It’s come a long way since then but this blog started in March 2013 with gardening pics, homemade recipes and photos from hiking adventures on the east coast of Barbados. I was living on a farm in the ‘farming parish’ of the island, which ironically constantly had water problems (the island has a shortage.) It was a far cry from the frequent flights, fancy hotels, big stages and full days of studio sessions I was used to…and I grew to appreciate it and all the work that came with taking care of it.
For the first year in the countryside, I was volunteering on another farm learning to grow food and started planting at home growing fresh herbs, nuff vegetables, fruits and ground provisions since then. Today, I’m sharing steps and encouragement to start growing food at home, even if you live in a small apartment and have little or no yard.
Why grow food?
Aside from the global ‘timeouts’, fluctuating curfews, cost of living in Bim, outdoor situations, public transportation challenges and the constant quest to find legit organic produce that all make venturing outside a lot less appealing in this season, gardening is healthy for the mind and physical movement and (at some point) our meals. It’s strength training on a lot of levels and can help us develop a heightened sense of patience, proactivity and thankfulness.
Plus, the time will come when the faith-filled won’t be able to buy or sell, but we are able to plant, grow, gift and receive food now by grace, so there’s that. When you grow even just some of what you eat you can vouch for how your food was handled, receive it as soon as it’s fresh and most tend to appreciate it more.
Let’s walk through a short list of steps and essentials to hopefully inspire you to start growing a fruit, vegetable, kitchen herb or ground provision garden, or motivate you to give some extra attention to the plant you already have or the forgotten tree in your yard.
By the way, I may have been growing greens, fresh herbs 🌿 fruits and and provisions for years, but I’m not an expert and there’s still a lot to learn.
⁃ pick a planting zone (in or outdoors or a combo of the two.) It can be your kitchen sill to start off, the patio, a balcony, front or back yard – a well-lit area in a room. Observe the sunlight pattern, its timeline and research what grows best where. Examine the different types of soil where you are and if you can identify different micro climates or well-watered zones outside. Seeing any caterpillars around, bees and birds visiting certain bushes or flowers – any butterflies gathering? Monitor that.
- Decide on what you eat most, what you might be interested in supplying or making a product from or what grows fastest depending on your motivation and goals.
- If you need to due to limitations with space (if you don’t have a yard), buy some pre-mixed soil or potting mix to start. My favourite so far is ProMix. If not, scout around for the most living, rich and loose (not tough, gluey) soil. It may be somewhere in an open pasture in the neighbourhood. After a light rain, take a look at the land while you’re on a walk. I’ve collected bags full of earth before, doing just that early in the morning. Potting mix is almost always recommended by gardening experts, but it’s not always instantly affordable so don’t let that get in the way. If you can, start with one then add bit by bit.
⁃ decide what you’re going to plant – how about your favourite veggies or something the closest store seems to always run out of first.
⁃ start saving seeds from things like those tomatoes in that salad, okra, melongene or buying seed packs.
⁃ designate a small kitchen compost tin (with a secure lid), outdoor compost area or a combo of both.
⁃ córrale and crunch up any leaf stacks 🍃 to use as mulch or a compost layer.
⁃ get a gardening fork or start with a designated knife for digging. Oh, and a watering can or spray bottle.
⁃ get enthusiastic about this journey you’re on.
– check out Mumbai Balcony Gardener and CaliKim on YouTube or join a gardening-support group like ‘Bajan Home Gardening’ or ‘Green Thumb Barbados’ on Facebook.
⁃ adjust your morning routine if needed so you prep for mind for quiet mornings and gardening time.
8 Essentials to Start Growing Food
1. designated planting zone/s (cups, pots, containers, seedling trays, outside areas with borders of rocks or bricks, wooden pallets)
2. potting mix or healthy soil
3. seeds or seedlings 🌱
4. compost bin or heap. set aside a small kitchen compost bin or covered bowl so you can collect scraps to add to the outdoor one every day.
5. adequate sunlight and clean water
6. organic plant bug repellent (crushed garlic water, neem leaves/tea, ground peppers 🌶 )
7. plant matter (vegetable, fruit and provision scraps & eggshells)
⁃ Seed-saving tip: Get a multi-compartment tin like an ice tray or mini envelopes or tiny Ziploc ‘baggies’ to save seeds by type. Label by name and date then set aside those seeds to plant or gift at some point.
It starts with just one seed and good soil, even if that looks like a cup with a plant cutting on your kitchen window sill or a jar of water with a plant sprouting roots.
Food security is a hot topic for a reason in and beyond this season, and though we don’t find actual security in food, having things you can eat growing at home helps ease the mind and put food on the table in these trying times. Meanwhile, scout for any fruit trees spilling over in the public domain in your neighbourhood or along nature trails. Your real food security regimen is making sure bugs, rodents, tree climbing visitors, butterflies, belly-crawlers and pets don’t harm or gobble down the plants. (A little but important note for any Barbados-based aspiring gardeners reading this, having grown and shared food with families of green monkeys for years – leave some for them and they’ll leave some for you. They know who likes them and who doesn’t, and they respond in kind.)
The blessing of that precious quiet time taking care of a plant that was created to help nourish you too is both humbling and exciting. There are so many beautiful surprises with gardening, and yes – challenges too but that’s also a part of how we grow. It’s a mutual thing.
The rain literally just started showering down and the plants and trees outside will respond sweetly to that, especially after a baking hot day. That thought alone just made me take a deep thankful breath.
So, pelt that piece of potato or ginger (with the ‘eye’) and save seeds from those tomatoes in that salad and you’ll be sweetly surprised with what you see in a few days.
May your hands be blessed and whatever you grow flourish, by grace.
What food will you start growing, or what’s already springing up or flourishing in your home or garden?
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Gardening is calming – it’s also a good way to get moving and you don’t need to pay any membership fee to start or enjoy. Don’t be intimidated by all there is to learn or challenges along the way; be inspired and motivated to join in and grow food right at home. Start with what you have and scout around for accessible plant cuttings and supplies when you can, or just ask someone for a helping hand. Feel free to come by again and share in the comment section how your gardening adventure’s coming along. I’m happy for you already.
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