More and more people are growing their own food these days (how quaint ;-)) and some of us are getting a bit serious about it. Planting fruit trees or hedgerows of berries is taking it to the next level, in my opinion. That’s not to say that growing seasonal veggies like greens, squash, tomatoes, etc. isn’t a big commitment, because it is, but when you plant food-producing trees and bushes, they start to take up some space! Granted, once they’re planted there is less overall labor involved, as compared to a vegetable garden, but most of us just don’t have the space sitting around waiting to be turned into an orchard. So now we’re talking real commitment and dedication. What part of your existing garden are you going to rip out??
If you’ve got to the point where you’re ready to make space, you really want to make sure that you plant the right varieties so they’ll actually produce fruit here on the coast.
First, find out if the variety you want is self-pollinating (1 plant will do) or if it needs cross-pollination (you’ll need at least 2 different varieties). Also, many types and varieties of fruit need a certain minimum number of chill hours (temp. between 32 & 45 deg.) in the winter and a sustained period of warm weather in the summer that we just don’t get in our temperate coastal climate. You can find out these requirements from either the tag at the nursery or from the catalog you’re ordering from. Here’s an important bit of info that you’ll need: we get an average of 500 or less “chill hours” here on the San Mateo County coast, so it’s usually safe to plant something that requires 400 hours or less and is early ripening (again, catalog will indicate).
Here’s a list of what we can grow, might be able to grow and probably can’t grow:
– low chill apples & pears
– most plum varieties
– most blackberry varieties
– Meyer lemons
– low chill blueberries & raspberries
– low chill nectarines
I let my Italian parsley plant go to seed because I wanted to attract beneficial insects to my other veggie plants. You probably hear the term ‘beneficial insects’ a lot. I know I do, but what the heck are beneficial insects?? Well, the two benefits that “good” bugs can bring to the garden are either eating other bugs that are considered pests or being pollinators. So predators and pollinators are what we want in our bug population. These types of insects are attracted to certain types of flowers and some of their very favorites are the flowers of herbs and greens from your food garden that have gone to seed. So it’s not always a bad thing to let your cilantro or lettuce bolt, as long as you know that it’s no longer tasty as food for you (bitter!), but now is serving another purpose- contributing to the health of your garden!
For the first time, I have successfully grown tomatoes (besides cherry tomatoes) in my garden in Half Moon Bay! They’re not in a hot house and we didn’t even have much sun this summer. (to say the least!) I just put them in the warmest, most protected part of the garden, fed them with compost and fish emulsion and watered them a lot. I planted three plants- Juliette F1 (60days), Oregon Spring (58days) and Stupice Early Tomato (52days)- in a black, plastic 15gal pot and placed it against a south-facing fence next to my compost bin. Voila!
This past Spring I spread my home-made compost all over my garden and after about three weeks, the soil was thick with tomato seedlings. I then made a mental note to not put tomato seeds into my kitchen waste container. I guess my compost doesn’t get hot enough to kill them, but I’m ok with that… For every 100 tomato seedlings, there appeared one zucchini seedling. “How sweet!”, I thought. “How useful!”, I thought next. I took three of the more robust specimens and planted them on a little hill, watered them lots, and waited. While I was away on vacation, my husband sent me pictures of the garden and THIS is what the “zucchini” looks like! Hmmm… I was fooled. I think it’s baby acorn squash. Can anyone confirm this? (We ate some of them green and they were creamy and delicious!)
Home food gardens are more popular now than they have been since victory gardens during WWII. 40% of the food consumed in this country during that time was produced in home and community gardens! Though they’ve never been a bad idea, in fact I’ll talk about why they’re such a good idea in a moment, they fell out of favor with the majority of people for various reasons- the main one being inconvenience.
When a person could buy almost any type of produce they wanted, at almost any time of year, from their local supermarket- that was pretty darn convenient compared to the relative inconvenience of maintaining a vegetable garden!
Personally, it wasn’t until just two years ago that I started my own. I just assumed they were too time-consuming for me, or… too inconvenient. Ironically, what finally got me growing my own was our local Farmers Market. I simply got used to eating delicious, nutritious food and wanted more access to it!
Talking about veggies...
Well, I did it. …and it was fun! There were a lot of great people at this event, and many were interested in working with me! (yay) I have an appointment tomorrow with a lovely woman who wants to replace her front lawn with…..something else. Oh, the possibilities!
I had a lot of fun getting ready for this- potting up all the plants, writing my presentation, etc. I did have a couple of butterflies when I got there, but a yummy glass of sangria fixed that!
- Teaching Don the Dirt
Six of the smaller pots were to give away as door prizes and it was cute to see the dressed up ladies walking out with their arms wrapped around their little gardens and with big smiles on their faces.
Click on the above image to read about an event I’m involved with. It’s Wednesday, February 24th in Moss Beach. Please come and check it out if you’re interested!
The Wild Tomato from the Compost Pile
I just volunteered to help plant and tend the victory garden that will be planted on July 12th in front City Hall in SF! The lawn is being ripped up (hallelujah for ripping up lawns!) and a big FOOD garden is being planted there. Did you know…(I didn’t!)…that during World War II victory gardens provided 40% of the food consumed in our country?? Wow. Now would be a good time for us to do this again.
The people that are making this victory garden happen are the Slow Food Nation folks. They’re putting on a fantastic event at Fort Mason during Labor Day weekend. Check out what it’s all about (and where all the food from the garden will go) at slowfoodnation.org.