Thursday, January 27, 2011

Garden Inspiration

A couple of nights ago, I was lucky to catch Joan Gussow being interviewed by Novella Carpenter. I was already a fan of Novella's after having read her awesome book Farm City, and now I'm a fan of Joan's too. I bought her latest book Growing, Older, and haven't been able to put it down.

Both women are pioneers in their own ways, and both women know a thing or two about food, farming, and writing. It was truly a pleasure to hear their insights, and my only complaint was that it was too short! I could have listened to them for hours!

After spending a short while listening to these two witty, engaging and inspiring farmers talk about growing food, I came away more determined than ever to really learn to become a better gardener.

In our old place, we had the garden placed in an area where it received abundant sunlight, and although we had our share of challenges, I was constantly amazed that it seemed like all you had to do was plant the stuff, water it, pull weeds occasionally, and then reap the gorgeous fruits of your labors! We were fortunate to grow some incredible tomatoes, peppers and squash.

In the new place, the garden lives in an area that only gets sun later in the day, and definitely not for eight hours per day. We started with cool weather crops - lots of lettuce, and also chard, kale, broccoli, beets & cabbage. I'm thrilled to say that we harvested all the broccoli recently (see a few pics on my last posting) and although the crop wasn't prolific, it was tender and vibrant green and absolutely delicious! There has also been a ton of kale which has also turned out wonderfully, and I've been enjoying that, along with some chard which turned out only partially well, in my salads almost every day.

We were also very lucky that the yard came with a meyer lemon tree which, despite the need for serious pruning, still turned out bucket loads of top-notch fruit! In addition to giving bucket loads away, I made a pretty large batch of preserved lemons recently. I had to stop while eating my lunch today to appreciate that the great majority of food in my bowl came from our yard - kale, chard, broccoli, and preserved lemons, hurray!

As for the beets, they didn't fare so well because I forgot to thin them, and the jury is still out on the cabbage but it does seem to be growing. The lettuce did just fine but didn't quite thrill me the way the kale & broccoli did. Some of the lettuces and chard and beet greens developed some kind of brown rot and I never quite figured out what it was or what caused it.

The point I'm getting to here, is that there is still so much to learn! I feel like an absolute beginner, and I also feel that if I'm able to get this many good results when I barely know what I'm doing, I can hardly wait to see the kind of results I'll get once I apply myself a little more proactively!

But where to learn? I'd bought the book How to Grow More Vegetables but it seemed far to complex for an absolute beginner like me. Today I was poking around on the old interweb and I stumbled upon the Alameda County Master Gardeners site, which is a great resource for someone growing right here in Alameda County. Just perusing their site and clicking on their links, I've already learned a lot, and I am more excited than ever!

If anyone out there reading this has a good book to recommend for beginners, I'd love to hear about it.

In other news, can you believe I've nearly made it 21 days without coffee, sugar, alcohol, dairy, eggs, corn, gluten or soy! And would you believe that I've eaten better than ever during this time? It's true! I'm sure I will enjoy adding some of the things back into my diet that have been left out these last weeks, but I'm also really excited to continue many of the healthy habits that I've learned. The whole goal was to get to feeling good, and it feels good to be able say that I'm feeling good! Here's hoping this finds you feeling good too!

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