Short passage from the new book in progress, “Grow Your Own Life”:

I’m Emily, writer, gardener, almost 74 years old, but nobody thinks I look it (despite the road miles). I can’t do the heavy stuff anymore and have support once a week from a burly local landscaper named Brad. I grow a substantial amount of my own fruit and veg, all organically, giving space and support to wildlife and pollinating insects. I garden with the clear knowledge of climate change, warming temperatures, and potential for wildfires.

I grow only what I like to eat. I’ve stopped growing tasty things that cause acid reflux though. My veg area is essentially raised beds using Charles Dowding’s “no dig” method, laying this year’s compost and goodies on top. Soil is key, so is rotation of what I grow, companion planting, heritage seeds varieties, wise use of water. I recycle and reuse poles, PVC pipe lengths, netting, and Enviromesh. My main issues are pigeons, roving domestic cats, leaf miner, cabbage white moths. I mulch, mulch and mulch for water conservation (water to roots in the morning).

Everything looking beautiful is very important to me. So, I use a French potager approach, mixing flowers with my veg patch (dahlias, sunflowers, marigolds, etc.)

Growing your own is experiencing a revival during a time of pandemic and lockdown. It makes us look at our lives, our places of sheltering. But it is much more than that.

Mental health experts agree that gardening and nature will cause our blood pressure to fall, our minds to lift. The brain chemicals that underlie the feeling of happiness will outweigh the chemical of flight and fear.

Our old normal was dependence on supermarkets for our food, mostly grown by far-flung conglomerates. Food’s getting more expensive and uncertain during these virus times. Even a small container on a balcony can grow lettuce. Get your kids involved as they instinctively love dirt. Put a container or raised bed on the lifeless concrete or lawn. Watch a seed unfurl, burst into leaves. Growing your own fruit and veg will be far more flavorful and healthier.

If you don’t use pesticides, wildlife will return to fascinate you. You can encourage them to stay with bug hotels, untidy areas with leaves and fallen limbs, pollinating flowers, dwarf fruit trees, bird boxes, a small pond, and so forth.

Your outdoor surroundings will be far more lovely, and you will want to spend more time there. Nature will calm and enrich your life. Share your discoveries with friends and neighbors. Without a lecture from you, they will discover the healing power you’ve found—in a sense, you will pay it forward. My neighbor reimagined cucumbers after she ate one of my homegrown ones.

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