Sunday, April 24, 2011

2011 Backyard Garden Review

A couple years ago, in 2009, in the midst of the world economic crash, we started our raised garden bed. We learned a thing or two in the process, and we are very grateful. One source of personal satisfaction is to operate in the active mode of a producer rather the ordinary consumer of food. A large farm could be nice, but a small urban backyard (like ours) could work for a family too.

Our annual agricultural operating budget (in $) might look like this...

Water = $3 per month (or $36 per year)
Potting and Garden Soil = $20
Seeds and Seedlings = $20
Misc. Supplies and Fertilizers = $20

Our annual costs are roughly around $100. The previous year, we also invested some effort into an automated drip-irrigation system that cost around $200 with an electronic timer, anti-siphon valve, fittings, tubing, and some PVC pipe. It took me some labor and time to get set up, but it enabled us to take a vacation during a summer heat wave.

In return, we've received a lot of good organic food, including some agricultural education, physical exercise, and mental opportunities for peace and meditation. As a child development and education tool, our garden results in Hikaru (now 5 years old) willing to eat many fruits and vegetables, and understanding where our food comes from. So how do we really place a value on this, including our health? Of course, we can't place an economic value on the priceless.

Anyway, the 2011 growing season is finally here, and we're getting ready again. Here's a few updates for this year. As always, we plan to have our cherry tomatoes. I fashioned a modified tomato cage out of some tree branches, so we hope this works out. Last year, our over-productive tomato vines went crazily of control. I've also planted some basil and marigolds as companion plants for the tomato.

Like the previous year, while the weather is cooler, we've planted some leafy greens -- in this case, bok choy and romaine lettuce.

The lettuce and bok choy are grown from seeds. Sometimes they get eaten prematurely by unknown entities (birds, insects, slugs, whatever), but this year we've been quite lucky so far. I try to pick out slugs that I see by hand.

One new garden addition is Japanese cucumber. I've used some green vinyl-coated steel fencing to act as a trellis. In the past, we've grown larger cucumbers, but these are smaller (similar to Persian cucumbers). We'll see how these grow, and we love cucumbers in our salad.

I've also used some long tree branches to create a pyramid trellis for our peas and beans. I zig-zagged some string between the branches. As an experiment, we'll see how this setup works out too. Our peas are currently reaching for the sky. Never realized that they would grow so tall!

For our herbs and perennials, most of them remain healthy and well. The spearmint plant seems to enjoy its place inside the pot. I snip off some leaves for my daily mint tea, and it keeps growing back. Last year, the lower leaves yellowed and dropped off, but maybe it was getting too much sun or not enough water (mint seems to like lots of water).

However, our garlic chives had to be moved to a different location. The garlic chives grew extremely well, but it had a case of black-colored aphids. Few insects seem to touch the chives, but these aphids seem to exclusively like the chives. I may need to play "hide and seek" with the insects.

Our small peach tree is growing well. I performed some major pruning on this tree, and cut back some branches by about a third. My reasoning was that overly long branches could break, and won't be able to support as much weight (fruit) compared to the shorter ones. We may not have many peaches this year, but hopefully better for the overall future.

Finally, have you ever just planted some seeds in the soil, and see how well they'll grow? We received some tangerines and a pomelo during Chinese New Year. We we stuck some of the seeds inside some potting soil, and they've finally appeared as seedlings (after two months)!

Anyway, it's so cliche', but it often takes time for the seeds of a new generation to be realized into a tree. Patience is one important lesson we've learned from our garden -- especially, for a modern lifestyle that moves so quickly.



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