In the midst of the current crisis, lots of folks are starting their own vegetable gardens for the first time or digging into existing gardens with a greater sense of purpose. There can never be too many vegetable gardens, as far as we’re concerned, and growing some of what you eat, even if it’s just a few herbs or a potted tomato plant on your deck, is such an empowering way of connecting with your food. I will never forget the thrill of growing our first garden eight years ago--the magic of sprouting seeds and the intense satisfaction of eating our first harvest.
It’s inspiring to see so many of our neighbors and friends turning over ground to start their own coronavirus victory gardens for food security and for the joy of watching plants thrive under loving care. In a time with so much unknown, when many are feeling disconnected from the world we’re used to, it can be profoundly grounding and empowering to put your hands in the dirt and to know in the deepest way where our nourishment comes from.
Growing food is a continual learning experience (part of what keeps it interesting!), but here are a few online resources we have found really useful in our ongoing garden education:
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s Growing Guides are a great place to start. They are very thorough, covering everything from seed starting and growing for biodiversity to crop-specific guides for just about any vegetable you’d want to grow.
Seed Saver’s Exchange also has a very good library of articles on all aspects of the vegetable garden, including site planning, crop-specific growing guides, and seed saving information.
Your county extension office is an incredible resource (shout out to our amazing horticulture agent, Faye Kuosman!). They can help you with soil testing (a key step to garden success!), troubleshooting, and connecting you with all the resources you need. The UK Extension Office’s guide to Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky is a useful reference, as well.
We haven’t used Territorial Seed’s Garden Planner App yet, but it looks like a user-friendly way to keep track of all of your garden planning information in one place (rather than our approach of massive spreadsheets!). I want to give it a try in the future.
The Bionutrient Food Association has a vast library of documents, videos, and book recommendations available online. They tend to be more advanced, for experienced growers wanting to increase nutrient content in their crops by creating a super healthy soil food web.
The University of Kentucky’s Center for Crop Diversification is geared toward professional growers growing on a large scale, but its crop profiles and maps contain a lot of good information.
I really enjoy listening to the Farmer to Farmer Podcast, in which host and experienced organic farmer Chris Blanchard has down to earth conversations with other farmers about their operations and experiences. Unfortunately, Chris Blanchard passed away in 2018, but there is a hefty archive of past episodes to listen to while you work.
We learn so much every growing season, from publications, from other farmers, and from the garden itself. It is so exciting to see many others jumping enthusiastically into growing food. Please let us know if we can share our experiences to help you get started!
Many seed companies have been inundated with orders this spring and many are sold out or are suspending orders to catch up. We have some little plants ready to go into your garden, ranging from cilantro and basil to okra and peppers from our own saved seeds and heirloom tomatoes. We also have a set of edible flower plants to make your harvest as beautiful as it is delicious!
I’m feeling very thankful for the farmers’ markets right now, and appreciating how much they feed us, not just in fresh local food, but in connections as well. As people are wary of grocery stores and cooking more at home—and are longing for connection-- farmers’ markets are more important than ever right now. Unfortunately, we do need to make some adjustments to keep markets safe and healthy spaces.
The Franklin County Farmers’ Market just had its first weekly market of the season, run entirely through online preorders and delivery to customers’ cars (it will operate this way at least through May 9). It was surreal chatting with our fellow vendors behind masks, and we really missed the customer interaction that we look forward to every week, catching up with regulars and getting to know newcomers through shared excitement over fresh food. These distancing measures have brought out how important community is to the farmers’ market experience. While it feels like we’re missing that community right now, I think we just need to find creative ways to connect with each other. We miss seeing our regular customers smile when they see we’ve brought something new to market and hearing what they made with our produce last week, but I’m trying to remember that we are still interacting with each other when placing and receiving orders, lovingly harvesting and packing herbs and vegetables, and enthusiastically cooking with that produce. We’ll get through this chaotic and uncertain time, supporting each other the best we can, and we'll appreciate the smiles and conversations all the more on the other side!
We’re excited to be joining another community this week at the Chevy Chase Farmers' Market at the Apostles Anglican Church, 200 Colony Boulevard in Lexington! We were a one-time vendor last year, and it was a great little market! We’re looking forward to being there each Wednesday this season, starting April 22. The market runs from 8 to noon and will be a normally structured market with some common-sense safety precautions. Find more about how the market will run in this video. We’re eager to connect with you there!
Packing orders at the Franklin County Farmers' Market. Photo by Emily Lofald.
Kevin practicing socially-distanced friendliness at the Franklin County Farmers' Market