May 18, 2012

The Home Organic Vegetable Garden - Make It Personal

CRISPY FRENCH RADISHES FOR BREAKFAST WITH SWEET, CREAM BUTTER.  THE DELIGHTS OF THE HOME VEGETABLE GARDEN BECOME REDEFINED THROUGH THE GENERATIONS, BUT THE FUNDAMENTAL REASONS FOR GROWING HOME VEGGIES REMAIN THE SAME - CHOICE, TASTE AND FRESHNESS.



I thought that I learned my lesson a long time ago, but I have to be honest and tell you that it has only been a recent realization - that given my lack of free time, and maybe, dare I say, age, I really don't need to grow every vegetable at home in my vegetable garden. A few years ago, I made the decision to only grow what I felt like growing, varying my little crops each year to either augment what I could buy at the market or farmstand, and to keep things interesting, to try something new every year.

There have been some very active posts on other gardening sites about why young people don't garden anymore, or, about how nurseries or large garden centers can attract young people to purchase gardening supplies. Many of the responses seemed to come from those 'young people' themselves, be they Gen X, Gen Y or Millennials, which tells me that the problem may not exactly be that young people don't want to garden, but that for many reasons, the issue isn't that they don't want to have a home garden, the reasons are often more about their opportunity to garden rather then their desires to garden.



SOME OF MY RAISED BEDS, JUST STARTING TO PROVIDE SOME CROPS - THIS WEEKEND, SPINACH, RADISHES, LETTUCE AND GREEN ONIONS.
Even though I am a late Baby Boomer, I associate more with Gen X yet even at that, my parents had me very late in their lives, so in a weird way, they were depression era gardeners, canning and victory gardens were an every day affair for them, so I really don't connect with any "generation" at all! I mean, my dad was born in 1914. Back then, this garden above, extended 200 feet back,and held nearly an acre of vegetables. When I was growing up in the 1960's and 1970's there were still 100 foot long rows of Broccoli, beans  and Tomatoes,  and everything was 'put-up' by my mom, - frankly, I don't know how they did it, except I now realize why they kept having kids well into their 50's! Cheap labor!

YOUNG SPRING CABBAGE PLANTS, JUST SET OUT, WILL QUICKLY GROW INTO CONICAL HEADS BY LATE JUNE. MANY GARDENERS, INCLUDING ME, CONSIDER THESE SMALL, EARLY VARIETIES THE TASTIEST OF ALL CABBAGES FOR SLAW AND SALADS. NOTHING TASTES LIKE THESE TINY HEADS.

 Today, I as many of you know, I only keep a few raised beds for vegetables, hardly enough to supply even a couple full meals, but I also know that many of you have even smaller gardens. Few of us need to garden today, as my parents did, so this re-evaluation of why we garden has become more important. My parents certainly were aware enough in the 1970's to know that pesticides were dangerous, and that home grown produce often was healthier and fresher than anything from a market, especially then. My father was a health freak long before it was cool, but in an odd, 1960's way ( he was already in his 50's then) but we had to grow organic corn, boil milk to cook the ears in because he read somewhere that this made them more nutritious, and he would boil them with their husks still on. My friends would make fun of me, and rarely eat over, but what can I say, he is 98 years old now, and over at his girl friends house this weekend doing what not. All of those fresh veggies and wild blueberries must be good for something!

HEIRLOOM LETTUCE MAKES FOR A FAST SPRING CROP, BUT REMEMBER, IT ALMOST ALWAYS MUST BE HARVESTED AT THE SAME TIME, SO PLAN ACCORDINGLY, AND SO IN SUCCESSION.

I only have time to grow my favorites, the essentials for me are fresh herbs like dill, both a green folial variety for potatoes and salads, and one variety for pickling, that can be allowed to grow tall, and to blossom and set seed. There are just some things one cannot always find fresh at the market. I also grow green onions, lettuce int he spring and fall, arugula, ( I sometimes grow mache, but I can buy nicer mache at Whole Foods, so often I skip it). My rules are based on what I can buy at the market or farmers market vs what I can grow, or, for convenience - fresh herbs like dill, mints, parsley, cilantro - yet I can hardly grow enough cilantro, so even that is sometimes only a luxury it I have a little room, I can buy it every other day at the market.

SEEDLING GREEN BUNCHING ONIONS, PLANTED IN MARCH, ARE JUST STARTING TO LOOK LIKE A POTENTIAL CROP. BUNCHING ONIONS REQUIRE GOOD MOISTURE, SANDY SOIL AND COOL TEMPERATURES AS WELL AS A WELL WEEDED BED.

There are just some things one cannot find fresh anywhere, or, if you do, they are still not as yummy as when fresh picked - these are the real luxuries - fresh baby turnips, heirloom red turnips, heirloom tomatoes, of course, because one must grow tomatoes and not pay $5.99 a pound. Baby cukes and pickling cukes just taste amazing, warm from the sun, eaten out in the garden with a salt shaker that you snuck out in your cargo shorts. A tomato, freshly picked also warm from the sun, tastes incredible with just a little salt from the same shaker, and the juice running down your arms. There is nothing in the world as delicious as freshly shucked sweet peas, the candy of the vegetable garden.

Young growers, first-time growers, those of you with kids--- plant even a few plants of something this year, who cares if you can only pick a bowl full of beans, sometimes its not about the volume or the cost savings, its about the total experience, the moment, the indulgence. In many ways, keeping even a single raised bed is very similar to stocking your own refrigerator - with snacks. It's highly personal, and no one should ever tell you what you should or should not buy ( even if I have in the past). You don't really have to grow a 60 foot row of peas, if you only have room for 6 plants. Those 6 plants will still provide you with joy, a few dozen pods of sweet peas to snack on, and some brief, moments of joy.

7 comments :

  1. I grew up with around my great-grandmothers and they all taught me a thing or two about always trying to grow something to eat. In my case, Grandma Rosaria was Sicilian so I often chose to grow the varieties of things she grew since they are more difficult to find. I like to add other oddballs too just for fun and I always have my asparagus bed.

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  2. Sounds like you've been listening to the Fine Gardening Podcast. Being one of these young people growing things, when someone recently asked why I was bothering growing celery from seed, I had to give what I call the 'Mt. Everest' answer: "To see if I can."

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  3. Thoroughly enjoyed this post, Matt

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  4. Hi susan
    You know, It was really the post on Apartment Therapy that I was writing about, but that one does link to the poscasts on Fine Gardening, which I started to listen to - they look great, and I encourage everyone to follow the Fine Gardening blog contributors as well as the poscasts. You reminded me though - I still grow celery from seed, just for leaf celery for chicken soup !

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  5. LOL sounds like your dad was a head of his time. You're so right that Gen X & Y lack opportunities to garden. They want it, but the infrastructure isn't there yet. I wrote about this recently over on my blog. I enjoyed your post.

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  6. hopflower10:27 AM

    Wonderful post this morning, Matt. I encourage all to garden fruit and vegetables as much as I can, too.

    Cheap labor? I had to laugh about your comment. Maybe so, but you kids were probably healthier than some of them today who laze around in front of a computer and who have nothing else to do.


    My uncles and grandfather in England had wonderful gardens. My mum planted everything too, so I think this is where I got my love of it. Or it could also be osmosis, since we English are supposed to be the world's gardeners after all. But it is a healthy, amazing, and even miraculous thing to be able to plant a small seed and gain so much from it, both spiritually and practically. Your raised beds look wonderful.

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  7. Heya! I love French Breakfast radishes. I must say however, if you haven't already tried them, you really should try Philadelphia White Box. They are scrumptious! See the like for what I've been doing with the French Breakfasts http://paisleycarrot.com/2012/05/whimsical-wednesday
    Have a great day!

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