Photo credit: Asia Spratley
Asia Spratley , who was not a big fan of vegetables, is now growing greens right in her own backyard in addition to raising some chickens and quail. She’s got some awesome tips and her very own experience to share about setting up an urban homestead, even if you have limited outdoor space. So, if you’ve ever thought about growing your own food but didn’t know where to start, you may find some inspiration here. Get ready to dig in!
What made you decide to embark on the journey of growing your own food?
Originally it started from needing something to do while being stuck in the house during COVID. I am the type of person that always needs to be moving and doing something. My daughter is a very healthy eater but I have never been. She and I started gardening with a small garden bed that we grew randomly over a few years.
I had never been a person that roamed around the vegetable aisles because I didn’t eat vegetables like that. So I thought we could try to grow stuff and do it together. We started out with one garden bed. The first year was pretty terrible but I got so interested because it was producing something. From there we needed more space and I added additional garden beds and kept adding on. It has grown to be my whole backyard.
In what ways has this had a positive impact on you and your family?
It’s had a very positive impact on the way I eat. I didn’t eat many vegetables. I didn’t like collards, kale, and I definitely wasn’t eating radishes. Growing food in the back yard looks very pretty to me. I grew Swiss chard for the first time because of the color of it. I said “Well you grew it so you should taste it”. I still to this day don’t eat green peppers but used to think all peppers taste like green peppers. I wasn’t aware there were so many other varieties that taste different.
Cucumbers in the store are a little more bitter in my opinion, but when you grow them in your background and harvest them at the right time, they taste a little sweeter. It has helped me become a better cook and helped us eat better as a family. It has allowed us to try different foods and introduce them to family members and friends. My mom started a small garden a year after I started mine.
Has cultivating your own food changed your perception of it?
When I went to the grocery store, I used to look for the cheapest price. I now look for is this real? Was it grown and taken care of better before it got to the grocery? It makes me look at grocery shopping differently. It makes me want to grow more so I don’t have to wonder when I am purchasing food at the grocery store. People are so quick to spray chemicals on food. Food doesn’t have to be this beautiful pretty thing to be edible and good. I don’t spray my garden with chemicals. I spray pests with water or pull them off. It’s an ecosystem in my garden. When those pests come in, the life cycle will happen on its own in my garden. I don’t look down on anyone that uses chemicals, but it’s a personal preference.
Over the years, what have been the most challenging aspects of maintaining and keeping up your urban homestead?
It’s more things that I may want than challenges. For instance, my cattle panel was a struggle to get in my backyard. We folded them in the back of the truck and I had to unfold them and it was a challenge to get them to arch when I got home. I want a sitting area and enough space to grow all the food I want. I had to forgo the sitting area in order to make more space for the food.
What advice do you offer to individuals interested in cultivating their own food and crops despite having limited outdoor space and resources?
If you have limited space but sun for at least six hours a day, grab some pots, grab some grow bags, and plant seeds. In most cases the things you can grow in the ground, can be grown in a pot or in a bag. I’m not saying try to grow a tree in a five gallon pot, but food such as tomatoes, cabbage, collards can be grown in a pot. Just make sure you fertilize the pot well enough with compost or granular fertilizer, and you can grow the same things we are growing in garden beds or in the ground. It doesn’t limit you.
You don’t have to start with seeds because they can be very time consuming. All of my bulb seeds died because my life was busy. Buying starts (seeds that have already been planted) is not a bad thing. It’s awesome to say I started with a seed and grew it all the way to the food. If it’s something you want to do then awesome, but if not, begin with the starts. Regardless of how you begin, you are still starting it and cultivating it until it’s ready to harvest. If you want to grow from seed that is awesome and there is nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t make you any less of a gardener.
What are some good stores to start with?
My favorite place is my local seed and seed store. Of course it won’t be the same place for everyone. Do a Google of seed and seed stores in your area. They are normally cheaper and grow organically. We also have a Lowe’s, Home Depot, and Tractor Supply in my area. I go to all three. I’m not super picky about where I shop and I think that has helped me keep going this far.
To get more tips and learn more visit Asia’s YouTube Channel Yellow Door Urban Homestead or via Instagram .
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