Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Weather forecast: Good for Peas, Bad for Strawberries

I've been thinking about the productivity of small scale gardens/mini-farms versus large-scale monocrops- organic or not. It seems to me the only way to have massive mono-crop farms is to depend on some kind of intervention, particularly chemical (pesticide more so than fertilizer). It would be easier to use organic fertilizer on a large scale than to go without pesticides of some kind- I think. I've read a lot of articles and books which state that small-scale farms/ gardens are more productive. In the essence of trying to be objective I've kept in mind who is writing these articles, but I have to say from my personal experience as a small gardener I can see how this could be so.

  • Having a mixed crop garden (diversity) distracts pests- food is mixed among other crops they don't eat and there isn't a lot of just one thing to overwhelm the food crop. How nature works in an ecosystem.
  • You can use small-scale interventions, like tulle or agribon, that would be more difficult to use on a larger scale. 
  • Because you have fewer of any one kind of crop it is easier to monitor for pests, production and progression and so:
  • You can plan to replace the dying or lesser producing crops quicker or you can replace them at all- something never done on a large scale farm
  • Because of the diversity, if one food fails, you have back-ups. Ex) one pea type is finishing and another is coming into production
  • Greater control over soil fertility. 
My method of gardening (biointensive) also maximizes yield per space, as opposed to row-cropping. This can be done in organic or non-organic farms, but large-scale row cropping is likely done for farm equipment. 
When we talk about feeding our growing population, we often turn to biotechnology, but we neglect to consider alternative, existing or "old" techniques that require less space, cost and a smaller carbon footprint.

Another failure in our discussions is the focus on production and hardly ever does it cover the nutritional quality of our food, which is a whole other topic. If we are producing more food, but it has less nutrition- then why? 

Bio-intensive Examples:
My peas are finishing up in the same space where the tomatoes are now filling in. As soon as the tomatoes are shading out the peas (very soon now) the peas will be done and will have added nitrogen to the soil to benefit the tomatoes. Carrots are coming up below the broccoli plants. The broc is shading the soil below, keeping it moist for the carrots and when the carrot tops need to take off growing the broc will be finished. Where the carrots germinated poorly or where broccoli was already harvested I stuck in some chili pepper plants. Another row of my peas, planted along the backside of a fence, has a younger crop of pole beans coming up in front of them. The beans will soon shade out the finishing peas. I've planted onions along several rows of other veg as they take up very little space. 

Rainy, cloudy and cool weather is great for peas, but bad for strawberries. This is the second week of 70-80's/very cloudy. I've had a fairly nice crop of berries this year. Both beds were productive. One is 3 or 4 years old and the other is in its second year. I think I will redo both this year. I'd like to raise them up more. The rain/happy mold is making the undersides rot, so I'm losing some berries, but at least it is towards the end of the season and not early on. But on a positive note- the peas are very happy and productive.

 Happy peas.

Not so happy strawberries.
Probably the last picking- yesterday 
and we had lots more rain last night, which will likely
be the end, since mold has already set in.
I put some in the dehydrator.

What are we eating now?
Kales, collards, lettuce (packed in the fridge/it's done in the garden), first black raspberries, 2 kinds of peas, basil, broccoli greens, green onions, arugula, rattail radish, dill, fennel, cilantro, oregano, chives, thyme, mints, sage, savory, marjoram

Almost ready
Scarlet elderberries, white currants, zucchini (there are a couple babies), cucumbers

A wee longer
green tomatoes & small peppers are on the rise

I'm very happy with the garden this year. Things are growing along nicely. Hoping the weather continues to allow things to progress this way. 

Happy June Gardening. 

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