Hello Garden Gals and Guys! It’s been two weeks since my last post because things have been a bit busy around here. You may have noticed that my last few blog posts have been interviews of other backyard farmers. That’s on purpose. I started doing blog interviews a few years ago, once or twice a season. But there are only so many posts I can do of my own backyard farm before it becomes redundant, so I am focusing this year on interviews. There are lots of people growing LOTS of food on less than an acre of land. I plan to find as many of them as possible to share with you. That brings me to today’s featured gardener who I like to call the “Freeport Farmer.”
Meet Stevenson Michel. He’s one of many wonderful backyard farmers that I follow on Instagram. He’s turning his backyard farm into a food forest! Here’s his story.
Do you mind telling your age?
I am 29 years old.
What city and/or state do you grow in?
Freeport, New York
How and why did you get into gardening?
I went to a local big box store to buy grass seeds. I noticed they had a lot of fruit trees for sale so I picked up a 5 in 1 apple and an Asian pear. I then started watching YouTube videos from people like John Kohler and Jake Mace. I decided to add a lot more fruit trees, about 65 so far, and planting foods you don’t often find at the local supermarket.
How big is your gardening space?
About 1400 square feet.
What are you growing this year?
Red vein sorrel, French sorrel, purple tree collard, lovage, African blue basil, cinnamon basil, Thai basil, Swiss chard, malabar spinach, Egyptian spinach, daikon radish, beets, carrots, and a lot more.
What is your favorite thing to grow?
Radishes, Egyptian walking onion, Egyptian spinach, Jujube, and anything that grow swell in zone 7.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face in gardening?
It used to be aphids, but now I have a lot of lady bugs that seem to keep them in check. I think [now] it has to be the squirrels, they eat most of the fruits off the fruit trees. I plan to use organza bags this year. I hope that will stop them from eating all the fruits.
Why do you think it’s important to grow your own food?
It’s important to grow your own food because it helps you eat more fresh fruits and vegetables that ripen in the garden. In fact, most fruits and vegetables that are locally grown are more nutrient dense than some store bought that must be picked early.
What advice do you have for new gardeners?
I would start with a 4-foot-by-4 foot raised bed and plant vegetables that are easy to grow (basil, tomatoes, radish, beets, and peas or beans). Then, I would plant a lot of perennial vegetables because you won’t have to worry much about them.
Stevenson certainly inspires me to keep growing. In fact, he makes me want to turn my entire backyard into a garden, an idea I have been playing with a lot lately.
He brings up two really good points when planting a garden: start small and plant things that are easy to grow.
If you go easy and small in the beginning, you are much more likely to have great success and to continue growing more food and expanding your garden and the plants you grow.
There’s a decorative stone in my garden that says “As the garden grows, so shall the gardener.” I’ve definitely learned so much just by experimenting with growing different things and watching what other gardeners do, and you can, too! Just get out there and start!
Here are just a couple more shots of Stevenson’s backyard farm: