Friday, October 31, 2008

Hard Economic Times--Grow Your Own!

Politics aren't a regular theme here, but 'tis the season with the election four days away.

When this country was faced with crisis, and the economy was failing, we were told to go shopping. It will help business.

With the tumultuous ride our economy has been through in the last month, and experts saying the worse is yet to come, what should we do? GDP is at a 40 year low. Should we go shopping?

No. We should start planting.

The reality is food is not getting any cheaper. I don't want to say it's getting any safer either, but it's best to know where exactly your food comes from. What better way than to plant a garden with easy-to-care-for veggies that you can grow organically?

I read an article recently that complained about how difficult it is to raise one's own vegetables. Really? I'm surprised. I was pretty busy this summer (as you can tell from the lack of posts) with our remodel, and yet I managed to have a fine turn out of radishes, beets, Purple Cherokee and Lady Bug tomatoes, Swiss chard, celery, fava beans, onions, a couple eggplant and a couple carrots, mini yellow and red peppers, and San Marzano sauce tomatoes. I have a constant supply of rosemary, oregano, cilantro, mini basil, chives, thyme, lemon verbena, and the ubiquitous mint.

Now, it wasn't enough where I had to start canning for the winter. But my yields were high enough that I could pass up the $3.99/lb tomatoes at the farmers' market every week. I think each tomato weighed around a pound, so that would add up fast.

Many of you may ask, "Where do I start? It seems all so over whelming!"

Herbs. Fresh herbs are much tastier than dried. And, have you ever bought fresh herbs at the store? Cha-ching! A small plastic container will run you at least $3. And by the time you get them home, they've lost their taste. You could buy then at the farmers' market in season, but wouldn't you prefer the easy access from your garden or balcony?

Herbs are the easiest thing to start with, and no space is too small for a few pots of the ones you most frequently use. Try thyme and oregano. Once you're successful with those two, add rosemary and mint. If you have the space, you can grow them in the ground in quick draining soil. I would keep the mint in a pot or else it will take over. Check the bottom of the pot at least once a season to make sure it's not fully rooting itself from the drain hole.

Felling adventurous in planting out your first true crop? I would start with Swiss chard. This crop has never failed me and takes a lot of abuse. I even transplanted one that was at least a foot tall in the middle of summer and it looks great. 'Bright Lights' has a vibrant assortment of colors so there is no need to plant other annuals for a little punch. They don't have to be planted in rows like a formal vegetable garden. Stick them next to your perennials and shrubs that take full sun. And they do well with minimal fertilizer. I spread compost out in the spring and call it good; never giving them a liquid feed. That method goes for my entire garden. A packet of seeds will cost you close to, or less, than the one organic bunch at Whole Foods or PCC. One will give you chard from late spring through fall. The other lasts maybe two meals.
No excuses. You have plently of time to start planning. The weather is getting cooler, the rain a little more frequent. I suspect those seed catalogs will start showing up any day now!