Family Home Evening  Corner

Growing Together: It’s All About The Soil!

Herbs growing in a tiny indoor herb garden on the kitchen counter of Dan and Marcie Struble’s home. Photo by Marcie Struble

Herbs growing in a tiny indoor herb garden on the kitchen counter of Dan and Marcie Struble’s home. Photo by Marcie Struble

Pondering on that first Thanksgiving, I thought of the beauty of family and friends—old and new— sitting together for a meal that included food they’d grown themselves.

Family Home Evening is a good time to discuss how your family could participate in making the earth flourish with nutritious food— according to your amount of interest, space and time. Youth might set specific goals to propel your success. Here are ideas to consider, from simple to extraordinary, along with helpful tips.

*Purchase a pot of living herbs such as basil. A local grocer recommends keeping them in a spot of the kitchen with a cooler, consistent temperature. Another option is a soil-free herb/vegetable garden device with an LED light. It fits on the counter! My brother and sister-in-law in Mesa are foodies who cook scrumptious meals most evenings with herbs grown this way.

*Three feet by three feet of earth can be enough to yield several edibles. Many vegetables sown in spring elsewhere require the coolness of fall or winter months to thrive in the Sonoran Desert. Peas, for example, are best sown here in January and February. Find sowing information about your favorite fruits and veggies on the back of seed packets.

*Want to socialize more with your neighbors? Gardening discussions are ideal between people of the same habitat. Voice your gardening goals. Inquire about their knowledge. Invite them to learn what you’ve discovered. See what interest there is in collaborating. One family might be fans of lettuce and carrots, while another might be delighted to host emerging green beans and cauliflower on their property. Plan a neighborhood smorgasbord! Grow closer together while tending the portion of the earth that you share.

I recently met an expert horticulturalist that happens to live in my neighborhood. Chris Vermeer, who attends the Sun Valley Community Church, started his incredible backyard garden in Chandler five years ago. On his average-sized lot, he produces an enormous variety, including things Arizonans typically think cannot survive this climate. I’ve walked among the thriving papayas, mangoes and sugarcane!

Tips from Chris:

—“It’s all about the soil,” he says. Lay wood chips (or mulch) on top to insulate the soil from UV rays and keep it moist. Keep live seeds of some kind in the ground year-round. Mung beans are a great choice, as they fix nitrogen in the soil. It may take two years before your soil is prepared to offer abundant, delectable results, so start now.

— See online charts regarding companion planting. Having a diversity of edible and non-edible plants confuses bugs with the different scents so they won’t destroy a whole crop. Put bugs to work instead. They’ll help decompose dry plant parts that you’ve purposely dropped to the ground.

—For a fruit tree, “Snip off all the fruit when it’s young. Let it get established in the area and strong for a year or two or it’s going to put a lot of energy into the fruit instead of its roots and immune system.”

Follow Chris on Instagram @thekindredforestaz.

Cherries grown in Chris Vermeer’s backyard garden in Chandler. Photo by Chris Vermeer

Cherries grown in Chris Vermeer’s backyard garden in Chandler. Photo by Chris Vermeer

A purple artichoke grown in Chris Vermeer’s backyard garden in Chandler. Photo by Chris Vermeer

A purple artichoke grown in Chris Vermeer’s backyard garden in Chandler. Photo by Chris Vermeer

Strawberries grown in Chris Vermeer’s backyard garden in Chandler. Wood chips protect the soil. Photo by Chris Vermeer

Strawberries grown in Chris Vermeer’s backyard garden in Chandler. Wood chips protect the soil. Photo by Chris Vermeer

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