, you’ll probably kill a fair portion of what you plant, especially at first, but you’re probably not depending on this harvest to keep your thirteen children alive by the harsh winter. (My personal agricultural Yoda is my dad, and he’s been at it most of his 81 years. Almost every year something fails in his mythical garden — every year is an experiment.)

“You have to just do your best and also give up control,” says Madyson Winn, garden center manager at Flowers and Weeds on Cherokee Street, a great source for veggies, herbs, fruits, ornamentals and houseplants. “It’s a team effort, you and the plant and the surroundings, and sometimes things don’t always work out how you want. The good thing about that is you learn how to do things differently next time.”

It’s low stakes, and every year you’re gathering more data for what to tweak next time. If you go into it with that mindset, the unavoidable setbacks (I’m looking at you, Great Zucchini Blight of ’20) won’t seem as disheartening. Remember — you’re doing this for fun. And sandwiches. Winn caught the gardening bug early.

“I started just as a kid. My mom told me to pick one plant to grow,” Winn says. “I picked yellow squash. I went out every morning and checked on it. When it was ready, it was just the coolest feeling, picking it and helping cook it for dinner.”

It’s not exactly sex, drugs and/or rock & roll, but seeing a little green marble forming on a tomato plant early on a June morning is a pretty incomparable excitement.

“It’s just watching all the work that you’ve been putting into something come to fruiting,” Winn says. “It allows you a chance to appreciate the natural world, how beautifully and organically things want to grow.”

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