There are plenty of reasons to grow your own vegetable garden this summer: lower your food costs, eat healthier, get the kids interested in eating their greens . . . but did you know that growing your own garden is an act of sovereignty too?
Awhile back the government kicked most of us off our lands, replaced us to places where it was hard to grow old, let alone a garden, and then gave us commodities to make up for it. Flour. Sugar. Lard. Stuff that began to kill us from the inside out.
Generations later, we’re still suffering from obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Illnesses virtually unheard of by our ancestors when they lived cohesively with the environment around them.
Let’s Idle No More in the garden. Let’s proclaim 2013 as the year Indian Country reclaims backyard agriculture. After all, we showed those pilgrims how to do it in the first place. Let’s show them again.
And while the recommended plant date for most Northern States isn’t until May 15, you can get a head start on your summer garden by sprouting your seeds indoors. It’s simple, cheap, and will remind you of those seed experiments you did in the 3rd grade. You remember. Styrofoam cup with your name written on it, a seed, sunlight and hope?
But this time, let’s avoid the Styrofoam. It literally takes a million years to decompose and we want to honor our Mother Earth with our garden. Not poison her.
Here’s what you’ll need to get your garden started:
That’s it. If you’re a new gardener don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to plant a huge garden. Those tiny seeds will become big buckets of food and there’s nothing more frustrating than the food in your garden spoiling because you can’t eat it fast enough. And your neighbors will be just as tired of your zucchini as you are.
The first thing you’ll need is some potting soil. You can buy some just about anywhere or you can make your own with ingredients neither one of us has ever heard of before: four to six parts peat moss, one part perlite and one part vermiculite. In case you have any on hand. You can also use compost for part of the peat moss.
When it comes to seeds, stick to the basics: tomatoes, squash, peppers, cabbage, lettuces (try a variety seed pack), carrots and radishes. One row of each. Remember that with cabbage, lettuce and radishes you’ll want to replant new seeds about every three weeks so that you have a continuous rotation of harvests.
On to the containers. You can use old flats from last years garden, old yogurt cups, old cans. Just about anything. Except Styrofoam. Styrofoam is poison.
Fill your chosen container with your potting soil and press the seeds into the soil with your finger or the end of a pencil. You can put two or three seeds into each container because not every seed will germinate and if they do it will be easy to separate them for transplanting in a few weeks. Be sure to mark the containers some how so you remember which seeds are which.
Water the seeds every few days, when the soil begins to look dry. You’ll need to treat the seeds delicately at first—just dribble the water on them for the first few weeks so that the force of the water doesn’t disrupt or drown the seeds.
Finally, keep your seedlings in a warm place, such as the top of the refrigerator or near a window that gets a lot of sun.
Within a few weeks you’ll begin to see tiny little sprouts. And while your plants are getting a head start inside, you can begin preparing your garden outside. More on that next week.
Darla Antoine is an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band in British Columbia and grew up in Eastern Washington State. For three years, she worked as a newspaper reporter in the Midwest, reporting on issues relevant to the Native and Hispanic communities, and most recently served as a producer for Native America Calling. In 2011, she moved to Costa Rica, where she currently lives with her husband and their infant son. She lives on an organic and sustainable farm in the “cloud forest”—the highlands of Costa Rica, 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to the high elevation, the conditions for farming and gardening are similar to that of the Pacific Northwest—cold and rainy for most of the year with a short growing season. Antoine has an herb garden, green house, a bee hive, cows, a goat, and two trout ponds stocked with hundreds of rainbow trout.