We on this site tend to share a few traits that keep us here. The desire to live life to its maximum potential. The desire for happiness and the desire to contribute back as much as possible. These qualities are the highest possible desires that enrich our own lives and those around us. This also necessitates a measure of responsibility, to be aware of what we are and what we do and the impact we have on human lives around us. You can attach many phrases to this, carbon foot print, green living, social responsibility the idea remains the same.
If like many of us you own a house and some land what are you doing with it? For me at the moment it is the bare minimum, cut the lawn weed and plant some conifers out the front, privet and leylandi at the back – it outgrows and dominates meaning less weeds and a good privacy screen.
What if I used some of this space for green growing? I work hard and I play hard and I never seem to have the time for gardening. But I know that it is responsible. Every thing I plant and grow in the garden using natural methods and few resources is one less thing that must be imported and shipped, it improves the economy and the environment reducing fossil fuel usage and trade deficits (in the west we import most of our food – food which is very expensive for poorer people in the third world).
What about the time and the enthusiasm? Potatoes suffer from blight, corn and wheat suck to much goodness out of the soil and aren’t suited to gardens and a lot of veg is troublesome to grow and requires constant care, its to much!
Well I’ve been considering and I’d like to introduce you to perennial and polycarpic food sources as opposed to semelparous or monocarpic food. The latter categories live and die, they often need reseeding (most grains and vegetables). The first categories require less work and are hardier, less of your time expertise and resources but still doing the environment and yourself some good.
MORE FOOD LESS EFFORT:
Chives are one of the easiest. They are perennial, the most maintenance they require is to split them every few years which is about 5 minutes work. Harvest the leaves, chop the blossoms off and any dead growth. You’ll get enough to last a year every year for that sublime onion taste and could even grow them on a windowsill. Never dry, freeze leaves.
Garlic chives are also a delicious Oriental perennial. Other delicious salad greens that are perennials though not where I live is rocket/Sylvetta arugula and sorrel and if you are really luck and can find this patience dock but no seed companies currently stock it.
Jersey Series Asparagus is an all male variety with a high yield which when successfully planted will produce yields for 30 years or more. Though does require a weed free environment, I hate weeding but love fresh asparagus. It won’t harvest until its 2nd or 3rd year so patience is a virtue but remember how delicious asparagus is especially with thai food.
Garlic and wild garlic are easy to grow and produce a beatiful smell at the right time of the year.
My favourite and the first I’ll buy is the Szechuan tree. Provides spices and shoots and grows in any climate. I’m looking for more easy grower and easy harvests if anyone has any ideas, this is the best of the best I’ve come across so far. So easy to grow. It does carry canker so keep it away from other citrus fruit trees.
Malus domestica ‘Queen Cox’ – self-fertile, juicy red-yellow apples from mid October
Pyrus communis ‘Conference’ – partially self-fertile pear, green-yellow sweet fruit from October to November
Prunus domestica ‘The Czar’ – self-fertile dark purple dessert plum, resistant to frost
Ficus carica ‘Brown Turkey’ – self-fertile fig ideal for training along a wall. Rich fruit from August to September
Stagger your harvests by careful selection of what you grow and take advantage of weeds. Dandelion leaves are great for salads, the chinese use dandelion root and try nettle juice and don’t forget about the tons of herbs that I haven’t mentioned things like the ever hardy mint plant and of course long lasting veg like Rhubarb.
Gardening….did this go down well on HE? Not the usual thing.
Peter I love that idea! I have been wanting to do something similar for a while but I live in a small apartment and have no land to plant things, just what I can grow on my balcony in the summer. I really like the idea of surrounding your home with an edible landscape that will keep producing food every year with minimal effort. It’s an approach to gardening that I think a lot more people would embrace if they knew about it because it requires so little work once the plants are established. I don’t think there are too many perennial food crops that will grow in my area though (northeast US).
Another part of the edible landscape to consider is eating weeds! There are many very abundant weeds in peoples yards and gardens that have nutritional and medicinal value. http://frugalliving.about.com/od/eatforfree/tp/Edible_Weeds.htm
Not the methods and plants I would recommend, but it’s still a great post full of great ideas.
Another thing that’s easy, cheap and yields a pretty good harvest is mushrooms. Just get some spores from the type/s you like and plant them in a pot/box and make sure it doesn’t get contaminated. It’s easy once you get a hang of it and there are plenty of guides on the net. Really healthy stuff too, unlike fruits and such. It doesn’t require much space either.
Berries are great and easy too, if you have a decent size garden. Just plant a few bushes and you don’t have to care for them much at all. I’ve got blackberries, blackcurrants and red gooseberries going currently.
I’m thinking of getting a decent size greenhouse with heat and lights (solar powered) so I can plant things that don’t fit the climate, and so I can have things growing in the winter.
I am pretty biased, but it seems like this should be in HE’s wheelhouse . . . gardening is a peaceful pursuit, good for the soul and the earth in almost every way.
I’ll add that a compost pile doesn’t smell bad and is quite easy to maintain. You can use an official container if you’re in a small neighborhood with pissy neighbors, but I’ve always done fine with a heap in the corner of my garden. get a small container (my wife has a metal one with a charcoal filter on top) for your kitchen shelf, you can empty it every day. add your lawn clippings, fallen leaves from trees in the fall and turn it every so often, you’ve got yourself a great source of nourishment when you dig holes for planting in the spring, plus a good source of occasional mulch (mixed with more leaves/grass/etc.).
Manimal I am with you on the berries. Thus far we have red currants, gooseberries, black raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and grapes – fresh fruit for four months! freezing them is super-simple, canning also not too hard and you can re-use jars from food you buy at the store (canning jars are nice but not necessary at all). In a couple of evenings you can make a year’s worth of preserves. strawberries, rhubarb, and asparagus are three more long-lasting crops we’re going to add in the spring. this was our first full summer here in our “homestead” and it has been fun shaping it.
mushroom identification is a project I’ve got on tap for this winter, my woodchips have spawned a half-dozen varieties in the last month . . . another benefit of cutting up firewood from a fallen maple.
I read an article recently that was about a local woman who, when the city dug up her front yard for a bike path or extended road lane or something, she decided to use the tilled earth in her front yard to teach local children how to grow veggies. She invited local children over and used their help to plant a garden in her front yard. Now she is facing a misdemeanor charge for planting a garden on her front lawn. Apparently, the reasoning was that “normal” front yard vegetation consists of grass, shrubs, and trees. Sounds like some bullshit to me.
Ha ha, yes, depends on where one lives here. I want a coconut tree and can’t have one. Two of the times I’ve been to Florida I have hunted and murdered a coconut and now I’m in love. I’ve also stolen oranges from ignored hedges. I want that hedge. I’m pouting now.
Does it get really cold where you live? I bet you could get one of those apple trees grafted to bear 4 different types of apples and it would do just fine.
What sort of wild native edible plants can be found near you?