Ukiah is blessed with a magical springtime. Dogwoods, lilacs, azaleas, rhododendrons, daffodils, flowering fruit trees and pull us out of the winter fog, inspiring us to get started with the home veggie garden.
It’s surprisingly easy to grow some of your own food. A half-wine barrel can hold a cherry tomato plant that contributes to your health and happiness for months. Likewise, a large pot on a patio can grow cut-and-come again lettuce to grace your plate with salad for weeks. Add a small trellis to that pot and grow snow peas or green beans or cucumbers.
Raised backyard beds or a simple garden bed in the yard yield plenty of food to eat and share. Backyard gardening, at any scale, saves money, tastes delicious, and is lots of fun (especially when kids are involved).
It’s important to remember that backyard gardens are most successful when the inputs are of the highest quality. Organic soil and hearty plant starts provide the setting for happy, mature veggies. Getting the plants into the ground at the right time is also important – plant before the ground has warmed sufficiently and your plants will struggle to stay healthy.
The Co-op carries plant starts from two local companies, Plant Friends and Strong Roots. There is great benefit to using plants that have been raised nearby. When seedlings are acclimated to the local climate, they spend less time adjusting to local conditions. Seedlings shipped from out of the area don’t have that luxury. Local growers can also offer varieties that are particularly well suited to our area. Plant Friends and Strong Roots deliver to the Co-op multiple times per week so you also know that the plants are fresh and ready to get into the ground.
Planting from seed is very rewarding and yields far greater quantity, though more time and care is required. Open Circle Seeds are grown in Calpella. The same benefits of using locally grown plant starts apply to seeds. Seeds grown here have a far better chance of producing plants best-suited to the unique conditions of beautiful inland Mendocino county.
Ever heard of a seed library? For anyone wanting to grow and share seeds, check with your local public library. Seed libraries serve gardeners and farmers with free seeds. They also work to preserve agricultural biodiversity since they focus on heirloom and/or pollinated seed varieties. Four hundred seed libraries exist in the U.S. and six of those are right here in Mendocino county!
No matter what the size of your backyard garden; just make sure you get something. You’ll be very happy that you did.