New to gardening? Don’t worry. Growing your own food many seem daunting, especially if you have no experience, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. The benefits of growing food yourself are numerous; you’ll know exactly how the food you feed your family was grown and you’ll cut out your food’s carbon footprint at the same time, since it won’t be traveling any number of miles to get to your plate.
To help demystify the process, we spoke with Greg Peterson, a gardening expert in Phoenix, Ariz. who has spent decades growing edibles in his yard and teaches gardening classes at Root Phoenix, an organization dedicated to community-driven education. We’ll provide some simple steps to help you start gardening in your space and include some tips for making the most of your yard.
1. Before You Do Anything, Observe
If you’ve never done any gardening before, your first instinct might be to head over to a nursery or home improvement store and start purchasing items you think you may need. The most important thing before you do any of that, though, is to stop and observe where you’ll be growing food.
“Get out and sit in your space. Walk in your space, take your shoes off, see what’s there to observe because there’s so much there to see,” Greg Peterson said. “Observations are the things that will allow you to have a successful garden.”
One of the basic tenets of permaculture, the agricultural system that addresses sustainability and the interdependence of human and natural ecosystems, is observation. This means you need to have an understanding of what is happening in your yard – or on your porch or patio – in order to successfully grow food. Peterson also pointed out that it is advantageous to look beyond your space and see what other people are growing in your neighborhood or city and whether they are seeing success. The world is full of gardeners, so you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Other people’s experience may be able to give you a foundation for where to begin.
So what exactly are you supposed to be observing? Peterson laid out some of the basic things he teaches in one of his gardening classes for us to consider, which are simple enough for even novice gardeners to understand.