It seems that the much-anticipated spring temperatures have finally settled over Salt Lake City. Though snow still caps the mountains that surround our valley, winter frosts have ended and residents all over the city are breaking out their tools and gardening gloves. Urban gardening is a rapidly growing trend, especially here in Salt Lake City, and I have created a short video to show you how my neighbors and I have started growing our own food in the particularly tricky climate of Utah.
After a look at my urban garden, let's recap some of the important points.
Why is it important to grow your own food?
You need to think about where the food you are eating is coming from. How much energy did it take to get it from where it was produced to your local grocery store? What type of pesticides and nasty chemicals were sprayed on it to make it grow quicker than it would naturally? As cheesy as it sounds, your body is your temple — take responsibility for what you are putting into it! By growing your own food you are lowering your carbon footprint and ensuring that the food you eat is safe and nutritious.
What's the big deal with gardening in Salt Lake City?
Salt Lake City is a desert and, in all honesty, the soil here is not meant for producing all the foods we humans love to consume. The soil is full of clay and lacks nutrients and moisture. The summers are hot and sunny with very little rainfall to provide plants the water they need to survive. In order to garden sustainably in this climate, you really have to go the extra mile. You need some type of rain collection system or else your summer water usage will be ridiculous and ecologically damaging. My video did not show such a system, but I promise you, we are working on it! If you can find a sustainable way to keep your plants moisturized, the altitude and sunlight in Salt Lake City will provide you with an excellent yield.
What is aeration and why do you need to do it?
Aerating your garden means putting holes in the soil so that your plants have a better chance of absorbing the water, nutrients, and oxygen that they love so much. Worms help to do this by breaking up and loosening the soil, which is why gardeners are so pro-worm. I also like to use my hands to gently break up clumps because you can't grow your own food if you're not willing to get your hands dirty.
Why is composting so important?
Plants need nutrients to grow and in places like Salt Lake City where the soil quality is poor, adding nutrients and nitrogen to your soil is vital. This can be done with fertilizer but who wants gross chemicals contaminating the loveliness of a home grown vegetable or fruit? My neighbors and I chose to use compost: decomposed organic matter. It's eco-friendly, free and reduces the amount of trash we have to set out on our curb every week.
Why was I trash-talking ants yet praising bees?
Ants have been a particular problem in my urban garden. I noticed them attacking the blooms of my very first carrot plant and I am not pleased about it. I have heard that coffee grounds will ward them off, so if you experience an ant problem, try pouring some watered down coffee-grounds around the perimeter of your plants. Even if it doesn't solve the ant problem, the coffee will add an extra boost of nutrients to your soil. Bees, on the other hand, are welcome in my urban garden. The more pollinators you have in your garden, the higher yield you will experience with your plants. Yeah, the buzzing sound is a little intimidating, but the truth is that we need these little critters.
I hope this has inspired at least one person to start their own food-growing process. This is my first experience with urban gardening, and a lot of my methods have been trial and error, but I have had so much fun doing it. I find it sad that society has become so garden-illiterate and grocery store reliant. I encourage everyone out there to give gardening a try. What's the worst that could happen?