Who is experiencing anxiety when going grocery shopping right now? I’m definitely in this camp! Surveying empty shelves is panic inducing. Who has lots of time on their hands at home right now? Yup. I’m in that camp, too. So what CAN you control? You can create your own food source.
That’s right. It’s a great time to get your hands dirty, occupy your time, support some local farms and feed stores, and put in a garden. Your kids might even want to help you!
As the world isolates, there have been reassurances that our food supply chain is intact and safe, however, there have been multiple reports that it is not as stable as we might perceive. Those who rely on meat and eggs for nutrition have known for a few weeks that these items have been in short supply. Many processing plants have had to shut down due to the spread of the virus among their workers. Dairy farmers have had to dump milk. And even vegetable farmers have had to waste some of their harvest. Even more reason to lean more on local food sources. My family has been taking advantage of the offerings of our local farmers in recent weeks. Many farmers’ markets are learning how to adapt, with vendors taking online orders and with drive through pickup. But now I am even happier that I’ve started this garden project.
Shortly after we moved into this house, my husband built us four beautiful raised beds. I kept a garden for several years, but have not for the past 3 growing seasons. Unfortunately, the structure of these beds suffered from my neglect, but I have uncovered what remains, and I put in the beginnings of a garden.
I have a few plants started already. I had some garlic chives, a perennial, which remains from my prior gardens, and it has sprouted multiple volunteers! I’ve also put in one tomato plant, some collards, and a few varieties of squash plants. I’ve also started some potatoes and butter bean from seeds. For now, I have to keep my tomato, squash plants, and bean seedlings happy by covering them at night if the temperature drops into the 30’s, but I wanted to get a jump start on the season.
My plants were purchased from a variety of sources. If I had known back in February that we would be facing a pandemic, I may have started plants from seed. But who had that foresight back then? Buying quality plants has been fairly easy, though. I tried as much as possible to support local businesses, buying from the local Ashland Feed and Seed and Lavender Fields Farm, although the collards and tomato plant were an impulse buy from the grocery store.
The Ashland Feed and Seed is an old time feed store that reminds me of the Ace Hardware Store that my Aunt Neva and Uncle Bob used to own in Plant City, Florida. I used to love playing with the baby chicks every time we would visit over spring break. If you have chickens, Ashland Feed and Seed carries Sunrise Farms non-GMO chicken feed grown in Virginia. They also carry a variety of plants, seeds, and gardening tools, plus anything you would ever need for your pets and livestock. Visiting in person is super fun because they have several resident cats who are all friendly and love attention! Ashland Feed and Seed is deemed an essential business and are open at this time.
My other favorite plant source is Lavender Fields Farm, a beautiful property in Henrico County off of Greenwood Road. The farm is bordered by the Chickahominy River, and there are outstanding views from the property. The Ashland to Petersburg Trail will run adjacent to the farm when it is completed. They have a cute shop with handmade soaps, essential oils, and Bev’s ice cream (not vegan). The lavender flavor is a favorite for my non-vegan kids! On my last visit, they also had small raised bed kits. But the highlight of items for purchase there are their herb and vegetable plants. Right now, you can order and pay by phone and pickup curbside, including ice cream! Once we are off quarantine, take the time to take a tour! In a week or so, I will pick up more tomatoes from Lavender Fields. They will have all kinds of interesting varieties you can’t get anywhere else.
As I am by no means a gardening expert, I rely on my friends for help! If you frequent your local farmer’s market, most growers are eager to share their knowledge. And my good friend Tisha has been posting a lot about gardening on her Instagram and will be sharing her gardening advice and adventures on her blog, On Bramble Hill. Go follow her blog and on Instagram @tisha_lyn. She has also recently added chickens to her little homestead, so it will be fun to watch them grow! Tisha also uses raised beds; it’s a great way to manage soil quality. We both live in rural areas on opposite sides of the metro Richmond area, so it’s necessary to protect our crops from deer. They are prevalent and LOVE to use our gardens as a food source. She recommends deer netting to keep them out of your garden. I’m hoping that it will also keep out the neighbors’ feral cats! Don’t get me wrong. I love cats. It’s just really disappointing when your babies you grew from seed start dying because cats have been using your raised beds as giant litter boxes.
Don’t have a place to put in a garden? Many plants grow well in containers. There are some bred specifically for this. Look for “bush” or “patio” varieties. Most tomatoes will grow well in containers as well, especially smaller varieties like grape, cherry, and Roma. Herbs grow very well as a windowsill kitchen garden or in containers. You can even grow potatoes this way!
Do yourself a favor. While we are all stuck at home, take the time to put in a garden. You may be even more grateful than you realize that you have this sustainable food source in the months to come.
Have you put in a garden this year? I’d love to hear about it! Hope you all are staying safe and healthy.