Arduous gardening

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Ludi, May 2, 2012.

  1. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    What hope can we give people who are trying to grow their own food but find it arduous or don't have enough hours in the day? Are there examples of people growing their own diet without slaving in the garden all day?
     
  2. wmthake

    wmthake Junior Member

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  3. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Is there anyone here using that method and/or can link to photos and more details? Thanks!
     
  4. wmthake

    wmthake Junior Member

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  5. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I was really hoping someone in the permaculture community could offer some hope by example. :(
     
  6. adiantum

    adiantum Junior Member

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    During some of my years in Georgia I probably attained about 75% self-sufficiency in food, while otherwise spending time running a homestead in other ways--cutting firewood, maintaining infrastructure, and conducting a social life. Some of these years there were interns or various forms of community around me, but quite a bit of the time not so. What I did was:
    1. Find those things (by research and trial) which grow easily and effortlessly for you. For me it was sweet potatoes, greens, peas (southern, not "english" peas), dry corn, winter squash, tomatoes and a few other things, plus, usually, chickens for eggs and sometimes goats.
    2. Base your diet around those things. This is usually more challenging. Having lived in a Third World country with a basic diet, I learned by example that it is quite possible to contentedly eat the same monotonous few things meal after meal, and in fact a large portion of humanity does just that. Little bits of variety added to the staples, as well as the use of spices, helps; but I got to the point of actually enjoying sweet potatoes at every meal. I didn't have to think about what to eat or spend a lot of time preparing it...freeing time in both the growing and the preparing for other things.

    Growing a diverse diet will take more time and effort, especially at the early stages of a system before any perennials or fruit/nuts come online and you're still learning what works and what won't. As your system matures these longer-term crops will provide more variety, as well as your own knowledge about what might be available around you free, cheap, wildcrafted, etc. One year I canned some 50 pints of meat from a fresh roadkill deer....One of the benefits of not having every hour allocated to relentless toil is that you can observe more and be available to jump on windfall opportunities like this when they come.

    Ruth Stout's method involves a huge amounts of imported mulch....fine if that source is on-site or nearby and cheap/free. Providing enough mulch is often a primary limiting factor in organic growing of any sort....
     
  7. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I think I have either a black thumb or am in an area where such things do not grow. So far I have not found anything which will grow effortlessly, except asparagus, which is only seasonal and can't form the basis of a diet. I have little hope I can ever grow much of my own food, but will keep trying.....
     
  8. adiantum

    adiantum Junior Member

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    Sounds like from your other posts about the shallow soil that you might have some serious site issues needing time and effort to improve. You might do well to start with some large containers or some small edged raised beds where you can start with wholly improved soil, so as to remove that variable from your trials, and then you should be able to grow some things that other gardeners in your climate zone grow. "Start at the back door and work out" Mollison says.
    Thinking on a larger scale, self-sufficiency on a homestead scale might not be the primary aim of permaculture, as compared to local and regional self-reliance. Sites differ in their potential to grow food. There is plenty of land out there just plain unsuited for it...too steep, too wet or dry, too toxified, etc. Different sites grow different things well, and based on this a local economy can develop. Maybe you and your site aren't supposed to grow all your own food. Is there something that your site can grow, or that you can make or do, that you can trade with other LOCAL sources for food? (This is a very different thing than simply getting a job and participating fully in the global economy. The big difference being the opportunity to meet the people involved face to face and get to know them....)
     
  9. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Yes, I'm starting to have modest success by preparing a sheltered garden out the back door. I'm excavating down about 18 inches and replacing the rocks with buried wood beds.

    As far as I can tell few people around here grow food. Ranching is the primary food-growing activity in my county but many ranchers are going out of business because of the extreme drought. Annual field crops are oats and sorghum, but they don't do well in drought either.

    I feel like there must be ways people can grow food here. I like to believe permaculture can give hope to people who do not have green thumbs or who do not live in ideal climates. But there seem to be few examples of people actually growing food in difficult conditions.
     
  10. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Ludi, Have you done a PDC? Would you consider doing one? or would you consider getting a permaculture designer in to help you?

    Water is a much more difficult thing to overcome than soil quality (look at rain forests for example). I think you really have to be harvesting as much water as you possibly can and then growing according to how much you can harvest. There are quite a variety of techniques. There are a couple of books all about water harvesting that would give you some great ideas, available from the PRI website, or if your lucky like me from your regional library system.

    In your case I feel that you really need to do a lot of planning when it comes to water on your property. I reckon you will need to be accounting for each drop and possibly using it several times before it 'leaves' your system. If indeed it needs to leave your system at all.
     
  11. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I have rainwater harvesting books. It's a matter of money and energy to implement the practices. I have neither in sufficient quantity.
     
  12. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I eat out of the garden at most meals. I could do so exclusively, but I do like meat and having arrowroot, sweet potato and cassava at every meal would soon get boring! So I buy from the farmers market as well. I certainly don't have the time to spend all day in the garden.

    Perennials are the way to go from personal experience. As much as I like broccoli (Sad but true!) it's a lot of hard work. Growing aibika is much easier than spinach or lettuce as you don't have to replant it every few weeks!
     
  13. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    It's harder to find appropriate perennials in this climate.....I sometimes fear permaculture is mostly for people in the Pacific Northwest or similar climates, or for people in the subtropics or tropics...... :(
     
  14. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Permaculture is for everyone. 'Self-sufficiency' on specific pieces of land isn't. Permaculture is much more than just growing all your own food. I believe in some cases it calls for not growing all your own requirements.

    Have you done an 'audit' of your property? To see what might be possible; to assess what is not possible?

    Can you do some of the water harvesting on a micro scale? I too have very little money and thus I use a shovel to do things I might otherwise get a machine to do. Or I get chickens to do the work. Could you use pigs?

    This stuff to me is exactly what permaculture is about - finding small, laical solutions to local problems.

    Keep working at it and it will eventually come together.

    That has been my experience
     
  15. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    Thank you for the encouragement. Sometimes it's easy to get discouraged. Conditions here have changed so dramatically in the past couple of years with our terrible drought. Much of the work I did over the past decade was to no avail, everything died, even fruit trees I thought were established. So I'm having to start over. We're trying to implement water harvesting on a small scale, but it is discouragingly slow. There isn't much of a food-growing culture in the local area, most people seem to buy their food at the store. We do have some neighbors who have started a small garden.
     
  16. adiantum

    adiantum Junior Member

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    Maybe if the climate is chronically drying, it's time to think how to work with that. What grows relatively near to you but where it's usually drier (i.e. further west)? Could you introduce some of that stuff? Prickly pears and mesquite seeds are edible, I know. There's also a whole Southwestern suite of vegetable varieties that have been bred over many generations by native people for drought tolerance....things like the tepary bean and Hopi blue corn. I think I read that tepary beans can produce a crop with only two irrigations!
     
  17. pebble

    pebble Junior Member

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    Location:
    inland Otago, NZ
    Climate:
    Inland maritime/hot/dry/frosty
    Hi Ludi :)

    I feel you are asking a number of different questions in this thread. Where I live, lots of people grow lots of their food. At the moment that is mostly vegetables and fruit, with some people also doing milk/cheese and a bit of meat. In the future this will increase. NZ has always had a high proportion of the population as gardeners, and some of that was lost in the last generation. Now there is a resurgence. I know people in their 20s and 30s who didn't grow up learning how to garden like I did, and are very keen to learn. They're pioneering in a way, having to relearn things that they should have been taught as children.

    If you want to know about about where you live, I would be seeking out the older people in your area who grew up in a time when it was normal for everyone to have a vege garden in the back yard. Those people can tell you what it's been possible to grow in your climate (and they may have memory of drought too).

    But I think there is something else here -

    Permaculture is quite bad as setting a standard of everyone has to grow their own food. I don't. I don't even have a garden right now. So what I do is network with people who do have gardens and I buy as much as my food from them as possible (I also do lots of observation and interacting with living systems, and lots of experimenting). Not everyone has to produce all their own food and permaculture should really stop pushing that myth.

    Tell me, why do you garden? Do you enjoy it? Do you have concerns about future food security?

    The other thing is that in the days when everyone had a vege garden, not many people were doing it on their own, certainly not in the conditions you are. Permaculture goes along way to increasing efficiency but it's not a magic bullet. My parents had a big garden on a 1/4 acre, but they had 3 of my grandparents and my aunts and uncles living close by who all helped with things like childcare. I think there are ridiculously high expectations around gardening now, never mind trying to do it in a dry climate in the middle of a severe drought.

    I have a physical disability which means I will never be able to garden in the ways that permaculture promotes. So I've had to adapt and I've had to learn how to get help. Issues around money and energy are part of the design process. I love what someone said earlier about starting at the back door and working out.

    How is your design process responding to that? Or are your expectations too big for your resources?
     
  18. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I've not had much success with Tepary beans but will try again. I have a lot of Prickly Pear but we do not eat it. Our mesquite tree is several years old but does not bear pods. I had pretty good success with Oodham 60 day corn but it takes a lot of room. One of the big challenges is learning how to eat the things that will (or sometimes) grow here. This Fall I plan to try eating Winecup tubers. There are some other native prairie tubers that might grow here.
     
  19. adiantum

    adiantum Junior Member

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    You can do water catchment dirt cheap! I impounded thousands of gallons in GA with quick carpet-sandwich cisterns being fed from scrounged gutters on cabins and tarp pavilions.
    1. Get a big roll of plastic, as wide as is commonly available (usually 20 feet)
    2. Scrounge some old carpets. In a pinch, any kind of fabric will do. I've used old disintegrating tarps, burlap bags, sheets, old frost-protection cloth, etc. The idea is to keep the sun off the plastic, inside and out.
    3. Drive a circle of metal stakes or pipes in the ground, such that the diameter of the circle plus the height of the stakes more or less matches the width of your plastic....say five feet high on either side and ten feet across for a 20 foot wide plastic.
    4. Make a circle of wire fencing inside the stakes, backed up to them. Anything stout will do. I like farm fence better than chain link, but use whatever you can get. One time, not having any fencing around, I made a basketweave of saplings!
    5. Lay pieces of carpet or whatever inside of this, tying them off to the top of the edge of the fence, overlapping. Leave the lower parts loose, so the pressure of the water against the plastic can shift them against the fencing and not break anything....
    6. Put a big piece of plastic inside this. Poke it all around so it's tucked into the bottom corner. Tie it off to the top edge too. I like to do this by tying twine around rocks, nuts, or some such "pouched" into the edge of the plastic. This is much stronger than puncturing it. (In fact, in the case of a tarp, it's often stronger than a grommet)
    7. Lay another layer of plastic if you have any fear of pinholes.
    8. Follow with another layer of overlapping sun-protection whatever. If this floats, put in rocks, etc. to hold it down.
    9. Wait for rain.
    10. Set up a siphon to get water out. This is much safer than punching a hole in the liner and trying to seal around it and have a drainpipe.
    11. Remember the higher your catchment is, the more pressure you will have in your water line. Six feet will run soaker or drip hose. Thirty feet (i.e. catchment up a hill and garden lower down) will run a small sprinkler.

    The next step up from this is to find some of those 250-300 gallon square caged plastic tanks, used to transport various liquids. These can be had pretty cheaply, often depending on how messy they are. We once found some for $20, but they had carpet glue in them. I cleaned out what I could and then filled them and let them "bioremediate" for a year or two: fill most of the way, introduce water plants, eventually small fish. When I saw frogs raise several generations of offspring in them successfully I deemed them ready for irrigation use, amphibians being sensitive to chemicals. Cleaner tanks go for anything up to over $100, but they are "instant catchment". They are easy to get up onto some kind of stand, too, so as to pressurize the water.
     
  20. Ludi

    Ludi Junior Member

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    I enjoy gardening more than doing most things, but I am not good at it. I personally have concerns about future food security. I am trying to improve my diet presently to avoid factory food. This thread was originally started because I was distressed by comments from someone on another forum who lives in a good growing climate (Pennsylvania) but who finds gardening arduous. It made me sad and I want to try to help him somehow, but I fear he is not open to trying different ways of gardening which might be less hard. I'm intermittently despondent about my own abilities to grow food not being a "green thumb" and living in a difficult climate. I get discouraged reading about people in good growing climates who still can't grow their own food, and think "what possibility do I have?"

    My current garden is very small about 1000 square feet out the back door. It is a relatively new garden so the soil is not great. I'm using buried wood beds and lots of mulch. The soil is clay underlain with limestone rock. I think we may have had all the rain we can expect this season. Last year I think we got about 13 " of rain all year. I've been irrigating daily.
     

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