Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Our Personal Food Security

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Personal food security can come in many shapes. It may be a pantry of stored goods if you don't have land, or it may be a relationship with a farmer in the form of a CSA or local farmers market. Because we do have land, our personal form of food security takes shape in our livestock and our gardens. For this post though, I'm just going to talk about our vegetable gardening and specifically what season extension means to us.

We have several lines of defense that we employ in our garden, mainly an unheated greenhouse and variety selection for cold hardiness. Although our last three springs have been very cool and wet, that is still really the norm for our rain forest area. Our ground is rarely dry enough to work until late April at best, and sometimes into May. Our maritime climate is mild, but damp and cool, making it hard to even bring some common warm weather crops to ripeness in a normal summer. That's just the way it is. Instead of bemoaning the fact about the weather or wet soil conditions it's much more uplifting to just adapt and get on with gardening.

No, a greenhouse and row covers are not natural, but they are really a pretty passive way to make an end run around weather and pest conditions, and they allow me to stay home and grow food for most of the year, instead of driving 15 miles to the nearest store to buy "fresh" from California food. Or even sillier in my case, driving 25 miles to buy fresh from Oregon vegetables that have traveled 85 miles and been grown in the pretty much the same conditions that I can duplicate right here with a hoophouse and some row cover. I prefer to stay home and grow my food.

Hakurei turnips under row cover.

Inexpensive row cover can help you avoid using pesticides and really make a difference on the success of many crops. If you're careful, the row cover can be re-used many times.

Five Color Silverbeet.

Our experiment last winter was to take the cover off the greenhouse to avoid any snow events, and to expose the soil to the vagaries of the winter weather. To that end we planted cold hardy (in our area) crops that we hoped would take us through the winter and into spring. The stalwarts turned out to be Swiss Chard, various Kales, and Bok Choy. When it was time to plant for spring though, we had to make the decision of what to keep on and what to kill out. We harvested 10 pounds of kale greens and fed the rest of the kale to the laying hens, and decided to dig up the chard plants and replant them after working the soil, we did that with our strawberry bed as well. The chard plants have been providing us with some greens while we wait for our new plantings to grow to harvest stage.

Red Long of Tropea onion.

When I look at our greenhouse, I see a garden, not long rows of any one thing, but a climate I can manage while I wait for our outside gardens to be ready for planting. One half is devoted to beds of many different things, and the other half is reserved for our warm weather crops that will be planted when the weather moderates a little.

Tristar everbearing strawberries.

Mustard bed.

Soon our greens will be ready to harvest and will make a welcome addition to the nettles and dandelions we have been able to gather.

That's just a peek into our part of our food security, what type of methods to you use to bring food to your pantry and table?


risa bear said...

At our location some 100 miles south of you, we grow kale, chard, cabbages, collards, and bok choi right through the winter and lift potatoes, sunchokes, beets and leeks as needed. In the small greenhouse there are onions, more kale and spinach and such, and late tomatoes. Like you, we can a lot but emphasize solar dehydration in homemade fanless dryers, and air-dry lots and lots of apple slices in the greenhouse on suspended screens. Side foliage of greens is regularly harvested and dehydrated, then crumbled up with dried herbs and used as our principal seasoning on and in everything. We forage many quarts of blackberries, which we freeze, along with crock-potted ducks and chickens who have passed their prime, and trout from the nearby reservoir.

Hayden said...

I'm a long way from providing most of my own food yet, but I do have the protein "sort of" covered through guineas, chickens and eggs. Only "sort of" because I'm still ordering in chicks. Am trying to get a garden in, and do have my tunnel house now (but still not up). I figure my main focus for the next year or two will be on winter harvest, simply because that's the most difficult time to find good food here. This year if I cover my protein, storage veggies (winter squash, potatoes and other roots) and winter harvests from the tunnel house, I'll be pleased with my progress.

Joyfulhomemaker said...

we have a vegetable garden, a greenhouse,sheep and chickens

Joe said...

I planted 48 feet of Swiss chard last spring, for the two of us. Found out, that's enough chard to feed a marching band or one House of the State Legislature. By August, our food security was assured: we were so sick of chard that we didn't care if we never ate food again!

becky3086 said...

We are not doing great in the vegetable department but I actually feel like this year we have made some improvements with the raised beds. The vegetables would never last us all year however. We do have chickens, ducks, quail, a pheasant and pigs so we are covered decently as far as protein. We have a decent storage room with lots of stored vegetables and other staples like flour, sugar, vinegar, pasta, lemon juice, baking powder, baking soda,water etc.
I'm always learning though so next year there will be more.
By the way, I would love to have a greenhouse like that but it really wouldn't be necessary here and I would have the room.

Texan said...

We grow in the summer under shade cloths to help us grow in a hot climate. I have my shade covers on my frames already here in Texas where I live. They extend my gardening season and improve what we get. Otherwise we loose so much to a burned up crop. We only have a couple months out of the year that we can see a freeze or frost. Use to that was not often, however the last few winters have been totally unpredictable.

This winter I plan to cover one of our metal frames with greenhouse plastic and make it a hot house. I want to try growing right through the winter, Lettuces, Kale, chard. etc. It will be interesting to see how that goes!

Pam R said...

I've used row covers for pest control for over a decade. In 2009 I heard about Nutrient Density:

I attended a seminar this spring with John Kempf of the last link. His info indicated that if the soil nutrient levels were optimized, you would no longer have pest or disease problems.

So I've been working since 2009 to reach this level. It's not a quick fix, but will reap lots of dividends in the end, the least of which is better health for me from nutrient dense vegetables.

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

Pam R, the only pest we really have trouble with is root maggots, & our veggies are usually high brix, but I think some pests are to be expected anyway. It's never an all or none proposition. But we never have to use row cover for stuff like cabbage moth or flea beetles because the brix is high. I haven't checked out the link yet, but does he explain that high brix (sweet) plants are avoided by pests because they don't have a pancreas and can't digest the sugar? So it stands to reason that low nutrient density - low brix plants are attractive to insects.

The Mom said...

I've had a garden for years with chickens as well. I can, dehydrate and root cellar as much as possible. This year we've added hoop houses to the mix to add more variety to what we get.

Head Farm Steward said...

Our greenhouse is an ongoing experiment for us. I'm late getting our pullets moved out to pasture and the rabbit hutches moved outside but soon we'll have it empty again and will be ready to plant. The hope is to plant melons in the greenhouse early then a row or two of brassicas for long winter growth.

I have been reluctant in putting in too much garden outside as we are not frost-free for a few more weeks. The unusually warm weather makes me feel like I'm late to the party but really, I'm not doing too bad.

Pam R said...

Yes, that the upper levels of plant health can even kill the pests, if they eat the plant. That the leaf cells become impervious to fungal penetration. High Brix is part of it, but tissue testing hones the nutrient density, in the plant, and gets it to the higher levels.

It was really fascinating, because he had the science behind it.

Hayden said...

I, too, am pushing for high brix and high calcium - my understanding is that if the brix is out of balance with the calcium/minerals, you drive out the bugs but invite in the fungal disease, because the plant cells are lush but weak.

Just received 3 truck loads of wood chips at various levels of decomposition. Abt. half pine/evergreen - that's segregated to the back, where I want to plant a double row of evergreens as a wind break. The rest for the orchard/berry bushes. Am really pushing to feed the mycorrhizal critters here to pull my soil into balance for tree/bush crops.

Have 25 bare root aronias shipping on Monday - looking forward to the juice to mix w/ my apple juice.

Anonymous said...

I'm from Texa
s, too. please tell me what u use to cover garden and where to get it. I suffer from same heat here in Dallas area. Help!