This month, we are honored to present Amy Stross as our guest teacher on Rootsy. She has a background in home-scale food production and is an avid permaculture gardener, writer, educator, and author of the wildly informative book The Suburban Micro-Farm.
Amy got her gardening start by helping to manage an organic farm project that fed over 100 families with its CSA program. She also worked as a professional landscape gardener. Both of these jobs inspired her to transform my suburban yard into an edible landscape.
Amy’s training in permaculture design led her to develop a community food forest at a local university, and she won the Urban Bounty Award for ‘building community and changing lives through the harvest of community gardening’. Permaculture has crept into everything that she does in her home garden and on her website TenthAcreFarm, where she shares her expertise and adventures in permaculture gardening with hundreds of thousands of people every month.
What are you contributing to Rootsy?
Although the cool weather of fall seems far away, fall frosts will be here before you know it. This can spell doom for your heat-loving vegetables. In this lesson, I’ll share some tips on how you can protect your summer vegetables to reap a few extra harvests, as well as extend your cool-season fall crops right into winter.
Any other areas of simple living about which you are passionate?
I love encouraging others to learn skills for creating a productive home. But we can’t do it all, so I recommend focusing on the skills that each person is genuinely excited to learn. If it’s not fun, we probably won’t stick with it.
What was your inspiration or push for this lifestyle?
Ten years ago I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. I was in a lot of pain, and although I was only in my early 30s, I felt much older. I was bedridden for many days and missed work frequently. I learned that half of those diagnosed with this illness stop working altogether within 10 years. It was a low point for me. Then one day I pulled myself out of the funk and brainstormed about which things in my life I could control.
I started learning about where my food came from and continued to choose healthier, fresher, and more locally-produced options. I ultimately quit my stressful job, and discovered that ‘dirt therapy’—growing food—lifted my spirits, provided food for my household, and provided the opportunity for gentle movement and sunshine. It gave me hope, which is healing in its own right. The combination of a healthier lifestyle as well as a healthier outlook on life sent my disease into remission. I’ve been pain-free for six years now, and my garden is my happy place.
How does one avoid overwhelm when getting back to their roots?
I always recommend that beginning gardeners start small—perhaps a collection of containers on the patio or a raised bed. You can always scale up as success, confidence, and time allow. Also, as a beginner, plant what you and your family will love to eat! You can always expand your palate in the future.
If you could give just one piece of advice on your gardening pursuits, what would it be?
Don’t overlook growing perennials, which come back every year without replanting. Perennials such as fruit trees, berry bushes, asparagus, and herbs can be incredibly prolific without much work on your part.
Be sure to find Amy at her website Tenth Acre Farm and on her social media channels Facebook – Twitter – Instagram – Pinterest.