When I was 17 years old I followed the tide of young people to a music event in upstate New York that turned out to be the most famous festival of all time: Woodstock. It was there I learned people were talking about leaving the cities and suburbs, buying land and becoming self sufficient. It totally captured my imagination. It was all I could think of. My then partner was promised $4,000 when he got married. So, of course, we got married, collected his inheritance, and headed to Tennessee to buy our dream farm. We purchased 80 aces with a 100 year old run down chestnut log cabin, a crystal clear spring, a pond and plenty of room to farm. We bought a tractor. It was off the grid, so we had no electric or running water. At the time this seemed perfect to me. I wanted to live like the pioneers.
I mail ordered the FoxFire books to learn how to use a wood cookstove and to pickle and can. I read everything I could get my hands on about pioneer women. The stories were a mixed message. Some women could do anything this very hard life asked of them. But some women had lived in cities on the East Coast. The harshness and extreme loneliness broke them; they lost their minds. I read one story about a poor distraught women who set the wagon on fire in the middle of NoWhere, America.
What I learned about myself, far from home, during this period of my life, was that this lifestyle was not the best fit for me. I’m from the urban East. Bless anyone called to be a farmer; I have married a couple of them in my past. But the repetitive hoeing all day of sweet potato plants and then returning back to the house dog tired, only to do more chores, made me batty.
Turns out I love to sit in a small cafe with my journal and a cup of tea. I like the sound of voices all around me. People I don’t know conversing, coming and going. It calms me.
But I always felt a little guilty I didn’t turn out to be a pioneering hound dog. That is until I discovered ‘French Intensive Gardening’. The best fit for me! Also known as ‘Biodynamic French Market Gardening’, it originated in 1890 in Paris when 150 acres of the inner city was planted 12 months of the year in vegetables. This method of gardening is where plants are grown within a smaller space allowing higher yields than other traditional gardening methods. This is also known as ‘crowding the plants’. I am fascinated by it because the French Intensive System can easily transition to garden boxes for those individuals that lack space but want to participate in gardening. Garden boxes can be used on small condo patios, balconies, a front porch…. giving you a bumper crop harvest for your fresh salads.
Leafy green plants used in salads are rich in chlorophyll, the most potent plant pigment responsible for fighting viruses affecting the lungs. Just what we’re looking for with COVID-19. Grow boxes provide you with ‘source to stomach’ eating. This is when the food is at it’s most potent. We teach this method of gardening in our ‘Certified Holistic Health Coach/Cancer Coach Training’, but if you want to get started now, here are some tips to begin.
> HOW MANY BOXES: Gauge how many garden boxes you have room for and can manage.
> CONSIDER WHAT WOULD BE THE BEST BOX FOR YOU: I live in New Mexico; keeping the plants moist is a challenge. So I use City Picker Planting Boxes that I purchased at the Home Depot. They are a 24X20 inch box with a simple self-contained water system that waters the roots of the plants and comes with caster wheels. These boxes allow you to power plant up to 20-25 plants in one box. Here’s a link.
> SOIL MIXTURE: The biggest investment, and the biggest contributor to your success, is the soil. Your plants are only as healthy as the soil they grow in. It takes time and space to build soil, so you may want to just purchase it. The recipe for organic soil is: 60% topsoil, 30% compost and 10% worm castings, cow manure, bat guano, kelp, mushroom compost……mix well. About 10 gallons of soil fills a box.
> WHAT TO GROW: For my boxes I stick mainly to leafy greens because you can get a daily yield for salads with about 5 boxes. Some plants that grow well starting from sets are chard, romaine lettuce, parsley, celery, spinach and all types of kale.
HOW TO PLANT THE BOX: Once I get my soil mixture settled in I water the box so the plants are not set in a dry soil. I then plant each box with about 25 starter plants and water again. I then water daily as needed.
HARVESTING: Harvesting happens when the plants get about 8 to 10 leaves. You can pinch off the outer leaves for salad and leave the middle to keep growing. Carefully pinched, this can provide you with salad greens the whole season.
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We cannot love it if we cannot touch it: Our Common Home.”
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