Posted by: Rachel | April 21, 2011

love your mother, eat your yard

As an Earth Day special edition (yes, I know Earth Day isn’t until tomorrow, but I wanted to give you time to read and plan), I thought I’d run with the recycling thing. So, rather than rewriting something you already know about saving the earth, I decided to recycle electrons and send you links to sites that are doing more than I ever could.

Understand, please, that as with all things “Internet” a site is only as reliable as its sources, but these seem pretty credible to me. And, please, please, please be careful if you do decide to take up urban foraging in any form. I’ve been lucky; the foods I’ve harvested have never harmed me but if you have any doubts at all, don’t eat it, OK? Consider taking a plant identification class, or getting a good field guide that is appropriate to your area.

These sites are offered for, as the lawyers say, “entertainment purposes only”; I hope you find them interesting as well!

The folks at WorldChanging have this article in their archives. Imagine, from all the way back in 2007! Huffington Post shares this 2009 article, and The New York Times published this in 2009.

I have foraged in cities and in the countryside pretty much everywhere I’ve lived. Here’s my cleavers tea recipe. It may be a bit late for this year, but hang on to it for next spring, OK?

And, if foraging is a bit too unnerving, consider urban farming. No, I’m not suggesting that you turn your entire yard or deck or patio into the back forty, and I’m certainly not suggesting that you start raising chickens unless you really want to commit, but you can raise a lot of good food in just a few planter boxes and pots. And, its fun! Urban Farm Online.Com sells magazines that focus on “sustainable city living”; perhaps your local library carries them.

AeroFarms had a different take on urban farming. No boots covered with manure or chicken droppings here! But it is a very interesting idea and might be of interest for a middle school or high school…

Take a look at what my friend Carla is selling through Austin Urban Gardens. She’s chock-full of good ideas, easy to chat with, and a great supporter of local urban farmers. Oh, and be sure to consider rainwater harvesting, even if you don’t plan on having a “food” garden. Your flowers, shrubs, and trees will thank you! And, speaking of trees, see if there is a group like TreeFolks in your local area. I love what they are doing, and I’ve purchased fruit trees from them that have done really well.

small planter boxes of basil

pots o' pesto... mmmm!

The best advice I can offer is, start small. Gardening can be overwhelming. It takes time, patience, and it can be frustrating. If you’ve never grown anything before, here’s what I suggest: get a pot or a small planter and some potting soil and some radish seeds. Radishes are almost fool-proof, and they grow fast! Or just buy a few small pots of herbs that you know you like. Container gardening keeps things manageable. Pots require less attention (water, weeding, fertilizer, etc etc etc) than plots… and in case of truly severe weather you can bring your garden inside!

Talk with your friends who garden and beg cuttings or seedlings. Chat up the folks at a reliable local nursery. Plant what you know will do well in your area, but also plant what you like to cook with or eat!

Don’t go out and immediately rototill your driveway. There will be time for that next spring…(grin)

Seriously, use your local resources. Call or visit your county extension service. Tell them you’re new to gardening and ask them what you can grow easily in your area. The extension service isn’t just for farmers and 4H members! I’ve taken cuttings and leaves to my extension service and asked them to help me identify things. My local extension service has Master Gardeners on staff, and they know everything! And, they have a ton of “free literature” about growing food plants in your local area. They are there for you, use them!

So, happy Earth Day, tomorrow and every day!



  1. Self watering containers are great for first timers! There are products like EarthBox that come with the right amount of soil and fertilizer. Since there is a reservoir of water, you water less often. You can also make your own. There are plenty of how-to videos to teach you.

  2. Great idea! Yes, “learning to water” can be tricky — too much can be as bad as too little. I try to remember to plant “similar water needs” plants together and that can help.

    I’ve heard about your edible garden (yes really) and I love the concept. Much as I love “color in the garden”, when it comes from tomatoes (or nasturtiums — they’re yummy too!) it makes me even happier! (grin) Come by any time, and thanks!

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