Staff Challenge: Grow More Food!

Eco Living
Jun 16th, 2014 | By Gray Peckham

For Earth Day this year, we Sustainable America staff members decided to challenge ourselves to work on ways to be greener in our everyday lives. Inspired by a mantra from our friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Greening is a journey, not a destination,” we each chose an area to improve upon, from composting to eating less meat.

First up is Gray, our director of investments, who said he was going to grow food in containers and compost at home: “We already have a vegetable garden, but our yard is small and we have three kids that need a place to play,” he wrote in April. “We’re going to experiment with different container growing methods to see if we can grow more food. We’re also going to start composting.”

Here’s how he did:

My challenge goal was to expand the amount of food we grow in a small yard and to start composting at home. I’ve succeed in half of my mission so far, and have a plan for the other half!

garden enclosureThe Successful Part: We already had a small vegetable garden, but with a really small yard, we didn’t want to expand too much at the expense of the limited space our kids have to play. And there are three of them, so they do need a good amount of room! What we were able to do was to take out a couple of ornamental plants that bordered our vegetable garden to create a few more feet of growing space. Then I built a low-cost enclosure out of basic lumber, chicken wire and water-seal stain to keep the skunks, raccoons, rabbits and deer out. (They have cleaned us out a few times in past years!)

We also are growing some strawberries and herbs in hanging baskets from our deck, and I built a small, two-tier garden box that sits along an unoccupied section of fence, where we’re growing parsley, more strawberries (my five-year-old is into strawberries) and peppers.

I know we won’t be able to feed the family with the small output from the garden, but it does accomplish three things: 1) we’ll have good food from our own garden to eat in the coming months; 2) it shows my kids that growing food can be a really fun thing to do; and 3) it gives me a place to use the compost that we’ll start producing at our home.

The Still-Working-on-It Part: Truth be told, the home-scale composting I resolved to do hasn’t gotten done yet. This is probably the busiest time of year for our family. The kids are doing sports and music, end-of-year field trips and assemblies abound, and both my wife and I work. I’m guilty of losing track of my goal. But fear not – I have plan to right the ship, and quickly, before summer really gets going! A couple of weeks ago, we posted on our blog a really helpful guide to composting for those (like me) who are maybe a little bit challenged by composting. I plan to use one or more of the tips in there to get us kickstarted. Soon, I’ll be able to report back that we’re making some nice compost out of our food waste, and using it to grow more food in our own backyard!

Gray Peckham
Director of Investments

Tagged: sustainable living, composting, gardening, NRDC, urban gardening, Gray Peckham, gardening with kids, Earth Day, Earth Day Challenge, growing food, Green Living

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