Vegetable Gardens – 2nd Place (tie)
Garden description: The main garden is a 600 sq ft rectangular fenced area. The “fence” is wire poultry netting that is attached to a post and beam skeleton of burned timbers. The wire fence is buried 8” below ground. This has kept rabbits out of the garden which had been an issue in years past. We burned the timbers to help preserve the wood but mainly for aesthetic reasons. The west side of the garden is the composting area. This open air, four-bin system is not only convenient (toss garden waste over the shoulder) but offers other benefits. Intentionally situated on the west side, it provides protection from the western winds. As the garden/yard/ food waste moves through the four-bin system, it breaks down into compost and becomes a passive source of fertilizer, leaching into the garden. The northern section is a post and beam structure taller than the other three sides. This allows for trellising crops to not cast shade on other parts of the garden. While the fenced area is where there is a concentration of annual food crops, the entire property is designed to grow food. Peach, fig, aronia, raspberries, blueberries, asparagus, strawberries, hardy kiwi, squash, herbs, mushrooms, etc. are all grown outside the garden. We call it Half Acre Garden because that is the approximate size of our property, and because it connotes that one doesn’t need a lot of land to grow a lot of different types of food.
Who are the gardeners: We are a suburban family that enjoys growing nutritious and flavorful seasonal food. We (John and Shannon) are the main caretakers. John specializes in the pre-production of the food – the growing… and Shannon specializes in the post-production — the harvesting, preparing, cooking, and preserving. Our children specialize in mainly eating the food.
Why do you garden: We have always valued physical fitness and overall health. We realize that the food system is inadequate in this country and feel compelled to have a bit more control over our access to nutritious, flavorful and affordable food. We also feel like it makes us better human beings. To observe the needs of something, to help meet those needs and then to watch it become fully what it is designed to be… is beautiful. We find joy in knowing that we have helped nurture nature. Admittedly, it isn’t completely altruistic as we do get to enjoy the beauty and bounty of it. We want to inspire people to nurture their land — to feed the soil. We become better stewards of our community when we become intentional with our actions and the impact it has on our land. We are literally putting down roots which seem to be (increasingly) lacking in our fast-paced and transient society.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: It has only confirmed our belief that there is value in producing some of one’s food and nurturing one’s land – becoming more resilient to systemic environmental and societal “shocks”. During this time we feel hope is vitally important. There is hope in a tomato flower … and hope is one of the best things to grow.
What do you have in your garden? In our main garden, we have tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, peas, beans, corn, lettuces, Swiss chard, broccoli, and a variety of companion herbs and flowers.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? We focus on making the land a healthy ecosystem, giving our attention to the basics – water, food, shelter and introducing an adequate amount of biodiversity. It seems when those needs are met, disease and pests are minimal – the system balances itself. Admittedly, accepting a certain level of imperfection helps. We’re always learning and currently trying a more passive approach. We have a lot of wood chips on our property, using them as walking paths and in landscape beds. The paths are inoculated with Stropharia Rugosoannulata fungi – also known as wine cap or garden giant mushrooms. This mycelium helps the wood decompose and provides food for different insects and microbes. The mycelium helps to bind the material together and act like a sponge, holding water and then slowly releasing it when needed. It creates an underground network that help plants meet their food, water and shelter needs. Worms especially love it. Over a few years the chips break down into nutrient-rich soil. A side benefit is that the wine cap mushrooms are delicious! We also have plenty of birds and bees because we’ve provided areas of shelter, water and food for them. In turn, they help pollinate plants, aid in pest management and in general, are just pleasant to have around.