Friday, August 14, 2009

The evolution of my garden

Growing up I spent a few summers working on my grandparents farm. I also helped my dad out with a small plot that we had in the back yard and the 5ish acre plot that a farmer friend of his let him plant on for several summers. I've read a lot of books so I think I have a pretty good handle on how to raise an average garden. I'm no expert but if growing food was the difference between life or death I think that I could squeak by.

Last year was my first solo attempt at a garden. I raised just about everything from seed. On one side of the yard I built 4 4x4 planters. On the other side of the yard I dug out a 20x20ish plot. I could expand that plot quite a bit if necessary. For now, that's where I stick my tomatoes. Last year I was pulling off at least 1 or 2 a day by this time. This year they're still green and it seems to me like there are nowhere near as many on the vine. The plants themselves are twice as large as they were last year. They're just not producing as much. Last year I started most of them from scratch. This year I bought all of my plants. Maybe next year I'll just try starting my plants again.

My peppers are doing pretty well despite the fact that my new shi-tzu LOVES to eat pepper plants. Out of the 16 that I started with I only have hope for 8 of them. Every time I go to skin him for it he looks up at me with that cute little ewok face and I can't help but forgive him. The ones that have survived are producing exceptionally well except for my cayenne plant. I'm a little dissapointed because I'm still using dried cayennes from the plant that I grew last year. This year's cayenne plant has yet to produce a usuable pepper. It still look OK and it has a lot of flowers, though, so maybe it'll pop late in the season. Meanwhile, my bell peppers are twice the size that they were last year and my jalapenos are so weighed down with fruit that they're almost dragging on the ground.

I tried my hands at potatoes this year. I filled an old tire with compost and planted a few potato pieces that were sprouting huge eyes. I was utterly dissapointed. I'm not sure what the problem was but next year I plan to rectify it. It was my understanding that potatoes are cheap and stupid easy to grow. I must have done something wrong.

The rest of the garden has done exceptionally well. I ended up with twice as many green beans as last year and they're still producing. I didn't harvest a single carrot last year because the plants all died. This year they're doing great. I'm on my second harvest of radishes and turnips and I'm about to plant some more. My broccoli died last year. This year I have 3 plants that are doing phenomenally. I tried zucchini for the first time and it's out of control. If I keep planting that I'll never go hungry. Last year's peas didn't do so well. This year I ended up with a bunch of them. I still can't get bibb lettuce to grow right. Instead of growing into a head it grows into a tall stalk. The russian red kale that I planted last year has all but taken over the planter that I had it in. It came back with a vengeance this year and I didn't even have to replant. Now it's almost taken over the planter that it's in. Most of the other stuff that I planted in the same planter is still doing very well.

Plant a garden. Learn some of the nuances now before it becomes life or death. Even if all you have is a small balcony you'd be surprised at how much food you can actually produce if you have to. You don't have to become a master gardener. Just learn the basics and go from there. Know what takes months to grow. Know what grows fast. Know what takes up a lot of space. Know what you can plant in a "guerilla plot" and still get produce from. Just because you don't own the land doesn't meant that you can't get some food out of it that no one else will notice. Obviously, the best option is to have a big plot in the middle of nowhere but we don't all have that option. Just learn what you can grow and do what you have to do. The "year's supply" of non perishable that you have on hand is important no matter where you live but that will only last you so long. The goal is to last longer than everyone else and still have the means to continue to produce more food. Whether you're in the middle of nowhere or you live in the middle of the city being able to garden is a skill to be valued.


scoutinlife said...

Great your do home gardening! My tommatoes most are just green an the vines are huge this year. Also my bell peppers flopped for the most part, the corn,peas, beans was the best year I've ever had....Have a great weekend.....

Wendy said...

Potatoes are "stupid" easy, but I didn't have any luck in tires, either. I know people who do, but I didn't. What worked better for me was to plant them in a raised bed (the one I used this year was, roughly, 5'x 5'). I also experimented with using hardware cloth to make a "potato tower." I don't know how the tower did, as I haven't harvested it, yet, but I've already harvested 10 lbs of potatoes from the 5'x 5' bed, and I haven't even started digging, yet.

Another thing that's wicked easy to grow, can be grown on a trellis so that shorter, none vining plants can be grown underneath (to save garden space), and adds to the soil are scarlet runner beans. They're beautiful, too, and if the pods are dried on the vine, they can be stored and substituted for things like dried kidney beans.

Great advice about starting a garden. There are many, many calorie dense foods that can be grown in containers and in small spaces. And I agree with you that everyone should give it a try. In fact, I think gardening is integral in any "perparedness" plan.

Oh, and I start everything from seed, as it always does much better than trying to nurture someone else's starts in my soil. I figure if the seeds sprout, the plants will be super hardy.

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