05 September 2011
We need to re-rethink our city garden philosophy. This year the intensive companion planting got way out of control. Our approach, knowing that we would have oodles of farmers' markets and a CSA to rely on, was to focus our efforts on the diversity of our flowers and veggies, as opposed to looking for food storage sized production. In one of our smaller beds (4'x16') we managed to squeeze in 20+ varieties just in the first planting alone. Needless to say, things got a bit crowded and then spilled over into out of control.
We're still learning how to eat locally and sustainably in a city/town. This year our food has primarily come from four sources: half of a CSA share, with a fruit and egg share; our garden; our community garden plot; and the occasional farmers' market visit. The key to this kind of food consumption (is that the word I'm looking for) is knowing your inventory at every stage of the season. Now when I say "at every stage of the season" that makes it sound more complicated than it really is. Well no, scratch that, it is complicated; however the complications aren't because we're having to check our inventory often, it's because we need to plan really far in advance and calculate into our quantities food that we're not growing. Here's an example:
Our CSA starts in June. One of the first items we received were greens and lot of them. However, on our garden production end we can produce greens much sooner (and dammit, if we can have it, we want it). The tricky part, we discovered, is that once the CSA greens start coming in, and our garden is still churning them out, we end up having far more than we could possibly consume. I think at one point I was eating three to four salads a day. Now I love salads just as much as the next gardener, but holy hell that gets to be a bit much.
Now that we know this, our solution for next year may be to start a cooperative community plot, grow and share our greens there, and once the CSA kicks in, we can surrender the excess plot greens to our partners.
We're also going to redesign the way we use our backyard and community garden plots. The approach will be based on time spent in the garden. We can obviously get to our backyard space every day; so our plans are to grow items that we would want to access frequently or would need daily care (peas, beans, cherry tomatoes, etc.). The community garden plot we want to use for low maintenance, space hogging plants (paste tomatoes, winter squash, soup beans, and so on)
I'm guessing that we may have this system down in another season or two. In the meantime we'll keep taking notes, cussing (and laughing) at our mistakes, and hoping for solid weather.