Friday, March 27, 2009

Orchard Update

I am frankly amazed and gratified at how well my first year trees are doing! All of them, in fact, survived, and all of them have now sent out shoots and flowers.

Pomegranate, one of the last to shoot:

Plum, the very last to green up and flower:

Cute little peach:

Nectarine, such pretty flowers:

Aprium, oddball apricot/plum mix, on a peach rootstock:

Apple tree, coming nicely:

Almond, an incredible tree:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Light, Medium, and Heavy Feeders

Light Feeders (minimal fertilizer required)
Alfalfa, Beans, Clover, Carrot, Garlic, Leek, Mustard Greens, Onion, Peas, Peanut, Soybeans, Sweet Potato

Heavy Feeders (fertilize soil well before planting)
Amaranth, Asparagus, Beet, Cauliflower, Celery, Lettuce, Okra, Parsley, Pepper, Potato, Radish, Spinach, Strawberry, Sunflower, Wheat

Super Heavy Feeders (fertilize at least 2x)
Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Cabbage, Cantaloupe, Corn, Eggplant, Pumpkin, Tomato, Watermelon, Squash

Expected Yields per crop

Vegetables - Average Crop Expected Per 100 Feet

Bean Crops
Beans, Snap Pole 150 lb.
Beans, Snap Bush 120 lb.
Beans, Lima Pole 50 lb. shelled
Peas, Southern 40 lb.
Beans, Lima Bush 25 lb. shelled
Peas, English 20 lb.
Soybeans 20 lb.

Vine Crops
Watermelon 40 fruits
Squash, Summer 150 lb
Cucumbers 120 lb.
Eggplant 100 lb.
Muskmelon 100 fruits
Pumpkins 100 lb..
Squash, Winter 100 lb.

Veggie Crops
Corn, Sweet 120 cobs
Broccoli 100 lb.
Cauliflower 100 lb.
Okra 100 lb.
Tomatoes 100 lb.
Brussels Sprouts 75 lb.
Peppers 60 lb.
Celery 180 stalks

Leaf Crops
Cabbage 150 lb.
Lettuce, Head 100 heads
Cabbage, Chinese 80 heads
Lettuce, Leaf 50 lb.
Spinach 40 - 50 lb

Root Crops
Beets 150 lb.
Carrots 100 lb
Onions (plants/sets) 100 lb.
Onions (seed) 100 lb.
Potatoes, Irish 100 lb.
Potatoes, Sweet 100 lb.
Radishes 100 bunches.
Garlic 40 lb.
Turnip 50 - 100 lb.

Friday, March 20, 2009

No one Should Go Hungry - Community Gardens

In 1947, two years after world war II ended there were 20 million small gardens in the United States. They provided 40% of the produce in the American Diet. The gardens started during the depression. During the war, they were called “Victory Gardens.” Even the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, had a garden.
I grew up in a garden; we grew tomatoes and zucchini. By age seven, I knew how to remove the suckers from the tomato vines, how to pull weeds and how to pinch off the multiple yellow blossoms. Blossoms had to be 4 inches from each other to get the largest fruits.
The people in Kirkwood, Missouri liked large tomatoes and zucchinis. When the depression started in 1929, the city fathers’ got together and declared that “No one in Kirkwood would go hungry.” They organized the town and, “though,” as my grandfather said, “the whole damn town of 18, 000 didn’t have $500 between them,” no one went hungry.
Next door to me was the lettuce lady. In her flowerpots, she grew all the lettuces, spinach, chards and greens. She used flowerpots to keep the snails and caterpillars off her plants. When we wanted to make sandwiches or a salad, my mother would send me off with a scissors to Mrs. Ball’s house and I would carefully snip off the outer leaves and bring them home to wash and put on the sandwich or in the salad. The shortest food chain in the world. I never saw lettuce in a ball ‘till I was a teenager and a supermarket came to town. What’s more, Mrs. Ball just loved my tomatoes and zucchini. I was so proud when I took them to her. They were my greatest accomplishments in my young life. Across the street was the onion lady. She grew every onion, chive, shallot and garlic known to mankind at the time. She sprouted them in her basement and people picked them up for their own gardens in the spring. Grandpa Van raised chickens and rabbits and had fruit trees - apples, apricots and a cherry tree that was in the back of the chicken yard. Every time a cherry fell off the tree, the chickens would race over to eat it. Gustof Franks had the two cows and we traded him eggs for milk and butter.
No one threw anything away. Table scraps and other uneaten food would go in the “slop” bucket. Neighbors came by and threw them to the chickens while they picked up a few eggs. The tops of carrots and lettuce scraps and greens went to the rabbits.
There was a trading system. A basket of apples could be traded for a skinned rabbit or a basket of grapes or apricots. An apple pie could be traded for milk or eggs. Another man grew corn. He had about 10 rows and he cracked some for my grandfather to feed to the chickens. He also gave it to the women who headed the canning committee. For his fresh corn, he could get canned peaches, applesauce, canned corn, potatoes or apricot syrup. Oh yes, we had potato people. They had raised beds and raised potatoes better than any I’ve ever tasted in my life. And there were peas, beans, and herbs. Everyone grew something, raised something and traded something. My other grandfather, although a natural stone quarryman, also kept beehives. A pint of honey went a long way in trade, as did a full honeycomb. Once every two months our butcher would take some meat or fish: pig, calf, chickens or rabbits into Saint Louis and trade for salt, flour, coffee, paraffin and soap.
And then there was hunting. The men went hunting on Saturday and whatever they shot, quail, rabbits, possum or deer, was eaten on Sunday. There was also the Merrimac and Mississippi river to fish in. Catfish, Sunfish, and Perch. They could be traded for canned fruits, vegetables, eggs, you name it.
I don’t think I ate an orange till I was almost twelve, after the war, and I marveled at this miraculous fruit, and then I was even more astounded with bananas. I was so used to this culture that after the war when I heard that the Greeks and the Russians and the Chinese were starving, I wondered, innocently why they didn’t plant gardens. Even today, when I hear that one in 8 children goes to school hungry, when I hear pleas for food donations for the poor, I wonder why we don’t have community gardens. Instead of talking on phones or watching TV or playing video games, couldn’t the children use their energy to weed the garden and harvest the food?
So, plant a garden and tell your neighbor to plant a garden and share. Mobile Home Parks and Apartment Complexes could create community gardens. Why waste the gas to have your tomatoes shipped in from California or Mexico when they can be grown just as easily in your backyard and taste much better picked off the vine.
They say dark days lie ahead for the economy. But, whatever happens, we don’t have to go hungry. We can feed ourselves. Come on my Beloved Country, let’s get organized. Let’s start digging. Let’s do something economically beneficial, wonderful, brilliant and powerful. Let’s all plant gardens.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Urban Sharecropping

Many people now foresee the need to acquire personal food security, but do not have an adequate space to garden. Other people are interested in the economic advantages of being a food producer in the upcoming times of food shortages, but again, are stuck in the city with no real land to begin growing on.

Sharecropping is a potential solution to the problem of lack of personal wealth, capital, or land. In short, you don't have to own your own farm, or even your own equipment, to become a farmer. Sharecropping means that you rent someone else's land to produce the food on. The rent can be a cash payment, or, more traditionally, cutting the land owner in on a share of the profit when the harvest is sold. Or you can simply offer them a certain amount of the food harvested.

Usually, the percent you pay to the landowner depends of how much you bring to the table versus how much they are supplying, in terms of equipment and supplies. Sharecropping as a widespread economic feature of American pretty much died off in the first half of the 20th century, so there is no comparative market today. In short, you will just have to negotiate with whoever you can, and come to any agreement that seems reasonable.

For example, in the ritzy part of your town, there are well-off people living on large plots of land, who are growing nothing but grass. You could approach them and ask if you could grow food on their property. They might be willing to do so, merely for the promise of the fresh organic vegetables you will grow. If they are enthusiastic about it, they might even cover the cost of a tiller, or let you use their tools, or cover the cost of your seeds or fertilizer, or whatever. You can easily imagine how this would work, and the possible benefits for all parties. Good luck, and let me know what systems you work out.

In short, just because you are young and poor does not mean you cannot join in the urban food revolution. Becoming a sharecropper could also be a wise choice if your are otherwise unemployed. Instead of sitting around all day doing nothing, get out and get some economically productive work done. It will also get you out in the community, meeting people, and establishing networks of support, which might prove vital in tough times, or an emergency.

Monday, March 2, 2009

AZ Agriculture Day

The 27th annual Arizona Agricultural Day is being held this Saturday (March 7), out at the Superstition Springs mall, in east Mesa.

Looks cool, I will definitely be there. Check it out:

Spring Sprouts



Beets about 1 inch high: