Category Archives: Kitchen Garden

An Apartment Garden in Portland

I love how more and more people are turning their yards into edible landscapes.  I especially love to see this happening on the grounds of apartment buildings.  When I lived in the JC neighborhood in Santa Rosa I had a neighbor who was a great inspiration to me – he rented a small apartment just down the street and had almost no yard space but not to be discouraged he turned the sidewalk curb strip into a miniature garden in which he grew garlic and greens and tomatoes.  In his small place he was busying brewing wine and making cheese.

It’s so easy to be defeatist and assume that if you can’t grow lots of food or make lots of your own preserves that you shouldn’t bother growing or preserving anything.  My neighbor taught me that the important thing is to be doing whatever you can for yourself, that growing your own food, even if it’s a few heads of garlic and some salad greens, is an act of freedom and of self sufficiency.  It’s about keeping your connection strong between yourself and the soil that nourishes you.  It’s a little bit like a prayer or a meditation and it’s a lot like feeding yourself the highest quality nourishment you can even on a micro-scale.  Learning how to grow things and preserve food is tapping into knowledge that is at the core of the success of human beings as a species.

In a more pessimistic view it’s also what’s allowed us to overpopulate the earth and conquer nations and fight wars.  Growing things allowed humans to settle down and stay put through the seasons.  Agriculture allowed us to stop roaming.  The evolution of food preservation is what allowed humans to cross oceans and to cross masses of land to attack other people.  Without drying and salting foods armies couldn’t go far.  So in a weird way, while I’m eulogizing the wonderfulness of growing and preserving foods I’m also celebrating what has made humans the most terrible virus on earth.

Still, those humans who know how to grow their own food and how to preserve it for later use have truly valuable knowledge and in times of war or natural disasters this kind of knowledge gives you better chances of survival.  Plus, everyone will want to be friends with the person who knows how to make alcohol from apples and who can make sources of protein rise from the ground in plant form when there’s no meat to be had.  The person who knows how to pull wild yeast from the air and mix it with flour to make bread is like a magician when there is no bread and no packaged yeast in the stores.

I am happy every time I see evidence of humans getting into the soil to grow their own food.  City gardens are hopeful and resourceful.  I always stop to enjoy them whenever I see them.  This garden has some really big beets that are ready to pick.

It’s time for some lemony beet salad!

Blackberry Wrangling Progress

I’ve been working hard and looking like I tame lions for a living.  I have some thorns still stuck in my skin.  But it’s totally worth it and all the hours I’ve put into clearing the blackberries have been very meditative.  I’ve been meditating quite a bit about the evil neighbors who killed these brambles with pesticides without my permission.  Bastards.

I’ve also been meditating on cleaner and brighter thoughts too, such as how good it feels to be out there working in the plants and the fresh winter air.  Meditation for me isn’t about clearing my head of all thoughts, because that is impossible (I’ve tried many times), but about letting my thoughts come to me organically and letting them say their piece without interruptions.  I let the stream of consciousness be heard as it is formed.  Inevitably my mind settles down after a while into a theme and a flood of thoughts about something my mind has been chewing on gets released.  I always feel better afterwards.

I’m about a third of the way though the task.

Wait, no, more like a quarter.

Crap, maybe only like an eighth.  But who cares?  You can see part of the back fence again!

How To Remove Blackberry Bushes Without Pesticides

As I have written here before, I love blackberries and I have let them go wild in my yard.  The vines that are choking my porch to death produce wonderful berries in the summer and it was my intention to continue to let them cultivate themselves.  However, these vigorous vines crawl up onto the floor of the porch where unwary people are given an unpleasant surprise.

If we were training with Cato Fong to stay on our toes and be Kung Fu all the time, we would not let such surprises daunt us.  But, Inspector Clouseau we are not.

My mom told me that if I wanted to keep the blackberries I would need to get rid of the bushes underneath them and stake them in an orderly fashion so we can easily keep the blackberries off of the porch.

Wait.  I have bushes under there?!

If you’ve ever had blackberries muscling their way into your garden, then you know they are very hard to get rid of.  Most people soak them in pesticides and this works like a dream.  Plus, then you get to help poison the watershed in your area.  We choose not to use pesticides.  Admittedly, this is the hard road in the short term, but poisoning our water supply will make for a much harder road down the line and I don’t mind a little work.

Here are some tips for getting rid of brambles without using pesticides:

  • Don’t let them attain mass in the first place.  If you see a wee baby cane pop up in your garden anywhere, pull it up immediately.  If you do this religiously, you will not find it necessary to read any of the following tips.
  • If, like me, you engage in lazy gardening habits (otherwise known as a crazy busy life) and your brambles have become the size of trees, you will need to grab yourself the sharpest pair of long handled bypass loppers you can find, leather gauntlet gloves*, thick pants, and some really motivating music on a portable MP3 player.
  • First cut off any obvious and easy to get at canes.  Be sure to cut them in manageable pieces as you pile them up.  You will be thankful not to be whipped by recalcitrant canes when you try to gather up your pile of trimmings to the yard waste container or compost pile.  Speaking of compost piles, blackberries thrive in them and unless the canes are 100% dead before you put them in there (brown all through, no green in any part of them) they will take root with joy.  So unless your compost pile is very hot, let the county take them to the dump or let them die before adding to your compost.
  • You work your way from the outside of the blackberries towards the inner tangles. This isn’t a tip, so much as a fact.  If your blackberries are growing over other plants you actually want to keep, you must take care not to prune out the wrong branches.  As you work your way inwards, you may need to take a band-aid break.  Or, if you’re a tough broad like me, you can ignore the blood that is inevitably dripping from your arms and legs at this point.
  • Once you’ve gotten a third of the length of the canes cut back you will find yourself reaching into the shrubbery to find the origins and this is delicate work.  There are insects in there with all that foliage.  They don’t like you shaking them down.  If your blackberries aren’t growing on anything else you may, at this point, start digging up the roots. If digging up the roots – dig DEEP. Blackberries are hearty plants with scrappy tough roots that are hard to pull up so they can survive your attack.
  • If still struggling with a bush situation, you want to get as much of the blackberry canes cut back before you deal with the roots.  Don’t cut them all the way back though because you need some leverage when tugging the roots out.  They do not come out willingly.  Don’t mind that the thorns near the base of the root are big enough to impale birds.  I promise that you will barely notice the scars in a couple of months.
  • Clean-up is very important.  Do not leave any blackberry debris behind in ground containing 5% or more soil.  Leaves, stems, and canes can all root themselves if left for more than four hours**.  The only part of a blackberry plant that can’t root itself are the thorns.   (I think)  Be sure to check back in a week to continue pulling up surprise canes.
  • Continue to do this for the rest of your life.  Consider it a zen workout.  The blackberries aren’t your enemy and they aren’t evil.  They are a fecund plant that gives free luscious fruit to humans, birds, and other enterprising animals.  You do not eradicate them completely, the goal is to keep them in balance with the rest of your garden.  Good luck!

*I never have these on hand.  I bought a pair, as I often do, and then they sit around in spidery corners.  I have OCD and issues with gloves.  In fact, I keep my own pair of garden gloves inside where I can keep an eye on them.  Then I perform a thorough examination of them before putting them on my hands which involves not just shaking them out but also crushing the full length of the fingers in case any insects happen to be great at hanging on.  I then ignore the thought of crushed insects, compel my rising panic to remain quiet, and carry on.  In any case, the times I have used long gauntleted gloves I have found that thorns still find their way through.  Whether you bother to use them or not is up to you, I merely felt compelled to mention them in case you didn’t know you could get them.  You can.

**Inaccurate information.  It seems like only four hours when in fact, it’s more like 12.

August 2011 Garden Update

 

Thanks to my mother our garden is doing great.  She’s the one who’s been watering every other day (manually) and mulching and planting.  While I’ve been working and writing and preparing for my trip she’s been out there working hard.  These are Romano beans (Helda) and they’ve become my favorite now.  They can get quite big and still not be tough or develop beans inside too fast and they taste wonderful.  I’m done growing Blue Lake or Kentucky Wonder, both of which have performed poorly for me in the last few years.

I actually know a few people who don’t like tomatoes.  I’d be devastated if I became allergic to them.  I look forward to them every year with the same fervor some teens look forward to seeing Justin Bieber in concert.  (I know all about Justin Bieber because my ten year old son mocks him at every opportunity)  Everyone in my area keeps saying this summer is even colder than last summer but I don’t believe it.  I have lots of tomatoes and there’s plenty of time still for them to ripen.

Bee balm.  It’s such an outlandish flower.  We already had quite a lot of flowers to attract beneficial insects but my mom has added a lot more.

I don’t care what Oregon says*, Buddleia is gorgeous and definitely brings the butterflies and hummingbirds around.  I didn’t buy my  buddleia, I got it as a volunteer from the neighbors.  I will concede that it’s a bit pesty the way I keep finding more sprouts which get woody and dug in really fast if I don’t rip them up at first sight.

Squash!  Everyone jokes about it but for us it isn’t growing so valiantly that we must share it with anyone at this point.  The two crookneck squash plants died.  One of our zucchini plants is a little yellow and small and that leaves just one trooper that is giving us some promise but the delivery has been nothing to brag about yet.

Thank you mom!

*Buddleia is considered a noxious weed in Oregon and it is illegal to buy it.  One of those ridiculous laws that defy sense since nurseries are allowed to sell it.  Maybe the law is that you’re not allowed to grow it.  You can buy it but not grow it?  In the Master gardening program I asked some very keen questions about it but naturally the answers just went in circles.

Flowering and Fruiting in the May Garden

Lilacs are something I didn’t see that many of when I lived in California but here in Oregon the landscape is covered with them and May is when they flower.  I have several in my garden but since I didn’t plant them myself I don’t know what kinds they are.  I have two white ones and this is the first time this one has put off more than a couple of blossom clusters since I’ve lived here.  I love it.  Philip isn’t crazy for the scent of lilacs in the house, he thinks they’re overwhelmingly soapy.  I love it.  The scent on this one isn’t particularly strong, a disappointment to me, but at least it’s beautiful.

This is the first time my red currants have produced any berries.  The plants (I have two) spend an awful long time in their pots so it’s not surprising.  Now that they have a good deep spot of soil to reach into they are much happier and I’ve got several clusters of berries on them.  Not enough to do much with but it makes me happy anyway.

Borage is an amazing plant to have in the garden.  Bees love it so it helps the pollination of everything else to have it growing near all your fruiting plants.  This one’s very small but they do get enormous and they’ll seed freely.  Some people think this is a nuisance but I don’t.

This is my bed of tomatoes and calendula.  I’ve got: 3 Siletz, 2 Jaune Flamme, and a Sungold.  I need to have black tomato varieties too.  So I’d better get another bed cleared of quack grass.  Yeah, no problem.  I’ll get right on that.

I’ve never done square foot gardening but my mom is giving it a try in this bed.  She’s got it marked up and soon will plant it out with seeds.

It’s good to mulch your strawberry beds.  My mom covered ours with straw and with the sunshine we’ve been getting (not a lot, but enough) and the slightly warmer temperatures have given them an enormous boost of growth and though you can’t see it well in this picture, they are blossoming.  This is a bed of ever-bearing which means it doesn’t produce quite as large a berry or as large a June crop but will continue to produce for a few months.  Last year I was getting berries through October.  Just a few here and there.  If you want to make jam or pies with your strawberries you’re better off planting June-bearing varieties that tend to produce large amounts in a single crop and often the berries are of larger size.

Not pictured is my 8×4 bed of pole beans- the first few bean sprouts have emerged.  I love green beans and I don’t think you can have “too many” because if I can’t keep up with fresh eating I love to marinate and can them.

What’s going on in your own garden right now?

Getting Back into the Garden with Mom

Most people clean their gardens up (and “put them to bed”) in the fall.  The reason they do this is so that when spring finally hurls itself at them, they can simply dig in and plant their earliest crops without first having to remove all of last year’s dead tomato plants or weeding the quack grass that was allowed to root itself in firmly.  It’s a great tradition.  I haven’t done it for years.

It is taking so much work to do this ritual cleaning now, in the spring, that we are in danger of not having enough beds prepared for planting this year!

In spite of being so far behind in all my yard maintenance (roses haven’t been pruned in two years) it is shaping up and looking better than it has in a long time, thanks to my mom.  My mom has a way of getting me out in the garden even though I’m just embarking on writing the third draft of my novel.  I have barely been out in my garden for a year.  My mom moves in, I say “Hey, even though we might have to move this year, we should plant some things anyway.” and she takes up the idea and before I know it Philip is digging holes, I am wrestling with quack grass, and she’s planning and plotting for our next best garden move, without us knowing quite how it all happened so fast.

I love this about my mom.  She is whipping us into shape without actually bossing anyone around.  It has felt so good to get out there, to see what’s growing and changing every week rather than hiding out in my eyrie of an office looking down at it from a distance.  It’s not that I ever forget how much I thrive by getting my hands dirty and being around my plants, it’s more a question of finding the energy, the motivation, and of keeping in the habit.  I’m still tired all the time from parenting a special needs kid, writing a novel, working for money, and trying not to drop every other ball in my life, yet I am now also spending more time in my garden.

Some of the things we’ve been doing:

  1. Cutting back the rampant brambles.
  2. Fighting the good fight against the heinously encroaching quack grass.
  3. Mulching the strawberries.
  4. planting pole bean seeds (Helda, Lazy Housewife, and violet podded stringless).
  5. Transplanting mullein volunteers.
  6. Pruning the fruit trees.
  7. Mowing the lawn (a big deal because Philip and I LOATHE lawn but can’t afford to get rid of it until we can afford to hire a rototiller and the materials to plant the vast lawn with other things-not a project to undertake if we’re going to have to move in the next year).
  8. Planting herbs (finally got some comfrey and planted it, among other herbs)
  9. Putting down cardboard and straw between the raised beds.

That’s quite a lot for people with little energy and a lot of distractions!  Yesterday my mom informed me that this coming fall we’re going to properly put the garden to bed and avoid all this hard work in the spring that we’ve been doing.  I just know she’ll get me to do it, if she says it’ll happen it’ll happen.  So how does she do it?  Easy- she is not in great health and has limited energy and battles with vertigo so seeing her out there mowing the lawn in the surprise sunshine makes me realize that if she can get out there and do that, then I can get out there with my shovel and other dastardly tools of quack grass destruction and put in at least a half an hour!  (Yes, it’s guilt at its gentlest and most effective)

I have at least five more 8×4 raised beds to clear of solid quack grass and top up with dirt.  That’s a lot of really hard work.  Quack grass is a formidable foe, in case you haven’t encountered and don’t know.  If you don’t recall, last year I broke my shovel on the stuff.  I think a nice blessing to bestow on a new born child is “May she/he grow strong like quack grass!” (translation “Should he or she grow as strong as quack grass he or she will outlive all nuclear events in the future!  Mazeltov!”)

The more I do out there the more I want to do out there.  I try to have modest garden goals (just a bed of beans and a bed of tomatoes will be plenty for a modest year of gardening) but I always get carried away.  I want a big section of beets, carrots, pickling cucumbers, slicing cucumbers; plus I need lots of my own summer squash and winter squash and…

I forget that I can get all these things from the farmer’s market too.  But nothing, I think most gardeners will agree, is more satisfying than going out in your own garden to see what’s for dinner.  I want it all.  Oh, right, forgot about all the dark leafies I need and the lettuce and…

No matter how much or how little I get planted or harvest, the important thing is that I’m out there to see the lilacs budding up and then opening, that I see the ladybugs flood the yard like they do every early spring, and that I see the shape of my monastery garden re-emerge.

Thanks mom!

Dried Thyme Yield for Spring 2011

I harvested over 2 lbs of thyme from a total of 8 thyme plants and yielded 6 oz of dried thyme.  I had wanted this report to be more accurate but I had a minor setback because I dried batch after batch of tyme but failed to dry the final (much smaller) batch.  I should have weighed what was left but I didn’t.  Instead I let it sit in the fridge in a paper bag.  For a week.  I made a curious discovery by doing this:

Thyme kept in a paper bag in the fridge for a week will dry itself.

However, not to my satisfaction.  I would have kept it if I’d been desperate for dried thyme and that was all I had, but it was dry yet still slightly supple making it hard to remove leaves from the stems.  I could have put it in the dehydrator to dry it out more thoroughly, but I was lazy, and threw it out.

Please don’t throw rotten potatoes at me!

The amount that was left I estimate to be approximately 4 ounces.  Even though my numbers, this time, might not be precise I think it’s still useful information.  This is the first harvest of 2011 and there will be at least one more this year.  I have more than 8 thyme plants but at least 2 of them are dying and need replacing.  What I love about growing and drying my own thyme is that the quality is superior and though it isn’t particularly expensive to buy dried thyme, it is a fraction of the cost to do it yourself.  My thyme plants are two years old and have given me at least 6 big harvests already.  If you keep harvesting them regularly you keep them from becoming too woody.  Plus they look nice in the garden if you do a nice job trimming them.

Although I use a pretty wide variety of herbs and spices in my food, thyme is the one I use the most.  I especially like it in a French style lentil soup.

8 plants yielded 2 lbs 4 oz fresh thyme

2 lbs (approx.) fresh thyme yielded 6 oz dried thyme

Essentials for Every Medicinal Herb Garden


My mother has a certificate in herbology and a lot of experience growing, using, and foraging medicinal herbs.  She’s shown me how to make salves and at one time made me and my siblings all herbal first aid kits which included tinctures and salves she made herself.  My favorite item from that kit was her comfrey salve which I found very useful for many applications.

I believe everyone should grow medicinal herbs in their gardens.  You don’t need to be an herbologist to make use of medicinal herbs safely.  A couple of good herb books is all you need.  I am no enemy to modern medicine and depend on it for a number of things I could never find relief for with herbal medicines.  I believe in an integrated approach to medicines: take the best from the East and the West, take the best from the present and the past.

I always grow medicinals because they are generally gentle, cheap, and can be incorporated into your everyday health regimen.  There’s another reason I think everyone should grow some medicinals: what if commercially produced medicines were to become unavailable to you?

You should have on hand some herbs that you can use in emergencies to do things like reduce fevers, bring swelling down in sprains, heal cuts and bruises, treat burns, calm nerves, detoxify your liver, disinfect wounds, and reduce the symptoms of influenza.  Growing herbs to meet all these basic needs is neither difficult nor need it take up too much space in your garden.

How do you choose the essentials?  My mom and I love this game.  There is a dizzying number of medicinal herbs and plants that you can choose from to grow in your own yard, so how do you narrow it down?

  • Make a list of common issues you and your family experience: skin issues, headaches, colds, anxiety, persistent coughs… think of all the things you routinely find yourself needing to treat and include all first aid things you keep on hand.
    • Consult a reliable herbal book.  Look through the lists of herbs, read what each of them do, and discover which herbs are the most recommended for the needs of your family.  Most libraries will have several you can check out if you don’t have any of your own.  I will list some titles you can rely on for good information (these are all books I personally own and trust):

      “Herbal Remedies for Vibrant Health” by Rosemary Gladstar

      “Desk Reference to Nature’s Medicine” by Steven Foster and Rebecca L. Johnson  (published by National Geographic)

      “The Essential Natural Health Bible” by Nerys Purchon

      “The Complete Herb Book” by Jekka McVicar

      • When you have a list of all the herbs most likely to fulfill your family’s particular needs and those of general first aid, cull the list down to the ones that will grow well in your climate and ones you have room for.  Don’t exclude culinary herbs from this list, many of them have great medicinal qualities that improve your health simply by being used frequently in your cooking.  Thyme, for example, is a powerful antiseptic properties in addition to adding great flavor to soups and other savory dishes.

        While I believe choosing the herbs you grow should be based on your personal needs, there are herbs I believe everyone should be growing in their gardens regardless of who they are.  I’m going to give you two lists to start with.  The first will be a list of the herbs I think every single garden should be growing, this will be the bare essentials.  The second list is the one my mother and I have come up with for our own garden.

        Essentials for Every Medicinal Herb Garden:

        Comfrey – absolutely essential for healing cuts, bruises, burns, and sprains; the roots are great made into tea for your bath as it will soften and heal skin.

        Calendula – great for all skin issues (softens, cleans, heals), anti- inflammatory, antifungal.

        Thyme – strong antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal, and antispasmodic properties.

        Sage – sore throats, antiseptic, immune booster, colds, and treats nervous exhaustion (I should be drinking this every day!).

        Peppermint – stimulating, refreshing; good for relieving indigestion, tension headaches, and spastic complaints of the gastrointestinal tract.

        Aloe Vera – soothes cuts and burns, nourishes and moisturizes skin.

        Elderberry – reduces severity of influenza symptoms, immune system stimulant, reduces fevers, colds, and ear and throat infections.

        Rosemary – good for digestive ailments, increases circulation, colds and flus, mouthwash, dandruff, and may ease depression and fatigue.

        The only one from that list that not everyone may be able to grow in their own garden due to its size is the elderberry.  Elderberry can be kept pruned to a reasonable size but left to its own devices it will become a big tree.  If you have room: plant it!

        Here is a complete list of what I will have in my own medicinal garden with the items I already have planted asterisked:

        Echinacea, lovage, rosemary*, comfrey*, beebalm, arnica*, calendula, balm of Gilead, borage, sage*, tarragon*, winter savory, feverfew, peppermint*, nasturtiums, parsley*, thyme*, vervain*, elderberry*, mullein*, oregano*, marjoram*, plantain*, roses*(for rosehips), and lavendar*.

        There are so many amazing and useful herbs you can plant in your garden.  Aside from the benefits these herbs offer to you personally they are also great for attracting beneficial insects that will increase pollination in your other plants and help keep in balance the pests that hurt your soil and plant health.

        What herbs do you grow and what are you planning to add to your garden this year?  I want to know!

         

         

        Support the Safe Seed Pledge: no to GMOs!

        beet seeds 2.jpg

        It’s no secret that I am adamantly against all use of GMOs.  I have done a lot of reading and considering on this subject and have come to the conclusion that having food with systemic pesticides cannot be good for either people or the planet.  I am already against pesticides applied externally on crops.  The wind takes it aloft spreading it across everything, not just the targeted crops, so that we all breath it whether we choose to or not.  It pollutes our water through runoff.  Traces of it stay in the food people eat, even after washing. 

        So why would I think it’s a good idea to create a plant whose dna includes a pesticide?  It can’t be washed off at all.  A pesticide in the genes can cross with clean plants giving it some of it’s altered genes without you even knowing it and this is what’s already happening: GMO crops contaminate other crops through their seed  being carried on the wind and by birds.  Even when we purposely choose to eat only non-GMO foods we still may be eating them because farmers planting GMO crops can’t prevent contamination to other farms.

        I am becoming increasingly angry and alarmed at the disregard my country shows towards my health and my ability to make what I consider to be good choices for my body.  There isn’t a lot you or I can do to stop the GMO companies from spreading their seeds to industrial farmers and it feels hopeless sometimes but I would like to suggest that our income is still the best place we can assert our power.  Our income and our voice through voting and protesting.

        Here are a few things we can all do to help fight against GMOs infiltrating our lives:

        • Do you purchase any packaged food?  Write letters, e-mails, or make phone calls to the producers of the food you buy to ask them if they use GMO produce in their products.  If they say they do, stop buying that product and find one that doesn’t use GMOs.  I have actually done this once and plan to do this more.  If you make your preference and your concerns known to companies it puts pressure on them to respond.  They need your money.

        • Don’t vote for any candidates who are known to support (in any way at all) the companies that produce and promote GMOs.  Read up on them and you can find out what corporations they are affiliated with.

        • Campaign for labeling.  Write letters to the government and also to the stores where you shop.  Labeling of all foods with GMO ingredients should be mandatory so that those of us who don’t want to ingest or support them can choose not to.  Here is a link with suggestions on how to use guerrilla tactics to get your message across:  Do it Yourself GMO and Factory Farmed Foods

        • Plant open pollinated seeds from seed companies who have taken the safe seed pledge.  The corporations who are selling GMOs aren’t targeting the civilian population any more (having failed to gain support) and are mostly targeting industrial farmers, but even so, supporting seed companies that have taken the safe seed pledge is important – these are the people preserving clean seeds and our future depends on our ability to save our own seeds (you can’t save your own seeds if you plant GMOs, it’s not only illegal, it is often not successful).

        I buy most of my seeds from Territorial Seed Company because they have seeds that have been acclimated to my climate, they’ve taken the safe seed pledge, and they offer a good variety of open pollinated seeds which is about 90% of what I plant. 

        If you would like to find out what other seed companies have taken the safe seed pledge you can look up “safe seed pledge” online or you can go to this link I found:

        Safe Seed Resources

        I also found this interesting article by Greenpeace on GMO seeds:

        Facts and Figures About GMOs

        (that will give you the link to download the article)

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        Shelling Pea Harvest: 2010

        weighing peas 2.jpg

        Nothing about my gardening tactics is ideal.  I frequently plant later than I’m supposed to (often in an effort not to plant too early which simply results in me losing track of when I’m actually supposed to plant), I have no drip system in (so everything is hand watered, or as is more often the case, I don’t water at all), and I never seem to make time for weed control which, since I don’t use herbicides to control them, means they grow taller than me.

        The reason I’m bringing this up is that whenever I write down what yields I got for something, you can always remember that if I was a better gardener* those yields could be higher.  This should give hope to the less savvy people trying to grow their own food.

        I was so sloppy this year that I’m not even certain which varieties of peas I planted.  I will need to dig through nefarious corners of my garden boxes and seed containers to see if I saved them.  I believe I used Alderman and Cascade, but I’ll have to double check.  Assuming I’ll remember to double check.

        Total yield: 9 lbs 9 oz shelling peas

        raised bed breakdown:
        4×8 bed: 6 lbs 12 oz
        1×3 bed: 2 lbs 13 oz

        I never watered the peas.  They grew, bloomed, and fruited all during our prolific rainy season.  So that’s some good value.  I used two packets of peas which cost me a little more than $5. 

        Doing some tricky math (because I’ve forgotten how to do it the easy way) I calculate that my homegrown peas cost me about .53 cents per pound.

        I don’t know about where you live, but where I live you don’t find fresh shelling peas for that price. 

        In case anyone is curious, I didn’t add any purchased fertilizer either.  We add straw with slightly aged chicken manure from our own hens.  BONUS.  So no money was spent for fertilization.  No effort besides planting the seeds was made by me.  No watering.  I got 9 lbs 9 oz fresh shelling peas for all that non-effort.  Who can complain about those economics?

        What would have improved my yield:  weeding, planting earlier

        *I’m actually an excellent gardener when I’m not working full time.  Or when I have the money to install things like drip irrigation.  In a previous life (when I lived in California) I had a much more productive garden and the weeds, though always plentiful, never reached full potential height.  But that was back when I was a housewife and stay at home mother.  That was when I realized that my passion, aside from writing, was urban homesteading.  Ah well, good memories!

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