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Sunday, February 22, 2009

It's time to rip up your lawn

I'm not saying you have to completely abandon your nice green lawn, though I have. Pick some places in your yard and plant some ornamental peppers; herbs like cilantro, sage, basil. Plant them in places where the automatic water system will take care of them at the same time they water the lawn. Cucumbers can fit easily in a flower bed and meander their way among flowers slowing the loss of water. Pumpkins and summer squash have the same effect while adding some new colors to the beds.

I love to grow potatoes, but I think I've finally figured out that I shouldn't grow any that I can buy locally. They're not an overly attractive plant (which makes them perfect for a guerrilla garden) and it rarely produces more than $1-2 of produce per plant. They do store well so I can't take them completely off the table. Many things I grow can't be used as fast as they grow and unless I have enough to preserve them, they may go to waste during their peak.

The most important thing to remember is to grow what you eat, just like you should only store what you eat. Okra grows like an weed here, but I don't know what to do with it, I can add it to stuff I cook, but I have to lie to the kids. I can pickle it but they're not something I've grown a taste for. I can fit it into things I guess, and I know you can dry and roast the seeds for a coffee substitute but...

Grow food that produces food that you'll eat in a volume that makes it worth your effort. Red sparkler radishes are a great example, those little red roots are awesome in my wife's opinion, I don't care for them at all and so last year when some wanted to go to seed I figured I could get some seed off them. But then I found out how good the seed pods were, and there's 10-20 times the volume of the little red thing under the soil. They taste great raw, you can stir fry them, they can be used just like fresh peas, if you keep size in mind. Oh, and they really aren't that bitter, but you will notice a radish taste. I now grow radishes just for the pods and grab 10-15 just for my own dinner. This year I will try to pickle them, since I'm planning on such a large bed, they would fit in well with pickled beans, onions, garlic, peppers.

Last but not least are my thoughts on the ultimate fruit. Tomatoes need some extra physical structure to support the plant, a cage of some sort is worth the effort. I prefer an indeterminate plant that will provide fruit over time as it fit's better into family meals. Determinate plants are really nice if you plan to can your produce as they tend to ripen at the same time allowing you to harvest and use the fruit (and possibly replant the area). Good tomatoes are really a place where I think I make my money in the garden. If I buy a container of cherry tomatoes for $3 we might eat half of it, then toss out the rest, loss $1.50. If I can pick 10 a night for a salad or let the kids go out and graze for a snack, it only cost me a one time cost seed of $2, plus care, I'm so far ahead it's not funny.

Rethink your yard, don't waste your money and time on the green stuff that you can't eat, grow stuff you can enjoy on your plate. If your neighbors used to be impressed by your nice green grass think how impressed they'll be if you have food and they don't.



Kymber said...

Rick - awesome post! and excellent advice!
it realy doesn't take much to grow some of your own food and then save money on your grocery bill!

as for potatoes - I did a post on growing potatoes in tires over at the Nova Scotia Preppers Network. its really easy to grow potatoes in tires and the yield is amazing from only 2 tires (that you then stack 4 tires high)...you should give it a try!

Rick said...

I love growing tires that way but I never seem to have enough potatoes to make it work...
Just kidding, but I have yet to be able to grow enough potatoes in a stack to make it worth the space, time and effort. They're just too cheap here, it's tough to justify growing them when I can buy them for 10 pounds for under $2. I swear the farmer is being ripped off, I can't grow them that cheap, versus area.

I do keep a few potatoes just for seed if I need them. At some point I won't be able to get the seed I want, if I have something I want to plant and don't have to eat I will be very satisfied.

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