Think About This - Grow Things You Like to Eat

So many books and so many different ideas. I try to read the books for information that is sensible. I love organic books, permaculture books etc, but the truth is I haven't got the time or energy to worry about the cycles of the moon or burying things into the ground I just want to grow fruit and vegetables. Whether or not there is a scientific base to half of what I have read over the years I don't know... There is a vast array of ideas and concepts in books, some more scientific that others and I am not agreeing or disagreeing with any of them I just think it is good to put our brains into gear and say what do all these books agree upon. What are they saying that it the same. Do that! There are some things that crop up in most of the books I have read, it is more than science or theory, it is the experience and knowledge from years of growing. Now that is gold. My favourite authors are the ones who are sharing their love of gardening and the discoveries they have learned over the years.


One of the early gems I read in a gardening book was this: Grow things you like to eat. I have grown exotic vegetables, well they are exotic to me, kohlrabi and artichokes and even though I have eaten them when I am out I have found myself at a loss to try and work out how to use them at home. With the kohlrabi - I might give it one more go as I have found someone who loves it and has eaten it on a regular base in Holland so maybe I will learn the best way to eat it from her. With the artichokes, I never quite got the hang of telling when they were ready and missed the boat periodically with them, but the flowers were worth it. I might grow artichokes once more just to enjoy the beauty of their flower. Bees just love their attractive flower also. But this brings me back to the point of this paragraph. In my last house, (which we have rented out as we have the opportunity to lease a seven hectare block,) I got carried away with growing strawberries. In the end there must have been in excess of two hundred plants. We were picking a bowl of strawberries everyday.  I never had to make a desert for visitors. Strawberries pay a handsome reward. So when it comes to thinking about what to grow think about what you want to eat. Don't plant a mile of silver beet, unless you really love it, spinach is so much more palatable.

 

It is true, we  need to get back into growing our own food. It is worth it financially, physically and therapeutically. The rewards far out weigh any mistakes and occasional failed crops. Over the years of practice you learn shortcuts to watering and maintaining the garden and it gets easier and easier and I venture to say even more pleasurable.  One of my main focus's when gardening now is thinking about how much I want to produce of any one crop and how often. Silver beet is a classic old fashioned vegetable that is not my personal favourite, but there are times when I have had so much growing that it is just wasted anyway. I do put it into soup and feed the rabbits (which we grow for meat) but really how much it too much. I think it is worthwhile to do a little planning and I am currently working on a plan which will put vegetables on my plate every day of the year, especially food I like to eat.

 

It is now October, I still have enough potatoes to see me through till the next crop. I think I still have enough carrots in my fridge. We have had spinach  producing throughout winter and the spring onions have done exceptionally well after the onions ran out half way through winter. I probably gave away too many -  I had grown at least two for everyday. I was too generous with my crop. The parsnips were late but delicious. We moved into this property last December so I was really pushing to get the garden working. Fortunately I had planted the onions and carrots while the previous tenants were here.

 

We just ran out of honey but that was not bad for a first year and we managed to catch a swarm so hopefully our honey production will double. I bottled miles of blackboy peaches but I find we don't eat them the same as when the children were small. I have some black currant syrup over still but I think it has turned into a liqueur now.

 

I missed the grapes from our old house and the feijoas but because we don't own the property we are on I am reluctant to plant out the fruit trees and vines, but I am trying an experiment with grapes in pots and I am going to espalier them. Here's hoping!

 

I now have miles of garlic in and some onions but I am struggling as I work on my new paddock garden. I have tried double digging the plots as I go but have found the battle with couch not very rewarding so far. I have been determined never to use poison again but am quietly promising myself, after one spray on the paddock maybe then I can be organic. If I spray then hire a rotary hoe, another thing I haven't wanted to do, at least then I will have a plot weed free to work on. I have miles of seedlings in, tomatoes, cucumbers, zuchinis, pumpins, melons, lettuces, basil, corn..... the list goes on...But I need somewhere to plant them when the frosts are over. There almost isn't enough time in the day. But it is great to spend time outdoors and I am sure it will all work out.

 

I love composting and also have two very productive worm farms which thrive on horse poo especially and we have plenty of that as we graze out a few paddocks. We have a little herd of dexters, three cows (one has calved, two to go) and two steers. I have mentioned our rabbits already, we have one buck and three does who are producing lots of little ones (Currently have two does who have just had babies and ten rabbits at eight weeks old and six that are five weeks old.)

 

I hope we don't have to move too suddenly from our lease block but we can never go back to just our house and garden although we lived off our previous garden very successfully.

 

I joined Ooooby because I love the idea of encouraging one another and collectively learning how to do things. It is great to discover what people are trying and learn different ideas. Enjoy the journey in your garden.

 

 

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Comment by Kali on October 7, 2011 at 7:39am

lovely blog, you speak so well, and you put so much thought into all this, I tend to just collect seed, sow it and then think about where to put it all! then its either glut and famine, you have to be disciplined not to waste stuff and make the most of it. chickens are a great disposer of extra greens like surplus or seeding silverbeet or kale and then i can excuse myself because it is being recycled to the garden in their manure at least.

I grow all sorts of things at least once, I am a sucker for novelty, there are a few that have become firm favorites and others I will never grow again. I discovered I like growing kohlrabi for example, as  it doesn't matter if the white butterflies chomp away on them, but like you haven't yet found a recipe I like yet in spite of having copious quantities of recipe books!

Comment by Earl Mardle on October 4, 2011 at 11:02am

Your point on surplus is one that I've struggled with w lot.

I think there are three types of surplus and we need to distinguish them carefully.

  1. Accidental. Some years certain things just go nuts and we should be glad of that and have a ball with them.
  2. Storage food. Anything I can preserve, pickle, freeze etc that will bolster the meals through the winter is good.
  3. Trade. I haven't put anything on an Ooooby stall yet, but we have traded lots with neighbours. My main concern about producing for trade is that it opens a circuit that exports nutrients that we haven't quite figured out how to close.
One thing I try to do is aim to have enough over to see us through and then to switch the space we used for the surplus production to something else that we need. Since we can't ever be self sufficient on 1000 square metres, we will always have other options to try. And one more thing, I try not to have every last metre of space in use, we need to keep some spare soil for those experiments; if we become too reliant on working every part of the garden all the time, we will fail in the longer run.
Comment by Earl Mardle on October 4, 2011 at 10:54am

I'm impressed. You are doing great work there.

We have a slightly different take on the approach. Grow what you can, eat what you grow.

Some things will grow better and be less trouble than others and we focus on them while experimenting with others. Last year was our first attempt at Three Sisters, corn, beans and pumpkin and it was very successful, as was the kumera. As it happens we love all of them, but this year we have had a LOT more meals with corn, beans and pumpkin. We also grow kohlrabi but not very well, the swedes and turnips are much easier so they have sort of taken over, we're experimenting with celeriac but I'm about to give up on celery which sulks and goes woody on me. If I can work the charm I'd love to have it, but if its too much trouble, we'll find something else.

About the only thing we put extra energy into is tomatoes because they are not only great food but they help intergate so many other flavours. We use them in Indian, Italian and Thai recipes and almost as condiments in stews and casseroles so we persevere.

It helps the plan though that my wife has, and uses, the biggest collection of recipe books this side of Nigella.

Comment by Jane Maarie on October 2, 2011 at 12:07pm
Hello Katherine, what a very interesting read & what a very busy lady you are!:O) I can relate to quite a bit of what you talk about with your growing trials.  I am on a much smaller scale of an acre and I am in my 2nd proper year of growing all my veg from seed which I find quite exciting esp when they fruit or flower. I am in the throws of extending my veggie gardens to include more of my paddock which I too have quietly considered spraying but then I think of the bees & that ususally stops me having learnt quite a bit through ooooby.  I have couch that you speak of and another unfamiliar weed with long white deep roots that i find more annoying.   What started off as a 3rd compost bin has turned into a giant worm farm which I can also vouch for them loving horse poo too! Keep up the good work!
Comment by Megan on September 30, 2011 at 7:16pm
hello Katherine, looking to following your progress. Can sympathise with your battle with couch - was given lots of great advice when I posted a photo of my crop.

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