A work in progress

Wendy S. Delmater
By Wendy S. Delmater on Sun, Aug 30, 2015 - 7:24pm

This post has been a long time coming.

So many of us who want to grow a meaningful portion of our food get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task. As a society we've lost so many techniques. The learning curve is fierce. There are time constraints and we can only dedicate so many of the resources we need to survive now to surviving later. There is only one answer.

Do the best you can with what you have where you are. Do the next thing.

In our case, my husband and I are not “scaled up” for survival production. This is intentional: formal veggie gardens can be stripped during a famine/panic/civil unrest. We can plant more aggressively after that storm has passed. For now, we've been experimenting, finding what does and does not work on our land, in our climate. We have the heirloom seeds to grow things if we need to (replenished every year) but we are focused on two goals: increasing our perennials and increasing the diversity of what we can eat and grow successfully on a larger scale, later.

What I've been sharing is a series of experiments. For example, after four years of trying we finally grew ONE perennial Sea Kale successfully, only to discover that we hated the taste. Failed experiment. We tried growing fennel in two locations and it did very badly but it's happy in the third location this year . And I really wanted fennel since it's a quadruple perennial veggie win: the bulb is a stew veggie, the greens are edible, the pollen and seeds are spices. We will be planting more fennel; successful experiment.

Experiments with annuals have had mixed results, sometimes based on the variety of plant (which green bean, which lima, which, tomato, which carrot?) and sometimes based on disease resistance or insect problems. How much water, when? Which companion plantings work best at my location? I now know which potatoes grow best in my soil, and which lettuces, and how to get viable seeds or propagate them. I do not currently grow enough for our use. But I now know how.

And while we experiment with various annuals, the perennials continue to grow. Even there, we do not put all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak. Our blueberries were planted in the wrong place and need replaced, but the grapes and figs make up for it. The peach tree died of old age and it's replacement succumbed to root nematodes, but after four years the apples are finally fruiting. The mulberry tree is 25-ft tall but the hazelnut saplings and the olive sapling grow SO slowly. The strawberries are nicely established but the supposedly cold-hardy orange tree was winter-killed. The asparagus survived my planting the first batch upside down (duh!) and we now have a thriving asparagus patch, the perennial potato onions and Egyptian walking onions are raging success, but fiddle-head ferns failed, mainly because I hired someone to help clean up the spring garden and they “helpfully” cut down the shade they needed. Experiments. Some, successful, some not.

Please continue to share your experiments in gardening here, to increase our knowledge-base. We can learn from each other. I admire you all, too.

1 Comment

pinecarr's picture
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 13 2008
Posts: 2263
Thanks for the clarification and morale-boost Wendy!!!

Wendy, thanks for clarifying that you, too, are focused on "experimental gardening" to learn what works, what doesn't, and what to try different/better.  After my root vegetables not coming up this year worth crap for whatever reason, my two ~3 year old "hardy" peach trees dying after this last hard winter, and just plain not keeping up on the garden, I was feeling discouraged.  But you are right: there are victories as well. 

- My 2 fruit-bearing apple  trees seem to be retaining there apples (sans birds pecking holes in them like they did last year).  I placed a couple of tall bean poles around the tree, and put a big fake owl on the bean pole.  Then I move it every couple of days, per advice I read about.  I also hung some strings of twisted tin-foil from the tree (another suggestion I read about).  My neighbors across the street probably think I'm crazy, but so far, so good.

- My hazelnut trees/hedge that I planted ~4 years ago is producing clusters of hazelnuts for the 1st time;

- The honeyberry bushes I bought this spring, because I have trouble growing blueberries on my land (so far), seem to be really liking my soil.  They are supposed to be similar to blueberries, and very cold hardy;

- My black currants produced well again this year (a little bitter tasting, but lots of good value vitamin-wise and supposedly medicinally).  The new discovery was that currants I got from my white currant bush are not bitter like the black ones.  Another positive: the birds seem to leave the currants alone.

   Anyhow, thank you for the reminder that it is ok to be in experimental-gardening mode, Wendy!!

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