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It’s nearly spring in FresYes and many of us are enjoying our green lawns and blooming flowers. But for Dawn and Justin Renwick, their yard is currently full of dirt and tiny green shoots.
A few years ago, the Renwicks ripped out all of their sod and created a backyard garden of the edible variety. When the time is right, they’ll have armfuls of produce that they will share with neighbors, friends, and Dawn’s co-workers at Valley Children’s Hospital, where she works as a NICU nurse. It’s a delicious labor of love that takes advantage of the Central Valley’s growing climate.
If you’ve ever wondered how to make your yard work for your stomach, Justin and Dawn share their tips and gardening advice.
FresYes: What inspired you to start a giant backyard vegetable garden?
The Renwicks: We were inspired by the drought. Neither of us likes mowing the lawn, we didn’t want to pay for a service, and we’d prefer to pay for something that will feed us and others. We first got started because of a good friend in Missouri who gardens, and partially to connect with God. Justin is a stay-at-home homeschooling dad and working in the backyard was his way of seeking peace and connection with God. God’s original design was a garden and we both long for that.
FY: What is the toughest part about gardening?
The toughest part is knowing things might not go according to our plans! Weather is a huge factor in that. For example, January had highs in the 60s and no overnight freezes, so we took a chance and planted things earlier than what is recommended. Then in February the freeze came and we lost some seedlings. But we live in one of the best climates for growing food and we know we can always “bounce back” or come up with an alternative plan.
FY: What is the best part of gardening?
It’s hard to come up with just one best part of gardening because there are so many wonderful things we glean from it. Enjoying the outdoors, growing and connecting in our marriage, teaching our sons, and working with our hands are all huge benefits. But being able to share our crops to feed others tops the list.
FY: Any tips or encouragement for people wanting to convert their yard to a vegetable garden?
Learn about your climate and think about how self-motivated you are and what you’re able to commit to time, energy, and money-wise. We make the time to do this because it’s important to us and because our schedule allows it. You get out of it what you put in, but it’s best to start with sure-fire, fast germinating plants to help you feel successful and motivate you to keep going. Learn about your seeds (heirloom versus non-GMO verses hybrid), your soil (potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen ratios). Be okay with failure, which is just a learning opportunity; learn from things that didn’t work and move on.
The Renwicks have found a delicious way to landscape and they keep expanding on it, adding citrus trees and rows of chard. They’ve even added an apiary to encourage bees to visit. And they’re not alone! Gardening for food is a growing trend you might want to try this year. To read more about backyard vegetable gardens, check out “We can grow our own in the Central Valley” by FresYes.com contributor Craig Scharton.
Photos courtesy of Dawn Renwick.