Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Food, Learning How Much to Grow

Today I am venting about my ongoing difficulties with growing appropriate amounts of fruits, vegetables and nuts.  When I bought my property it already had a little orchard which I maintain by pruning. I don't spray, so my apples are less than perfect but very abundant; the cherry trees are either dead or the fruit is eaten by the birds; but the pears are usually unblemished and abundant. I get far more apples and pears than I could ever eat or preserve. I don't enjoy spending a lot of time preserving fruit, and no one else in my family is even as interested as I am, so in the fall the ground is covered with apples and pears.

As can be seen in the accompanying photograph I grew winter squash last year and two seed packets produced a wagon load. I have probably eaten ten or fifteen, but I harvested hundreds that are probably destined for the compost pile. Summer squash, green beans, and carrots are the same story. I keep up with asparagus for about three weeks before I have to give up and let it grow. I used perhaps a tenth of the hazelnuts I harvested. I hate the waste, but I just love growing things.

I have had some success with proportioning things. I seem to have just the right amount of blueberries, raspberries, concord grapes, and tomatoes. I dry the tomatoes, I begrudgingly share the blueberries with the birds who leave me enough for my cereal in the morning and the raspberries and grapes are like candy for me to pick four or five times a week for a few weeks. The potatoes store for a long time, so I get good use out of them as well. I have tried to grow produce such as lettuce with members of the household in mind, but their wants never seem to synchronize with harvest time, so I have largely given up on that.

I need to learn how to avoid over planting and how to select vegetables that are going to be broadly desirable. I don't have to put much work into my orchard, so as much as I hate to see the fruit not used I guess it really doesn't hurt anything. My fruiting shrubs (and vines) are doing well, but I continue to experiment with additional fruits that will complement what I already have. For example, I have seedless grapes, sweet-fruited blue honeysuckles, and ground-cover raspberries growing but not yet fruiting. Just for my amusement I also have paw paws, and persimons. One cooking experiment with each was enough to decide not to bother harvesting them any more.

The gardening lifestyle I am creating for myself calls for a wide range of appropriate quantities of food to enjoy in a relaxed manner throughout the growing season. I am still learning.