We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Tuesday, April 11. 2017
Spring is on the horizon up here. Snow piles are melting. Thoughts about the gardens appear.
I have always had a vegetable garden, as did my parents, as did my Grandpas. It's a guy thing mostly, symbolic providers only since WW2.
I had a couple of reasons for adding this hassle to my life: family tradition, tomatoes, and to teach and show my kids where food comes from. It is rewarding for kids to go out and pick a couple of cucumbers or peppers or summer squash, or a basket of beans to bring to the kitchen.
Except for tomatoes, in my view home gardening makes no sense unless you value your time at zero, which makes it pure hobby. Home-grown stuff, for the month or two it is available up here, may be marginally better, but truly marginally and often worse. And there are the bugs that eat everything.
If I were rational, I would stick with my fruit trees, tomatoes, figs, herbs, and rhubarb and forget the rest. Almost forgot my Mouse melons - they are cool. I gave up on raspberries because the birds ate them all. I gave up on the native blueberries too because they never thrived.
I have a pal who has a huge fenced and irrigated vegetable garden. Definitely one of his hobbies. He leaves bags of chard, peppers, and eggplants on my front porch. Much appreciated but I do not know where he finds the time.
With kids, definitely good to show them how to grow things, though. Kids love to dig and love to pick stuff. That's why I always grow some pumpkins.
With the inspiration of Mrs. BD (and my Mom), I have become more interested in flowering borders in recent years. Very rewarding and challenging without being edible, the bugs are no problem, and the hummingbirds and butterflies are good fun.
Do you enjoy weeding? I don't, but I enjoy the (fleeting) results. I use Preen on the flower beds, and it sort-of works for a while. I would rather take a long hike with Mrs. BD, or go to the city, or go fishing, or to the gym, than spend half a weekend day growing something I can pick up at the market for 99 cents.
Go ahead and argue with me -
Photo is a Rhubarb patch. I love rhubarb. You can even munch the stalks raw, and it never fails to come up strong. You often find a cute snake curled up in there, which makes it fun. It's a crop you can count on and do not have to do anything for other than throw a little manure or fertilizer on it in April. Do not bite into the Garter Snake because it will piss him off.
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My wife has decided she derives far more pleasure from flowers, and puts her effort into those. We have some chives by the back porch.
I grew up in Chicago and we always had rhubarb until I went away to college. Strawberries went wild. Fruit trees. I planted a peach stone as a boy and the tree that grew from the stone was huge and had the best write flesh peaches. I know its not supposed to happen.
Ain't nothing better than a vine ripe tomato. Especially a heritage one like a German Johnson.
In my view tomatoes are a waste of time and money, my local farmer (s) grow them far better and more efficiently. But: green beans, snap peas, summer squash, winter squash, swiss chard, parsley, beets. I can grow those in abundance with little effort, freezing enough green beans and peas to eat at least once a week throughout the year. And the winter squash runs into May for me. It actually can save me money, we like to eat a lot of the above mentioned, they grow easily, with few pest issues, and aside from the summer squash, are remarkably expensive at the store.
"...Go ahead and argue with me..."
The only reason to have a garden, if you have sufficient space in your yard, is to develop the knowledge of what can grow in that space, and how to do it in case you need to do it to supplement what you can buy--in (for example) the event of things happening here like they are in Venezuela, or they were in the Balkans--where food delivery gets spotty and the economy really goes to cr*p.
No arguments with you, only some additions. Fresh greens are also worth it. Whether lettuce, kale, spinach, collards or something else, fresh-picked greens are superior to what is available in most stores. Also, if you can grow it easily & enjoy it, fresh-picked sweet corn has no peer.
Coons always got my corn just before ready to eat. I gave up.
Fresh lettuce is fine. I just don't bother with it anymore. I grew everything when the kids were little, to teach them.
My Dad had a punitively large home garden: roughly a half acre. Tending to it was one of my summer chores, in addition to yard cutting, from the age of 6 to the age of 14 when I got a job in a printing shop.
It was traumatically difficult such that I blocked all farming processes (harrowing, side harrowing, middle busting... other plowing stages) out of my mind. I wouldn't have a clue how to go about doing such a thing now and don't want to. I do immensely enjoy flower gardening, though.
Did you say figs? I had no idea you could grow figs in New England. I thought they were exotic and grew in Greece, like olives.
Well, I would say you don't grow a vegetable garden under the illusion that you'll save money on food, at least not for very long! Remember the $64 tomato?
I'd never bother with any of the cole family of vegetables - you really can't tell the difference between home and store grown. But some tomatoes, spring greens, okra, hot peppers, well, the grocery simply can't compete. And the home grown spring greens are clean!
Is it hard, back-breaking labor? Sure, and often disappointing. It all boils down to what hobbies you enjoy. As we get older, we ought to stop doing things we don't enjoy. Life is too short and the days are too long. So I say, good for you for knowing how you want to spend your time now.
My mother made us weed the garden on our farm when I was a kid and I vowed I would NEVER have a garden. It was my idea of hell.
But I Corinthians 13:11 reminds us that we change as we grow up...
Home grown vegetables are fresher and more nutritious. You can also grow the tasty varieties YOU like, not the bland or bitter ones your supermarket stocks because they ship well. Or the extortionately priced ones at some "healthy" store. It saves a certain amount of money to grow vegetables if you are careful, but the main advantage is that if you grow them, you eat more of them.
Also, if you choose them wisely and plant artistically they can be as pretty as flowers. I plant them amongst roses, and perennials anyway, as well as in dedicated raised beds. Red cabbages are beautiful as is rainbow Swiss chard, and the squash blossoms are a sight (as well as a delicacy) The only really ugly things are the potatoes and onions but my family prefer the taste of the homegrown ones so we have those in odd corners and with flowers growing in front of them. Jerusalem artichokes grow like the weeds they are in swampy spots of the garden and they are ablaze with golden flowers when precious little else is flowering at the end of the summer.
Corn is pointless in our neighbourhood because raccoons strip it all. We have no problems with deer, tho, because of a ferocious dog, and sporadic applications by yours truly of red pepper, diluted milk/egg/garlic sprays (that they hate the smell of).
I like being able to go out and pick whatever veggies look best and then figure out dinner based on what I have picked. One day a huge Greek salad, another green beans with garlic and lemon juice and olive oil and some new potatoes and dill. The meat is a sop to my family... My family will eat vegetables from the garden FAR more willingly than the supermarket ones. In addition, the periodic gluts of certain things inspire you, because when you have gone to so much trouble growing them, you don't want to waste them. I learned how to make refrigerator pickles when overwhelmed by cucumbers. And how to make saeurkraut when ALL the cabbages split after a thunderstorm.
Like comment # 5, we have enough green and yellow beans from a fairly small row for frozen beans all thru the winter into the next fresh bean season. We also grow shelling beans of a few exotic varieties tho these are space hogs by comparison since you have to let them dry instead of picking and picking repeatedly. The advantage is that they are FAR tastier and far more digestible than dried beans of God knows what age that you buy from the store. Cook faster too. We also love winter squash and pumpkins because they keep til the next April or May with zero work preserving them. Tho the pumpkins are susceptible to evil borers some years.
I can't imagine cooking without fresh scallions, rosemary, fresh dill, fresh basil, parsley, tarragon, oregano, etc etc. We dry a huge quantity in October, and bring the pot of rosemary inside for rosemary all winter. We harvest the basil and make enough pesto to last til spring.
I make all kinds of things from my garden that delight my family thru the dark days of winter, and that I can give as gifts, so it may take a lot of time, but it's worth it. Amongst them: pesto, sauerkraut, pickles, apple pie filling, apple butter, applesauce, (we have four apple trees), blueberry jam. Then for home use we make dried apples, sun dried tomatoes, dried herbs, tomato sauce. We keep potatoes, onions, apples, cabbages, and winter squash in a cool place thru the winter. We eat leeks, kale, collards, arugala, brussels sprouts from the garden until January at times, and I just dug out some carrots and parsnips yesterday that were still great from last summer. Did I mention real pies. Rhubarb, apple, blueberry....Not sicky sweet bland mush from store bought fruit...
Here's the thing: I HATE going to the grocery store. Growing some of my own food helps me avoid store trips. I come home exhausted from work, and it is easy to take some meat out of the freezer for my carnivore family while I go prowl around the garden and relax looking for the rest of the meal. In theory, I don't have to go to the store except for milk, butter, cheese and eggs, so long as I have a garden, as meat can be frozen. So why not grow your own?
More than you wanted to hear, I know.
But it's not work, it's fun. Who wouldn't rather be outside in your spare time than cooped up indoors??? At least if you have to work all day indoors....Also, self sufficiency is a good thing. Soon enough, when I am retired and broke, I will be glad I am good at producing at least some of my own food.
Growing my own food fills a need in me. My parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents survived the great depression thanks to a huge garden and canning the harvest. My father and mother grew and canned a lot of our vegetables, especially tomatoes, when I was growing up and seeing those jars of food seemed "normal" to me. I am very happy to know how to raise a crop and what can go wrong and what can go right in gardening. Everyone should do it.
It's a hobby, for sure, but it's also good food that you can't get in stores or that just costs too much. I'm sticking to a limited variety this year.
Lots of herbs, hot peppers, okra, lettuce. I moved the asparagus patch last year, so only a few spears came up this time. Should do better next year. Like tomatoes, store bought cucumbers and carrots can't compete with garden varieties.
I hope to ferment several gallons of hot sauce this year. I have a few quarts that have been aging on oak chips since last fall that smell delicious. I've been holding out until I can at least eat some fresh tabascos.
I have a fig bush, but until last year I never had a single fruit. I think it gets too much water. Lots of fruit that falls off too soon. But they are delicious.
I wish that I would have planted grapes ten years ago when I bought the place so I could make wine.
I enjoy tilling with a shovel and hoe and weeding with the hoe. If you do a little bit a couple times a week it doesn't add up to much. Plus, it's some sun and exercise.
You are correct to focus on trees and other perennial crops (like asparagus). These fruits are always expensive to buy because the farmer has tied up their land for several years. But for the home gardener they are perfect because they require little care once established - unlike the veggie patch which is started from scratch each year.
Also the American-style veggie garden laid out in rows is way too labor and water intensive. Compact gardens based on the old-time methods of market gardeners - and rediscovered by crunchy organic folks - give greater yields in less space, with less weeding and water. Start with the following books (or google them - you will get tons of informative web sites).
Square Foot Gardening
How to Grow More Vegetables Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine
also google "Hugelkultur" for one of several methods of vertical gardening.
Lettuce and greens are easy to grow and so superior to what I can buy in the store (and store for several days) that they're easily worth the trouble. I've given up on some crops like onions and carrots, because mine don't taste better than what's available commercially, and they travel and keep very well. I like to have all the fresh herbs I can in season. Tomatoes are a bit difficult to grow here, but still worth the trouble when they succeed, because the store's pickings are pitiful. We don't have good farmer's markets in this little town, or I might rely on them more and grow less of my own veg.