A food garden – and a LEED point – for the Sunset Green Home. That’s a point we wouldn’t consider leaving “on the table.” According to the LEED for Homes green building program, the intent of the Food Garden credit is “to provide a functional and sustainable means of supporting the homeowner’s food needs.” LEED for Homes awards one point under the Innovation in Design credit category to projects that install a garden of at least 200 square feet.
I’m an avid gardener. And my garden has been organic since we built it shortly after purchasing our home. We constructed several untreated cedar raised beds (see my earlier blog post to learn how to build your own) and began gardening right away. My garden, with 12 distinct planting areas (four of which are occupied by perennial asparagus and strawberry crops), tops out at about 200 square feet of productive, easy-to-access raised planting beds.
Sally Jean Cunningham’s Great Garden Companions has been my gardening bible since Day One – and I’ve given away countless copies of it to friends and family. With beautiful photographs and useful graphics, Great Garden Companions offers a blueprint for setting up and managing a pesticide-free organic garden.
What’s the secret? Planting “neighborhoods” of vegetables, herbs and flowers that either attract beneficial insects or deter and confuse the more harmful insects (the herbs and flowers do double duty by crowding out unwanted weeds as well). Coupled with annual crop rotation (which was my “excuse” for adding more beds during my garden’s second year), the companion planting method has worked well for me.
Until Hurricane Sandy walloped my garden, I was able to grow nearly all of the produce to feed my family of five from May until October – with an abundance of “extras” that I turn into pickles, chutneys, ketchup and sauce that we can eat through the winter.
We have asparagus, lettuce, spinach and radishes in May and June; peas and strawberries in early summer; onions, cucumbers and beans throughout the summer; carrots, tomatoes, squash and peppers in late summer…and so much more that I don’t have space to list!
We even eat nasturtiums and make chamomile tea from our companion flowers!
No fossil fuels are burned to move the food from my garden to my kitchen. And I know exactly what has gone into producing what we eat – sunshine, water, homemade compost and organic seeds!
That’s what the LEED green building program had in mind when it approved a credit for building a food garden. And when we move our garden beds to higher ground once the Sunset Green Home is built, we plan to earn the food garden point!
Gardening is easy and healthful. And you don’t need to build a LEED home to start a garden. So what are you waiting for? Find a sunny spot, build a garden bed, and grow local. Happy gardening!
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