35% of households in America (42 million) are growing food at home or in a community garden, up 17% since 2008. -National Gardening Association
April is National Garden Month and the perfect time to kick off the growing season! It's also a good time to raise awareness about garden-based education in our communities. School gardens, community gardens, and backyard home gardens are all great places to connect with others and share in the joys of "growing your own". Even more important is the notion that we are in control of the food we eat, how it's grown, and the preservation of our greatest natural resource, healthy soil.
"A healthy life is not possible without healthy soils."- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
Whether you're growing herbs on a windowsill or managing a 2-acre organic farm, you are taking part in something much larger, community and civic engagement. We have the capacity to solve our own problems and through this social transformation we can take back control of our food environment. There is no better time than now.
What are your goals for your garden this season? Whatever your goals are, start with a plan for your produce and consider what you often use during the winter months so you can incorporate food preservation into your garden design. It might seem a little premature to be thinking about preserving your garden harvest for winter but a goal without a plan is just a wish.
Here are some great hand-picked resources to get you started:
Soil Testing Labs in Illinois- this is especially important if you are growing in a community garden that had previously been left vacant for years.
My Garden Journal- this printable PDF will help you keep track of your progress during the growing season and will be valuable as you plan future gardens.
Watch my Garden Grow- vegetable gardening basics and vegetable directory.
Illinois Vegetable Gardening Guide- a guide for growing, harvesting and exhibiting vegetables.
Successful Container Gardens- do you have a lack of time and space? Get yourself a container garden!
Herb Gardening- a University of Illinois Extension website on herb selection, preservation and recipes. Herbs are natural pest deterrents and pollinator attractors.
Seed Savers Exchange- a great website for heirloom seeds.
Sow True Seed- open pollinated, non-hybrid & GMO-free seeds featuring heirloom, organic and traditional varieties.
Biointensive Integrated Pest Management- how to get started with IPM and other proactive techniques (cultural controls).
Garden Calendar- Daily tips for the home gardener.
Food Preservation- a University of Illinois Extension website with resources on safe home food preservation.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation- your source for current research-based recommendations for canning, freezing, drying, smoking, fermenting and pickling.
Composting for the Homeowner- This site gives an excellent in-depth discussion of the science of composting, why it is important, how to build a compost pile, and materials needed.
- Visit the Unit 7- Henry, Mercer, Rock Island & Stark Counties website for upcoming programs in backyard gardening, cooking and food preservation this spring and summer.