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The Northwoods River News | Rhinelander, Wisconsin

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home : outdoors : outdoor news
May 26, 2020

3/28/2020 7:29:00 AM
A great guide to growing your own food
Beckie Gaskill
Outdoors Writer

With many Northwoods residents stuck inside, or staying home, we are all looking for more things to do at home and more ways to stay occupied. While I have always enjoyed gardening, I can say with a degree of confidence that I am not the best at it. But I think that is part of the beauty of gardening. You do not really have to be "good" at it to enjoy it. My situation has changed over the years, meaning I have had different soil types to deal with over the years. I have also had to create gardens out of lawns and other areas and, most recently, I have had to downsize quite a bit.

In my attempts to be a better gardener, I have read a number of books. One of the books I read recently, "Grow All You Can Eat in Three Square Feet," is one I would like to share. The thing that attracted me to this particular read was the fact I did not need a huge space in which to grow food. Growing up, our garden was twice as big as our house. Mom canned and froze more vegetables than our family of four could likely eat, at least that is what I thought when I was a kid. My sister and I spent days in the summer weeding the garden, watering, and picking rocks in the spring. That was not the kind of gardening I wanted to get into, but it is fun to grow your own food. So I knew, as I was looking for books on gardening, that I wanted some scaled-down version of my childhood garden.

Raised beds, container gardens, window boxes, hanging plants and wall pockets are all options discussed in the book. The book takes the reader from the very beginning - deciding what I want to grow and then figuring out where it can go. The reader is taken through options for shade-tolerant plants, those that grow quickly and those that are easy to care for. There are also shallow-root options as well as high-yield options, all of which are laid out in the "Deciding what to grow" section.

From there it is sowing seeds and tending to them. Sowing seeds in succession is also covered, which was something I had not thought about in a while. It also talks about growing crops between crops to make full use of a limited space. Companion planting is also covered. One tip the book mentioned was to grow plants that tend to be pest magnets far away from crop plants to lure those pests away. Plants that deter insects can also be used as border or barrier plants. Other plants may attract pest predators, which is another creative way to keep pests from attacking your harvest.

The book also includes a section on beneficial insects, which has become a top of mind subject for many gardeners and outdoor lovers. Learning which flowers have a potential to attract which pollinators can bring more fun and beauty to a garden. I think it is fun to watch pollinators like butterflies in a garden, and they add a certain beauty I would like to see at the same time as being beneficial to the life cycle of those pollinators.

The book itself is very well laid out and thorough. One of the things I like most about it is the abundance of photographs. Every type of garden or activity is laid out in a series of pictures.

The back of the book contains a crop planner. This shows a variety of different crops gardeners may want to try. It explains when each should be harvested, how far away to plant them from one another and even gives what the book calls a "small space" rating. This section of the book intrigued me because, honestly, sometimes I am not sure what I want to grow. By looking through all of this, I could see what is recommended for what kind of space, and match those plants to what I have available.

The whole book is fun to look through and I think it would be beneficial for most gardeners, but especially those who tend to dabble in the activity. It is hard to go wrong with a guide like that and this really took me from start to finish and it's packed with information and tips on how to do it all.

For those looking to get into gardening, I would recommend a book like this one. Of course, there are plenty of local resources, but until we are all free to move around as we wish and visit all of our favorite places again, reading can help us pass the time and make some plans for some great small gardens.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached at or

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