Tuesday, June 17, 2014

All Will be Well in the Garden: Summer 2014 Edition

These are my notes from my ongoing container garden experiment for the summer of 2014.

The goals of the experiment has been to understand a bit more about what it takes to grow your own food and to perhaps improve the quality of my life (or food) just a little bit by having higher quality ingredients around (e.g. fresh string beans, herbs, peas, etc).

The result has been mostly positive and enlightening if uneven. To recap: there is a constant war between the garden and pests, the startup and operating costs are rather high unless you can exploit economies of scale, and finally, gardening is fun but farming is work. I would hate to have to make a living this way.

I could not feed myself at this scale of effort. I can at times have a better fresh salad, or tastier food, with the garden and that is entertaining. I can see where strategies of having citizens owning “victory gardens”, e.g. USSR in WW2, would have been value added.

This is the 5th or so planting and there are two plantings per year. I have focused this summer on my past successes: beans, peas, cucumbers and the ongoing herbs and peppers. The basil was renewed. There has been a constant war with the aphids. No tomatoes this time. Experimenting with arrugula and green onions.

Because the container garden here is somewhat mature, the startup costs are pretty much over. Now what is involved are expendables (making my own potting mix, fungicides, insecticides, seeds) and an occasional refresh of the infrastructure.

Recent observations:

1. Aphids are astounding in their geometric increase. Similar to the breeding rate of Tribbles and for the same reason: they are all females and born pregnant. The current methodology is water spray to knock them down and professional (not homemade) “organic” insecticidal soap bought in quantify (brand Safer) and sprayed with higher quality sprayers. Consistently observed: if three days go by without an aphid inspection, they will have multiplied insanely in that time and become a major problem. The little ants that service the aphids are an excellent clue to the presence of the aphid menace.

2. The higher quality sprayers (at roughly $15-$20 per sprayer) seem to do a much better job than the cheap $5 versions.

3. The $25 water control hose head timer has caused a huge improvement in the garden. The system is set to water twice a day outside of the time of bright sunlight for 4 minutes a pop.

4. I destroyed one of my industrial strength hoses by walking on it to and from the kitchen. Now I have raised the replacement hose above the floor and along the cabinetry so it will not be stepped on.

5. I briefly experimented with Dacomil, a non-organic fungicide and pesticide, but did not see any particular good results so I have stopped using it.   I am continuing with the organic insecticidal soap, copper (bordeaux solution) spray, and Neem oil, all bought in quantity.

To repeat myself: gardening is fun but farming is work. I could not feed myself at this scale but would have to expand many times and I only have to feed one person. I would hate to have to make a living this way.

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