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Simple ways you can turn your home into a mini garden

By Crystal Sands

It wasn’t that long ago that urban gardening was common. People garden in their yards and on their balconies, and a small chicken coop could often be found in the yard. Although these practices have been out of fashion for a while, trends are often cyclical. As food prices continue to rise and more people desire to eat delicious food that is both healthy and affordable, more people are returning to traditional household customs.

If you’ve been thinking about turning your home into a mini garden, there are a few easy ways to get started. Small steps can make a big difference in the short and long term. It doesn’t take much to become a host, even in small spaces, which means you can be eating fresh, delicious food in no time.

Garden in containers: You don’t have to till your land to have a garden. Raised beds can be placed in your yard, and you can use small containers, such as food bins and garden bags, to grow food on your porch, deck, or balcony. If you’re new to gardening, start by planting foods that are hardy and easy to grow. Legumes, tomatoes and leafy greens are easy to grow and provide you with food quickly.

Create an edible landscape: If you have a flower garden or shrubs around your house, you already have a great place to grow food. The transition to an edible landscape can be easy. When planting your flowers, look for edible flowers. And among your flowers you can plant a wide variety of foods that are beautiful, will blend in with your flowers, and will also put food on your plate. Beautiful, edible side gardens can include a mix of edible flowers, such as hibiscus or sunflowers, along with purple cabbage, lettuce and herbs.

Additionally, if you have ornamental shrubs, you can replace them with edible shrubs. Here in Maine, blueberry bushes grow well, are easy to care for, and will provide you with fresh blueberries in the summer. You can also create raspberry or blackberry hedges from blueberries. The stems spread quickly and grow well here.

Plant fruit trees: Fruit trees will take a few years before they bear fruit, but planting fruit trees sooner rather than later means you’ll have fresh fruit before you know it. Depending on the age of the fruit trees you plant, you can eat apples, pears or peaches within two to three years. Just be sure to buy your fruit trees from a local supplier that specializes in fruit trees that do well in Maine. This will increase the chances that your trees will thrive and be hardy enough to survive in our growing zone.

Get backyard chickens: Chickens are not allowed within the Bangor city limits, but hens and even roosters are allowed in the surrounding areas. Just a few chickens can make a big difference in your homesteading endeavors. Chickens are great at turning food waste (your food scraps) into eggs, and their droppings can easily be composted to become fertilizer for your gardening. The initial setup for chickens can be expensive, but since chickens provide food and fertilizer, they are an important part of the breeding cycle in the long run.

Start a compost pile or bin: If you have chickens, you’ll want a pile of compost, as composted chicken droppings make the perfect garden fertilizer. But even if you don’t have chickens, a compost pile or bin is a great idea for any household, regardless of size. The secret to good compost is to create a good combination of carbon-rich foods, such as leaves, branches, and coffee grounds, and nitrogen-rich items, such as manure, food scraps, or green grass clippings.

There are so many wonderful resources available for free to help you get started. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension website provides instructions for everything from assembly to selecting the right fruit trees. It’s important to start small and grow as you’re ready, because the benefits of fresh food to your health and food budget will be apparent relatively quickly, and the benefits to your overall happiness from growing your own food and self-sufficiency are immeasurable.

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