Occupy Your Lawn with an Organic Sustainable ‘Yarden’

Jan. 6, 2012
Occupy your lawn with an organic, sustainable ‘yarden’

Now’s a good time to map your organic, sustainable “yarden,” while the cold winds blow.
What do I mean by “yarden?” By that, I mean a place in your yard for a garden that you may not have considered before.
Not too long ago, a neighbor told me: “I’d love to grow some greens, but I just don’t have anyplace to put a garden.”
It just so happened that I drive by this person’s house every day, so I pointed out that he had some plots set aside for flowers next to his house, next to his garage and even out front next to the road.
I suggested he transition one of those into a garden.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” he said.
That’s a yard + garden = yarden.
It’s easy to create 4-foot-by-8-foot “Jim’s plot” garden, as regular readers know. But it’s even easier to transition a flower garden into a food yarden.
Usually, flower gardens have a tremendous amount of organic matter already in them from years of the flowers’ leaves composting themselves or successive years of added mulches, making them perfect for food production.
It’s sustainable because from here on out, you can continue to build up the soil with compost and alternating crops to replace minerals lost in vegetable production, and organic because you will no longer be using chemicals.
I will give a caveat: If you have sprayed poisons such as herbicides and insecticides on it, you will have to wait longer to transition the space into a food plot to ensure all harmful chemicals have broken down.
This is quite common on a larger scale in transitioning from “conventional” farming, and it’s officially three years’ wait before a plot can be certified organic.
If such a transition is needed, consider the plot a “wild area.” Let varieties of plants do double duty by enriching the soil and attracting pollinators, such as planting clover or buckwheat to entice bees and butterflies.
That way, you will be beautifying the neighborhood, feeding the soil with nitrogen, and helping other gardens and wildlife while you wait to plant food.
Otherwise, if you haven’t been using harsh chemicals, you’re ready to go! Just figure out what veggies you want to grow.
Now is the perfect time to consider spring planting, as the new seed catalogs start arriving.
With the rising interest in homesteading and food security (ensuring there is food on the table), it’s smart as well as fun to provide or supplement one’s own food.
The Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi actually has a program called “O Gardens! Occupy Your Yard” to guide people how to produce one square meter of food for a family.
See:www.ggsim.org/volunteer /projects/o-gardens-occupy-your-lawn.

Cold weather tip: Half fill a few empty plastic two-liter cola or gallon milk bottles and toss them between the rows of your plants during freezing weather. Especially if painted black, they will absorb the sun’s heat during the day, and
release it at night, raising the bed’s temperature.

Food Safety Sellout: While Americans were celebrating the holidays the FDA quietly dealt food safety a blow by declining to clamp down on antibiotics for farm animals.
The need is there. As Tom Philpott reported in Mother Jones magazine, last spring researchers tested beef, chicken, pork and turkey from supermarkets in five cities. They found staph aureus, a food-poisoning bacteria that can cause serious diseases, in 47 percent of the samples. Half were resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics.
The FDA on Wednesday took a more timid step of limiting some livestock uses of cephalosporins, like Keflex, which consumer advocates called “a first step.” The goal should be to stop routine and indiscriminate bulk feeding of antibiotics to
livestock to reduce the production of disease resistant strains that endanger humans.
The New York Times’ Mark Bittman blames funding cuts by Congress.
Read more by Bittman: http://nyti.ms/v29WxU
And Philpott: http://bit.ly/suc3Us

Mark your calendar:
•I’ll be speaking on Community Supported Agriculture at the 21st annual Urban Forest Council Conference Feb. 7 and 8 at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson. The conference is titled Green Communities – Good Health.
Keynote speaker is Dr. Kathleen Wolf of the College of Environment, University of Washington. Details: http://www.msurbanforest.com.
•I’ll also be speaking on Organic Backyard Market Gardening Feb. 25 at the third annual Sustainable Living Conference by Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi. The conference is titled: Saving Dollars, Making Sense, to be held at Eagle Ridge Conference Center at Raymond. Details: http://www.ggsim.org or (662) 694-0124.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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