Urban gardening, backyard gardening, container gardening… all are hot topics here on Columbus Underground that reemerge each spring as our regular readers discuss strategies, tactics and tips on how to produce the best produce right at home. There are many reasons to consider growing a backyard garden, and more and more people in Columbus are finding the urge to plant hard to resist.
“It’s a lot less complicated and a lot more cost-effective than most people think,”says Bear Braumoeller, Board Chair of Slow Food Columbus. “You don’t need a lot of space. I’ve seen people grow herbs in an over-the-door shoe organizer that they’ve filled with soil and tossed over a backyard fence. And although there might be some initial layout in terms of equipment, for the most part, it’s free food — can’t beat that.”
Rachel Tayse Baillieul, founder of local food and gardening blog Harmonious Homestead, has a whole new opportunity in front of her this year. Last fall, she relocated her family from Clintonville to a more rural two-acre property in Columbus. She’s starting things off by planing a little bit of everything this year.
“More than a dozen varieties of cold-tolerant greens, onions, and potatoes are already in the ground,” said Tayse Baillieul. “I have tomato, pepper, herb, and flower starts ready to go as soon as we’re a little closer to the frost-free date and our seed box is full of beans, squash, and grains to direct-sow.”
Beyond the garden, Tayse Baillieul also has a new hoop house to extend the growing season, raised beds, an orchard, a compost pile and a chicken coop. The expansive new property is allowing her to experiment with corn, sorghum and other plants that require an area larger than what her former Clintonville backyard would allow.
Braumoeller says that there is room for gardening experimentation in any size backyard through the Ark of Taste movement. Proponents of Ark of Taste are attempting to get many types of forgotten varieties of edible plants reintroduced into the growing system.
“Consumers are increasingly aware of, and dissatisfied with, the limited food options that are available to them,” explains Braumoeller. “There are over 1,000 kinds of banana available worldwide, for example, but we really only eat one — the Cavendish. We eat a few more varieties of potato, but not that many, really. These varieties were selected and marketed, not because they actually taste good, but because they’re easy to cultivate and ship and store for long periods and sell.”
That’s where the Ark of Taste comes in. The program works as a focal point for farmers, gardeners, foodies and consumers. A list of over 200 varieties of foods has been produced by Slow Foods USA, which highlights exciting new choices and flavor profiles. Backyard gardeners can get in on the action through City Folk’s Farm Shop in Clintonville, which will be stocking selected Art of Taste seeds for the first time during this year’s growing season. Braumoeller personally recommends trying your hand at growing “Aunt Molly’s Ground Cherries”.
“They’re members of the tomato family — they look like little tomatillos — but they’re sweet, like cherries,” said Braumoeller. “I’d also highlight Jimmy Nardello’s Sweet Peppers. Really, really flavorful. And the Ark lettuces are easy to grow and delicious—I particularly like Amish deer tongue.”
Another great resource for local backyard gardening practices is your local community’s farmers market. Most growers are willing to talk shop with their customers and some even sell seeds and seedlings at the earlier market dates each year.
“Columbus is a fantastic place to garden,” says Tayse Baillieul. “We’re surrounded by inspirational gardens with the edible garden campus at Franklin Park and farm garden at Stratford Ecological Center, among others. Local Matters and Growing to Green provide excellent community garden support.”
The only thing left to make 2013 a great backyard gardening year is the weather, so don’t forget to do a little rain dance every now and then.
From April 15th to April 21st, Columbus Underground is celebrating Gardening Week! Throughout the week, we’ll be taking a look at various backyard gardening and community gardening trends, efforts, businesses and more. Gardening Week 2013 is sponsored by Scotts Miracle-Gro, who provides support to regional community gardens through grant programs and other philanthropic efforts. Follow them on Facebook or Twitter for more information.