Eating local food has never been as important for me as trying to grow as much of my food as possible. My first spring in our house I dug up the front yard, put garden boxes on a rock covered area that I guess was meant to be more driveway, and dug up a square of the backyard. I probably would have dug up the whole backyard if it got more sun, but sadly the backyard is shaded most of the day.
Growing a lot of my food is and has been my goal, but it’s a goal that is far off. I only have about a tenth of an acre lot, so space is an issue. The other problem I have is that I tend to lose interest midsummer. It doesn’t help that I go away for two 2 week vacations to visit my family and the beach.
Another problem I’ve been dealing with are cats. My neighbors feed these “wild” cats who breed with reckless abandon. They poop in my freshly dug soil and walk all over everything, so any seed I put in the ground never comes up. They don’t mess with my plants, fortunately. They leave that for the groundhogs and deer.
The deer like to eat the fresh shoots on my blueberry bushes and cherry tree. I put in four blueberry bushes the first summer I was here between the road and the sidewalk in front of my house, and they’ve been getting smaller rather than larger. I keep them covered with netting all the time now, which seems to be working. I also netted the cherry tree I planted this year, but that didn’t deter the japanese beetles who decimated it.
All in all, though I think the garden is coming all nicely. I got more out of it than last year, so we’re making progress. I harvested about 10 pounds of potatoes, a bunch of cherry tomatoes, a steady stream of cherokee purples (my favorite big tomato), and some lettuce in the spring, a few sugar snap peas….The peppers did very well this year. I got a few red ones, and a lot of green ones, enough to freeze a big bag full.
My swiss chard was the darling of the garden this year. Last year it was the collard greens. I’ve been cutting it since spring for salads mostly, but now I’ve been cooking it too. I found that if I just barely steam it, it’s quite good. If it cooks more than enough to wilt it, I don’t like it. I’m going to try to substitute it for spinach in my lasagna recipe this week and see how it does there.
One of my goals with this local food year is to make my garden more like a job, and less of a hobby. Right now my garden is a hobby, a serious hobby, mind you, but a hobby nonetheless. I want to take it to the next level this year and really take care of my plants after I plop them into the ground.
What are your gardening secrets? How do you combat the animals and slugs that want to eat everything? How much do you get out of it? What does the best for you?