Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ruthlessly Efficient, Self-Sufficient Gardening

It's February 1st - the touch point that lands half way between the first day of winter and the first day of spring, between the winter solstice and the spring equinox.  It is the day when I ponder the gardens to come and decide what, if anything, my commitment will be for this year's gardens.

For my first commitment: I have decided to devote this season to seeing just how much food I can grow in the smallest, most efficient spaces.  I can't sprawl over five acres any more, I just don't have the time, the energy or the heat tolerance.  Food gardens have been moving into the house gardens, this year my goal is to maintain all of them there, veggies mingling with the ornamentals.  I'll be growing ONLY those varieties that I dearly love and that are only at their best when I stroll outside and harvest them right before eating. Larger, quantity harvests are going to come from the dedicated work of our neighboring farms, helping support those small farm families through  Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads.

My second commitment, made in mind of the No Impact Project , is that I won't be buying gardening materials such as pots, seed starting trays, plant labels, etc.  I've been stockpiling yogurt containers, cottage cheese containers (sorry, Colin, still buying those supermarket container plastics) and will be subbing those in.  Photos to follow as greenhouse gets set up.  I figure better than simply recycling quantities of plastics is to continue reusing them as long as feasible - and not buying other forms of plastic instead - before sending to recycle.

I'm still working on getting enough compost/soil made up to satisfy all the greenhouse/raised bed needs but may fall short of my goal.  And it's going to be tough to sterilize my soil enough for seeds.  I need a "barn microwave" - there are objections from the other half of my household if I'm microwaving dirt in the house. Wonder why???


  1. I'm with ya on the No Impact reduce the use of 'What the heck am I now supposed to do with all these plastic trays and pots? when I buy seedlings/plants at the corner spot.
    So for many years, and this one too, I begin to stock pile the deep plastic containers that winter fruits come in. With their depth and hinged lids they're perfect for starting seeds.

    I like your idea of moving everything closer to the back door...I'm lucky that way...one acre rather than five.

  2. I know. I make a point of letting garden centers, even the big box boys, know how pleased I am when they have recyclable or compostable containers (Bonnie Plants does at HD). Meanwhile, I guess we all just save and reuse, save and reuse. You could return them to the seller but they will just throw them out.

  3. I like the idea of microwaving or oven roasting my soil. I read a recommendatingon to add boiling water to soil to sterilize it. I spent a lot of time squeezing water out of muck and have a big muddy spot in one bed. Thanks for a better idea.

  4. Here's an interesting link with info on various sterilizing methods: http://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4dmg/Soil/sterile.htm but notice that they are talking about a 650 watt microwave (only half the strenth of mine). You don't want the soil to get overly hot - only about 200 degrees. Mine's good in about 90 seconds. Keep the microwavable bag OPEN until after you are done heating! Try a little bit first.....


The sharing of ideas, experience and helpful information between one gardener and another has always been the very best of gardening traditions.