Living in Walnut Creek gives us a tremendous opportunity to pursue a garden project in our own backyard. As I drive through the quiet neighborhoods I often wonder how much local food we could actually produce if each of us utilized the land for this purpose. It wasn't that long ago that the Diablo Valley produced much of the food for Oakland and San Francisco.
Just on my little patch of rented land in South Walnut Creek, we have established an extensive garden that produces food year round. We have established a working compost area, nurtured 4 fruit trees back to health, built a low cost greenhouse and set up a very efficient drip irrigation system. We have consistent crops of salad and mustard greens, kale and chard, and unlimited herbs for cooking. Last year we produced enough food to spend every weekend and many week nights canning and preserving food. It is such a great bonding experience with my 2 year old son to harvest peppers and beans. Its a joy to try different recipes with my wife for tomato sauces, ketchup, pickles, salsa, chutney, etc. There is nothing better than sharing these foods with my family and friends all winter long.
This Spring has been a busy one! Its been a lot of hard work (not to mention managing the rains) as we harvest some of the winter crops, cut down the cover crops, mulch and compost, build garden trellises and arbors, research seed varieties, and manage slugs and earwigs. Of course we extended our beds and are preparing for bigger harvests. We are planting new and different varieties of vegetables. We are growing many crops from seed such as sweet corn, beans, zuchini, squash, carrots, broccoli, pumpkins, and several varieties of melons.
To me, establishing this garden is a chance to live holistically; in tune with nature. Earth provides us with the very basics of life and yet we continue to overlook them everyday. Soil, Water, Air. They get lost in our rearview mirrors and in our television screens. Gardening is a chance to work with the forces of nature instead of against them. A chance to utilize the basics of life to produce food. And personally, its a chance to share the Earth with my family in a constructive, sustainable way.
I encourage you to find out what you could grow in your yards, what crops you could support. Seek out your neighbors who have similar ideas and share the resources like rototillers, mowers, or compost. There is nothing more satisfying than deciding which variety of self-produced pasta sauce you want to use for dinner tonight!
Thank you for posting this, Andrew -- it speaks to me in such a big way. We bought a small rototiller last week (if I had read this last week I might have just asked to borrow yours since we also live in southern WC -- I'll share mine with the neighbors just as we do the weed wacker :-)) and are preparing the vegetable garden now. I love the idea of coordinating groups of locals who want to help out on each others' gardens. This idea has come up several times now with SCOCO friends and I think there is real potential for organizing these types of activities. SCOCO's plate is pretty full right now but if someone else wanted to organize it, we could create a Group for that purpose on the SCOCO Network. People are often looking for volunteer activities where they can get their hands dirty.
It's looking like the SCOCO Sustainable Communities Collaborative kickoff event will be focused on food and gardening! I'm thinking a fun and educational tour of Alhambra Valley farm. Kids are invited too! We'll do it in the summer.