The Joys of Growing Your Own Food

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there and especially my fabulous mom! My parents still live in Curacao, so I don’t often get to spend Mother’s Day with my mom, but I am so grateful for technology like Skype which allows us to hang out even when we’re far apart.

Today my mom had to wait until almost 1pm to get a call from me. I was worried she’d think I had forgotten. My mom and I are very alike and very different at the same time. While she respects my decision to sign up for an Ironman and has been very supportive and encouraging, I don’t think she completely understands it. I don’t blame her, many people don’t quite understand how I happily wake up at 5am to go for a 5-hour 65 mile bike and 5K run workout.

One thing my mom and I do have in common is that we LOVE to garden!

IMG_3721My mom has the most impressive orchid collection I have ever seen and often spends hours in the garden taking care of her plants. In recent years, I have inspired her to start growing her own fruits, veggies and herbs and now she also has an impressive food garden.

There really are no words to describe how it feels to grow your own food. I’ve been doing it for five years and every time the seedlings sprout, I feel the same sense of pride. I watch them grow and think, wow, I did that!  It’s also amazing feeling to bite into a tomato and know that you grew it in your own back yard. To eat freshly picked sugar snap peas and fresh crisp lettuce…

Yum! I can’t wait to get this year’s crop!


Our first garden boxes

Our first Valentine’s day, Pablo built me three 4X4 raised beds and gave me a copy of the Square Foot Gardening book. We have been planting veggies and herbs in raised beds since. The cool part is that it really does not take that much work and can basically be done anywhere!

Container and square foot gardening allows you to make the most of small spaces. I’ve lived in everything from a house with a backyard to a small apartment; as long as you have a spot that gets good sunlight, you can at least grow the basics.

This year we have one 2X6 raised bed and a bunch of pots and we are trying to grow a surprisingly large amount of things (I guess it makes sense since our Ironman appetites require large quantities of food!) We are growing all of my favorites (below) and are also trying carrots, beets, eggplant and swiss chard.

Here are some of my favorite things to grow:
IMG_38831. Strawberries – These grow great in containers. We still end up getting most of our berries from local farms, where you can go pick-your-own, but it always fun to grow your own and growing strawberries is an awesome project to try with kids!

IMG_42292. Basil & Tomatoes – The one downside of growing your own salads is that lettuce and tomatoes are never ready to harvest at the same time. Lettuce is a spring crop, while tomatoes are a summer crop.

The solution?

Plant basil with tomatoes and make caprese salads! Basil & tomato are actually great companion plants and can successfully grow in the same container.

3. Lettuce & arugula – These are probably some of the easiest vegetables to plant. We love arugula and while I am not one to order a salad in a restaurant once our arugula and lettuce start growing, I cannot wait to eat homemade salads. This year we planted a wide range of lettuces including black seeded simpson, bib lettuce, butter crunch and red leaf lettuce.

IMG_42314. Spinach – Spinach is another easy plan to grow, but one thing to note is that spinach likes cool soil for germination. In other words, don’t wait too long after the last frost. You can actually plant spinach seeds a few weeks before the last frost and have success.

cabworm2_05. Kale – When you plant kale in containers or raised beds it doesn’t get as large as the kale you’ll see in stores, but it is still super yummy. Kale is a great fall crop, but it can also be grown in the spring. The one issue we often have with kale is these annoying cabbageworms. This year we’re trying to avoid the worms by keeping our veggies covered with netting as much as possible (also keeps the squirrels, birds and bunnies out). Once the plants are too large for the netting, we’ll be checking the kale plants almost daily and picking off any worms we find.

IMG_38866. Sorrel – Before volunteering at the Yale Sustainable Food Project’s farm, I had no idea what sorrel was. Now it’s one of my favorites! Sorrel looks a little like spinach, but tastes like a lemon. It’s so yummy!

IMG_38857. Sage – Very hardy! I planted this into the garden and it survived the winter and is looking very good this spring! I love making sage butter and sage biscuits. Yum!

IMG_38768. Mint – Another very hardy plant. After winter the mint always looks like it has died, but it never fails to come back and provide us with another summer of yummy watermelon & mint shakes, delicious mojitos and more!

9. Other herbs like: rosemary, lavender (which I used in my homemade cleaning supplies), thyme, chives, cilantro (this is hard to sprout from seed, so we tend to buy transplants), parsley (which unlike cilantro is really easy to sprout from seed) and thai basil.

Do you grow your own food? What are your favorite things to grow?

Want to grow your own food, but don’t know where to start? Your local gardening store is always a good resource. I also like Gardening Patch and I will be posting more about gardening over these next few months and would love to hear your questions!

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