In The Gardens…

This year I’ve made a real attempt to reduce the number of vegetables we grow. Why? We have always grown enough vegetables not only for ourselves, which includes winter storage, but plenty extra to pass along to non-gardeners. Our household is smaller now and once the summer residents here have gone, our food needs are really reduced. We’ll still grow plenty to cover all the bases in the household, even if we end up with winter guests, and we’ll still have baskets of extra to share with neighbors. The freezers and the pantry will be full, no worries! Scaling down from an ‘overabundance’ is what we’re striving for. However, reducing doesn’t happen in one season. It’s a process. We’re not very good at it. Growing enough food to feed a small army has become second nature to us, a habit hard to adjust. Planting a green manure on a lot more ground than usual is going to be our method for ‘project scale down’. We have always used a green manure crop ( a green manure is a specific crop grown to improve soil conditions) on areas of the gardens. It is not uncommon for us to leave certain beds empty and grow a green manure to help restore productivity. This year, in our attempt to put our food production into perspective , we’ll place almost an entire garden in a green manure crop. We’ll plant the other two as usual…and we’ll still have plenty of veg for our year’s supply of food. Green manures add organic material to your soil and will also help with the fixation of nitrogen. The crop will be tilled in while still green and succulent introducing bacteria into the soil. The bacteria is capable of fixing free nitrogen from the soil and eventually transferring this nitrogen to the plants you are intending to grow. So, we’ll still actually be growing something in that big garden space….but the crop for this year won’t be one we harvest and eat. We’re giving the soil a year’s sabbatical you might say, along with a replenishing of nutrients. A green manure mix usually includes a grain and a legume. Our first green manure crop will include hairy vetch, oats, and field peas. Later we’ll follow up with a clover, rye, and a legume mix. We’ll just be growing soil in some places, and this helps with my feeble attempts at scaling down the vegetable production! I think I’ll amend the tee shirt that advises people to ‘Eat More Kale’ with the addition of ‘Grow More Soil’!

8 comments on “In The Gardens…

  1. The idea of a green manure is so interesting. We don’t grow food but I can relate because I know how hard it is to simply scale back the amount of food prepared for a smaller household. My husband does most of the cooking and he cooks as if we will have 10 people at every meal!

    • I can relate, Kerry. I love to cook and it seems that I have been preparing food for a full house or disaster….no point in going hungry! I think once the gardens are turned here in the spring I see the blank canvas of soil . My instinct is to put seeds in every square inch to grow something….at least the green manure is technically growing a plant, a good weening of tactic!

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