Friday, November 28, 2008

The Wee Winter Garden Project: Mesclun and Peas

We moved in between planting seasons, but we're all about year-round urban gardening. And we're not above fighting the squirrels for nuts. If we're going to move the food chain home, there's no better time than now. If you can't get into a community garden, here's a project for people with wee spaces and some sun. We have a patio that's south facing, with room for some small planters. And that's our winter garden at the moment. The first frost is likely a few weeks away, so here's what we growsing now:

Total time start to finish: 1 hour.
Required a trip to the local garden supply store to purchase:

Seeds: Mesclun greens and winter peas
Seed Cost: $6.47
Seed Yield: TBD, and we have many many seeds left for next time.

If you shopped at Safeway:
Cost for 1 head of Organic lettuce at Safeway: $1.99
Cost for 2 lbs of sugar snap peas: $6.99

(2) Weatherproof lon
g planting containers.
We reviewed a number of options, but feel these may last the longest in our climate and they can be recycled. We're also trying to support American/North American jobs with our purchasing decisions. The parent company, Myers Industries, Inc. is based in Ohio and has manufacturing facilities primarily in the US and Canada, plus a plant in Brazil. 
These were $14.99/ea. 
Total cost: $30

(1) Bag of Edna's Best filled both containers nicely. $8.99

(1) Again, trying to buy locally made products is part of our effort. Sadly, of the entire collection of trowels only one fit our guidelines for purchase and it's all the way from Germany. $4.99

Cuteness.  $FREE

- Unplug the stoppers in the bottom of the containers to ensure adequate drainage. We usually put a rock o
r piece of tile in the bottom, but ours adjust to keep water from gushing out.
- Add soil and
 loosen it up, remove clumps
- Create two lines of grooves for the greens seeds. These require shallow planting, at 1/8" depth. Cover the seeds and lightly water. Great directions for planting are on the seed package.
- The peas required an overnight soak before planting. They're in the second container. This particular variety is winter-hardy and self supporting, so it shouldn't need stakes to stand up.
- Water regularly and watch for frost! Cover plants with a thin layer of fabric or burlap if overnight frost is predicted.

Total Cost to Set Up:
We'll be looking for less expensive alternatives, but consider the planters, trowel -even the dirt once nutrients are reintroduced - should last years, we can amortize the cost long term.

Total Yield of Food: TBD
We'll report back later.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

we are the freaks of the industry

Questionable appendages and twins were plentiful. We visited the State Fair agricultural festival and stumbled upon a competition for the weirdest vegetables. There was an award for the crookedest carrot and another for conjoined corn. It reminded us that when we let nature do her thing, she sometimes has a sense of humor.

Having become dependent on an invisible food network we forget about the freaks, the less-than-perfect produce that gets dropped before it ever hits the store. Instead, conventional waxy and bloated produce appears to magically arrive picture-perfect in neatly stacked piles. We've lost touch with the way real food grows because we rarely see it. And we're missing out on a host of other details that start with lost flavor and end with an array of open-ended questions such as the real effects of pesticides on our health.

Real food is beautifully flawed. It's quirky. Individual. With spots and flecks and nicks and twists. It demands we enjoy it quickly, for it lacks the chemicals that preserve shelf life. Rarely the same from season to season, growing locally gives us pleasure and variety. Comfort in knowing what we're eating. Twisted comedy from the earth and trees.

The EU Recently saw the light and lifted the ban on ugly food.