2 Klarides Village Drive
How can I grow food, when I have so little time at home?
|One option is to find food plants that pretty much grow themselves. That's what I have done for many years. It doesn't look like typical 20th century American vegetable gardening, but it produces some wonderfully tasty, nutritious and out-of-the-ordinary results! (You may be able to trade with other gardeners for more typical vegetables, like tomatoes and squash.)|
I began looking for perennial plants, including native plants, that haven't been bred strictly for mass production of food.
Some of the plants I found are:
good king henry
stinging nettle (doesn't sting when cooked or dried)
I also found some more typical plants that are easy to manage, once established:
Asparagus is the most demanding plant to get started, in my experience. It isn't really a fussy plant, but to give it a good, healthy start, young plants must be planted on little hills in a trench - much digging! But these beauties will produce food for you for twenty to thirty years. How about that?!!
Bushes take some site prep, but not that much (a few hours at most, based on my experience). Again, once they are in the ground and established, there is not too much to do. I have a soaker hose laid around the bases of the blueberries and raspberries. Because I was too timid with the mulch on the blueberries, I have had to weed them a bit. Again, I have learned a lesson, and this year I will spend the time heavily mulching around the blueberries (cardboard with several inches of mulch on top, right over the soaker hose), and the raspberries while I am at it.
Garlic takes about two or three days of my time each year, now that the bed is established. It takes less than half a day to harvest, seed the green manure crop (buckwheat - also edible (seeds)), and hang the garlic. I love it when the house reeks of garlic! That only lasts a few days, though. It takes a half a day to clean off and trim the cured garlic and tie it up or place it in mesh bags. It takes less than half a day to chop the green manure in and add compost the week before planting in the fall. It takes half a day to sort through the best bulbs and select the best cloves for replanting. It takes an hour or so to replant and mulch. This is for an approximately 140 square foot bed, that produces over three hundred bulbs of garlic. We grow six varieties, plus some greens.
You may have heard that raspberries will spread if you allow them. What a happy problem! Consider it free garden expansion. Plant them where they will have room to spread out. If they go in a direction you disagree with, clip them or, better, find someone who could use some berry bushes and transplant them.
I have had no pests on rhubarb or garlic or blueberries. I have had a few pests on the hazelnuts (leaf rollers) and raspberries (unidentified leaf-snackers). Mice nibble some of the sunchoke tubers, but leave me more than plenty. Squirrels share beech nuts with me (but some years the worms eat most of them). The violets have no apparent predators other than me, and I enjoy all the nettle tea I desire, with no competition.
This year I plan to taste-test the daylilies (some people are allergic) and next year should have some good king henry and ground nuts ready for harvest. I used to have purslane, chickweed and sorrel in the garden, but in my ignorance, treated them like weeds. They will probably show up again, and this time I know better. I will still remove them if they are crowding other plants, but instead of sending them all to the compost, I can add them to salad.
Remember, anyone may be allergic to some plant or another. The first time you try something, even if it's something you've bought at the market, try a little and wait a few hours or overnight, just to make sure.