Growing Your Own Food

Creating your own urban farm is as simple as planting your flowerbeds with edibles.
~Greg Peterson, My Ordinary Extraordinary Yard: The Story of the Urban Farm

Introduction to Edibles

Growing your own food is a great way to save money and ensure your family has access to nutritious and fresh ingredients. Since food costs are on the rise, growing your own food saves on transportation costs, decreases dependency on fossil fuels, and guarantees a safe source of food for your family and friends, without the use of excessive synthetic (and harmful) fertilizers and pesticides.Growing edibles is a rewarding, fun, and cost effective experience. Now is the time to Grow Your Own!

It is important to plant edibles at the right time of year. Peas and spinach are cold-hardy and can be planted as soon as the ground can be worked. Cool season crops, like cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and many others, can tolerate a light frost and will grow best when planted a couple weeks before your last spring frost. Warm season crops like squash,tomatoes, peppers, eggplant,cucumber and basil need to be planted after the final frost date. Be sure to plant different crops throughout the season to maximize your harvest.

Light is an important factor in a vegetable garden. Fruit bearing plants require a lot of sun to mature , but there are others that tolerate varying degrees of partial shade. Some examples of shade - tolerant vegetables include : arugula, chard, bok choy, lettuce, carrots, parsnips, beets, peas, spinach, and culinary herbs such as thyme, lemon balm, parsley, marjoram, oregano, mint, etc.

Healthy soil supports healthy plants. To build soil fertility, add generous amounts of organic matter and compost before spring planting. Setting up your own compost system is a good idea for a committed gardener. The benefits of composting are too great to list, but this is truly the best way to feed your plants rich fertilizer.

The urban gardener has many options. There is ample space for food production in our front or backyards, especially if you plant a biointensive garden. Also, there are numerous community gardens throughout the city and suburbs. Check out http://www.greennetchicago.org/ to find a garden in your area.

Apartment dwellers can plant a windowsill herb garden, grow upside down tomatoes in their sunniest window, plant sprouts on a sunny ledge, or create a decorative container with edibles and ornamentals mixed.

Be creative and grow where and how you can!