2010: The Year of the Productive Vegetable Garden

The word on the street is that the popularity of vegetable gardening is at an all time high in the United States.  As a serious vegetable gardener for the last 9 years, this is exciting news!  Apart from my work with Community GroundWorks running our 1/4 acre teen farm and installing and maintaining other peoples' gardens through Madison FarmWorks, I have an extensive home vegetable garden.  I grow food for many reasons - the pleasure of it, the asethetic beauty it brings to my life and to my yard, the connection to nature and my food source, the opportunity to be outside and use my body... yes, for all of these reasons and a few more.  One of the things I always stress about my garden is that it is a production garden.  I work my garden hard and I expect to harvest a lot out of it.  Over the last 5 years I have narrowed down what are the most important things for me to grow in my garden to help me reach my gardening goals.  Yes, I have gardening goals - I guess I have gone over the edge!  I want to put away as much food as possible each season so that I can eat locally all year round.  In Madison that is an easy goal to achieve from June - November.  The rest of the year we are lucky enough to have a Winter Farmers Market, but the fresh food being sold there definitely declines after the holiday season in December. 

So, I plant 500 onions, 38 tomato plants, 30 pepper plants, 200 garlic, and a few other things that help me fill my larder.  The tomatoes go in to 35+ quarts of salsa, 15 or so quarts of sauce, and as much roasted tomato soup that I can stand to make in the heat of the summer.  The peppers get cut up and frozen in bags in our chest freezer.  The garlic gets cured and stored in the basement.  The onions (we discovered this year that 500 is a bit too much) get put into canned salsa in the summer and then are eaten throughout the rest of the season.  I still have a handful in my basement as we speak!  My goal is to have my produce last until I am havesting it again the next season.  I want to use the last bag of frozen peppers the week before I harvest my first pepper out of my garden.  Each year, I get closer and closer...

Of course I could not eat locally all year round without the help of my local farmers.  My garden is not big enough to supply all of my needs for the year and I simply don't have the time and energy to grow it all.  I am strategic with what I plant and buy the rest from the farmers market and our farm here at Troy Gardens.  I like to freeze some bags of corn to use all winter in beans and rice.  I don't have enough room for corn in my garden and it's hard to grow, so I always go back to the bee lady on the Square each year to buy her organic corn.  Winter squash takes up too much room and doesn't yield much, so I stock up in the fall and store it in my basement to use bit by bit until March when it tends to go bad.  You get the picture...

This style of gardening might seem a bit extreme to some, but for me, gardening is a lot of work, much loved work, but work all the same.  Turning my vegetable garden into a productive source of food has been a fun and very fruitful experiment, and now that I am hooked, it's hard to turn back!  Each year we seem to add another bed to our garden, another crop to the rotation, and a few more bags to the freezer.  Our vegetables might not be fresh in the middle of January, but they are definitely local!

at 5:29pm by