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Getting started with growing your own - Ohio Farm Girl

In my ongoing series of interviews with bloggers who grow their own, here's another interview, this time we venture outside Australia to the middle of the USA, with Ohio Farmgirl from Ohio Farmgirl's adventures in the good land.  

Thanks Farmer Liz! I'm Ohio Farmgirl aka OFG. I live on a small homestead-like farm in the middle of Ohio, USA. Here in The Good Land we have ducks and geese and chickens and turkeys and pigz and dairy goats. We grow a lot of our own food and also feed for our barnyard. We butcher our own meat here on our farm. My blog, Adventures in the Good Land, is about how we are making our way in this world. Previously I lived in the city and only had a small flower garden.

OFG doesn't have a photo of herself on her blog, but lots of her lovely big dogs instead:)
Farmer Liz: Tell me about your garden and climate

Ohio Farmgirl: I have a series of gardens across the property. Unfortunately we have extremely bad soil (clay with low fertility) so our biggest challenge isn't more space – its productive space. We've spent the last couple years bringing in soil amendments and improving each little patch of ground as we go along. The first year was a total disaster. I couldn't get anything to grow. But little by little we are seeing improvements and now have a productive garden.

Of course we grow tomatoes and beans, but also a lot of greens, squash, potatoes, and herbs. This past year I finally had a small harvest of strawberries and also onions for the first time. Our biggest success tho has been that we've also started growing grains on a small scale. I fed the chickens for most of the summer with a smallish patch of wheat originally sown to improve the soil.

Even tho we have four seasons we have a long growing period. I can usually get some early radishes and greens going in March or April and we often continue to harvest until mid-October. We grow enough food that we rarely have to buy produce from the store in summer. We also have goats so they provide almost all of our dairy needs during the milking season. Our pigz and chickens provide probably 95% of our meat (year round).
It seems very cold there at the moment!
FL: When and why did you start growing your own?

OFG: I started a garden in my city yard years ago. At that time I mostly grew flowers and ornamental plants. However when I moved to the country I realized that I could grow food. We literally stood in a big grocery store and listed all of the things that we could grow ourselves. Then we thought, well, we could grow our own meat too if we wanted to... Back then I didn't know about canning or preserving. Now we harvest and preserve throughout the year. Knowing that you can provide just about everything you need in your your yard is a great feeling. And its a fun life. 



FL: From your experience, what’s the best way to start growing your own?

OFG: Start where you are, use what you've got, and do what you can. Live in an apartment? Grow some tomatoes in a pot – then add some basil and you've got a tomato sauce! Then see if there is a community garden and try that. Have a yard? Rip out that grass and put in a real garden. Or start with a few raised beds. Have a couple acres? Well then.. you can do just about anything. Nothing feels better than knowing your cost for your meal was a package of seeds and your time.

FL: What are your top 5 favourite easy and productive plants for beginners to grow?

OFG: Tomatoes – specifically Sweet 100's which are a cherry variety , Cherokee Purple, and one of the Roma varieties.

Spices – Parsley, basil, thyme.

Potatoes – Any of them. Potatoes are the best crop ever and so much fun. They are so easy and harvesting potatoes is like having an Easter Egg hunt. The way we grow potatoes has really improved our soil also.

Kale – grows like a dream and you can't hardly kill it.

Radishes – the first thing you can plant in the spring and the first thing you can harvest. They are snappy and delicious and are a joy after a long winter. 

am I the only person who can't grow radishes?
FL: Any other suggestions for new growers? 

OFG: Don't be afraid to try new things. But don't bang your head against the wall if something doesn't work for you. I can't grow an eggplant to save my life. But I can get the at a roadside stand right around the corner. So I focus on the most bang for our buck, for instance tomatoes. We make and can all of our salsa. It sounds like a little thing but having that jar of victory on a cold winter nite is a thrill. Every little thing you don't have to buy makes gardening that much more valuable. I finally grew broccoli for the first time last summer – I was so excited. Now my goal for this year is to grow enough so I don't have to buy any at the store.

FL: What’s your favourite thing about growing your own?

OFG: The deep satisfaction that comes from knowing I can do it myself. That little package of seeds is a spring's worth of fresh greens. Or will become all the canned tomato products I need for a year. It's knowing that I can grow alfalfa for the goats who will make it into milk, and the milk along with the wheat I grew for the chickens will allow the hens to lay eggs, the eggs will feed us and the pigz, the pigz will eventually become bacon. Thanks to the pigz, the ground where they were on last year is all tilled, cleared, and fertilized. That ground will then grow the alfalfa for the goats and the wheat for the chickens... who will produce milk and eggs...and so on and so on. It's wonderful to be this close to the circle of life and know exactly where you stand.

YUM!
So what do you think?  Did that give you some ideas about starting to grow your own?  Head over to Ohio Farmgirl's blog to add your comments and continue the discussion.

Check out the other interviews:
Linda of Witch's Kitchen
Gavin of the Greening of Gavin
Emma from Craving Fresh
Tanya of Lovely Greens
and myself

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