I've always had the urge to grow my own food. There's just something deeply rewarding in harvesting food from the back yard. For one thing it's virtually guaranteed to taste better than what you get at the store.
In this era of factory farms that focus on churning out massive quantities of food as cheaply as possible, the average bell pepper, apple or ear of corn available in the produce section of the local supermarket just doesn't have much flavor, and it's no wonder. It's probably been grown as fast as possible using artificial fertilizers and pesticides, picked well before it was ripe and artificially "ripened" using chemical gases. Some of this is the price we pay for year-round access to cheap produce.
But much of it is due to the evolution of the farming industry from what we used to have: thousands of small private farms scattered all over the country, to what we see today: a few giant multinational corporations in near complete control of our food supply. This is a big subject that I won't get too far into here, because I want to focus on the awesomeness of this year's garden.
I will recommend that everyone watch the movie Food, Inc. It is available as an instant watch on Netflix, but I'm not sure about its availability elsewhere. I did see it on both Blockbuster's and Hollywood Video's websites. It's an incredible documentary that exposes the inner workings of our current food system. It's not a pretty picture at all, but it is one that every single person in this country needs to look at. We all must eat, and we've traveled a long way down a dark road in terms of where our food comes from.
Watching Food, Inc. was further inspiration for me to get serious about gardening this year. So I pulled up a large area of bricks from my front patio to complement the small garden space I've been tending in my back yard. I've been burying all of my food waste as compost for the past year, so I had a nice supply of rich soil to get things started. I also found out about a great natural fertilizer mix from a local nursery. That along with the compost has done wonders to amend the alkaline soil we have here in the desert.
I planted corn, zucchini, acorn squash, cabbage, beets, red bell peppers, and green beans out front. The zucchini and corn are exploding, and it's fun to come back every day and see the progress.
There was a cholla growing in a planter area on the front patio, and I decided growing some broccoli and chiles there would be a better use of the space.
I had started a garden outback a couple of seasons ago, but it doesn't get as much sun as the front. This year the focus there is herbs, the yellow pear tomato plants that survived the winter, spinach and beets. I also planted some chia seed and was surprise how quickly it sprouted.
I'm sure almost everyone (that's as old as I am) remembers the Chia Pet of the 80's. The chia seed I'm talking about is the same stuff. It turns out that chia seed is incredibly nutritious, with more omega 3's than flax seed, among many other health benefits. It is also easily digested, even when eaten whole.
It was, and continues to be, a vital food for peoples of Latin America and it's how the state of Chiapas, México got its name. I doubt I'll be able to grow enough to harvest much seed, but I figured why not? I sprinkled it along the edges of my back yard plot, where nothing else would be planted, and it came up easily.
It looks like this year we will have the best harvest yet for my home garden. I look forward to the satisfaction and great taste of home grown food.