Intervals in the garden

Ever since I went back to work, I have neglected my wonderful vegetable garden. Less time plus insane heat left me with little motivation to spend time sweating, weeding and digging among the raised beds in our front yard.

Luke and Andy look at camera while sitting next to a garden bed
Fortunately for me, Andy has taken on the garden with gusto, and he’s managed to keep it alive through this long hot summer. He’s been more successful than I was, starting seeds in the house and transplanting them to the garden. His goal is to grow enough greens and other vegetables to feed not just our own insatiable appetite for vegetables but also donate to other families.

This morning, it was cool enough for us all to spend outside in the garden. Mads and I explored and watched as Luke and Andy mixed up soil and planted new seedlings in the garden. Hopefully those veggies will fuel our paleo meals!

I took advantage of the cool temps this morning, too, with some interval sprints before dawn. I was nearly done before the kids woke up, but they managed to entertain themselves for a little while so I could finish.

8 x 200m
5 x 50m

Results:
200s – 1:11 / 1:09 / 1:10 / 1:09 / 1:10 / 1:11 / 1:11 / 1:12
50s – 11 sec each sprint

I also did core training this morning.

3 sets: 5 flags / 6 deadlift twists (each side) / 15 supermans / 8 DB twists (each side)
1 min plank hold

I could get used to these cooler temperatures. It’s been such a relief after that crazy and very long summer.

Grow your food, eat well

(This post is the fourth in a series on eating, inspired by the movie Food Inc.  You can read “The Way We Eat” here.  Read “Meet your Farmers” here.  And read “Your Own Personal Victory Garden” here.)

strawberry plant with two blooms
Annual strawberries grown in Texas should be planted in November from crown. This variety has been growing all winter, and now it has blooms and fruit!

Let me stop you there.

Yes, you can grow a garden — even if you live in an apartment.  You may not be able to grow everything, but you can grow something, and that’s better than nothing.

You don’t have time?  Well, if you’re reading my blog, you probably already invest a lot of time looking for the best quality food at local markets or grocery stores.  You already spend a good bulk of time at a gym or running or whatever.  I have a full-time job, a home-based business, a 3-year-old and another on the way.  I don’t have a lot of time either.  But if I can do it, you can do it.

seedlings on heat mat
Starting seeds inside is a great way to save money once you've had a little practice.

Here are some ideas to help you get started, based on what I have learned over the years:

  1. Start small
    A garden can be as small and manageable as you need it to be.  I started off growing herbs in a pot on my apartment balcony when I got my first job out of college.  Fresh basil, thyme and oregano are amazing additions to any food, especially paleo concoctions.
  2. Utilize the space you have
    I was lucky in Nashville.  Our landlord didn’t mind us digging up a huge plot in our front yard as long as we shared with him.  All we had to do was ask for permission.  Renting a house with a landlord that isn’t as nice?  I have friends who have created a garden almost entirely out of containers.  All you need is something to put potting soil in and some seeds.  Even garbage bags and buckets work!
  3. Find a good local nursery
    I can’t emphasize this enough.  The people who work there have knowledge, and they love answering questions!  The gardening community is not competitive!  They share, and every one of us has stories to tell about our failures.  Plus, the nursery folks can give you advice on what materials you need to get started and when to plant certain veggies.  They also know what grows best in your area.  My favorite happens to be the Natural Gardener, but Austin has a bunch of really nice nurseries (and I don’t mean Lowes or Home Depot — I don’t recommend either place.)  Visit them!
  4. Read up
    There are a number of great resources for gardeners — new and experienced.  I have a ton of J. Howard Garrett books, which deal with organic gardening in Texas.  This year we added Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Gardening to our collection.  The Travis County Master Gardeners and Travis County Extension Office can also recommend excellent resources and give advice.
    (Believe it or not, I became a certified Master Gardener in Nashville!  Too much time commitment for me here in Texas… but maybe one day!)
  5. Don’t be afraid of failure
    It can be easy to get frustrated when things don’t work out, but sometimes you have to just experiment and try again.  I’ve been trying to start seeds inside during the winter for YEARS.  It wasn’t until this year that I FINALLY got a bunch of good seedlings to put in the garden — but I still make tons of mistakes.
broccoli growing in a front yard bed
This broccoli plant has been growing since last fall. It's an example of how you can garden through the winter.

OK, so that’s it in a nutshell.  That’s pretty much what I’ve learned over the years.  The result for me has been a ton of failures, but also JOY when I succeed.

Andy and I have worked for the past 5 years to create an edible landscape.  Our front yard has an expanding vegetable garden, plus a strawberry patch, a persimmon tree, three olive trees, Texas native perennials and shrubs, and wildflowers.  In our backyard, we have a huge pecan, two brand new plum trees that will hopefully produce in a few years, a loquat and a blackberry patch — not to mention a bunch of small ornamental trees and shrubs.

One of the biggest satisfactions from my garden is not just knowing that I grew it, but that my son — now 3 1/2 — eats it.  He walks right over to the broccoli and cauliflower, rips off a flower head and starts eating!  How awesome is that?  He’s been helping us garden since he was an infant, and it’s one of our favorite family activities.

Luke eats broccoli
I mean, how cool is that to have your kid excited about fresh broccoli?

I also follow some gardening blogs that might help.  Here are some of my favorites:

Your own personal victory garden

(This post is the third in a series on eating, inspired by the movie Food Inc.  You can read “The Way We Eat” here.  Read “Meet your Farmers” here.)

Luke and the tomato
My son checks out a tomato from our 2009 garden. It was quickly devoured.

OK, I’ll admit it took me a long time to write this post on growing a garden.  Part of the reason is that it’s been so cold and wet, I haven’t wanted or even been able to get out in my own garden.

Trailing winecup nest to Texas Sage
Trailing winecup, a native, next to Texas Sage, blooms in spring.

I always find the urge to grow my own food is strongest around early spring when the trees begin leafing out, the flowers are bursting with color, and the fruit and vegetables that have been long missing from the farmers’ markets are just now starting to reappear.

Spring is my absolute favorite time in Austin.  Admittedly, it doesn’t last very long, meteorologically-speaking.  And this spring took even longer to show up.  What’s up with 40 degree weather on the first day, huh?  One reason I love it so much is that it’s time to plant most of my favorite garden vegetables.

The Nashville garden in 2004?  Or was it 2003?
Nashville gerden -- 2003 or 2004

I’ve been gardening… well, forever.  My grandad had a garden, my mom had a garden, and when I rented my first house — you bet! — I dug a plot for a garden.  Check out that lovely image to the right.  That was my Nashville garden, complete with sunflowers, tomatoes, beans, peas, soybeans, peppers and others.

These are hot peppers from the Fall 2009 garden.

Gardening in Texas is different.  Way different.

We moved back to Austin 5 years ago, bought a house, and immediately I wanted to grow a garden.  While I can grow shrubs, flowers and trees like an experts, my veggie garden continues to be a challenge. Unfortunately, Central Texas poses a number of challenges for aspiring vegetable gardeners, and that can be daunting for first-timers.

That sucks!  Because the best food you’ll ever eat will come out of your own efforts — from the sweat of your body and work of your hands!  When we talk about eating REAL FOOD — you can’t get any better than food from a garden.

And if you have kids, I’ve discovered that children are more likely to eat vegetables if they grew them themselves.  Heck!  Most of the stuff we grow doesn’t make it in the house!  Luke usually eats the broccoli, cauliflower and tomatoes straight from the plant!

I’ve written extensively about the challenges I’ve faced, and I’ve learned a lot — so tomorrow, I’m going to share some of the things I’ve learned, share a bunch of pictures, and hopefully you’ll find a way to start your own garden — because there’s no one right way to do it!

Stay tuned.