The year in review - Part II

Anita Kundu is talking about growing Something else from Auckland

Garden ready!

In my previous post, I described how self-sufficiency was my focus for 2018 and outlined some of my successes.  As you might recall in an earlier blog post, there have been many crop failures, too.  Most of my beetroot and radish failed to bulb and the garlic developed rust.  The greenhouse, while a warm environment for seedlings offering protection from the cold, also became a breeding ground for pests and disease as temperatures increased in spring.  After some bad experiences, we decided to stop hosting wwoofers.  Some of our neighbours are very nosy, which really annoys me.  Some people ask too many personal questions and need to learn to mind their own business.  What concerns me most is some of the sacrifices I have had to make in order to increase productivity in the garden.  There is always a price to pay for achieving what you want in life.  I have had to become a bit ruthless, but I’m pleased that the expansion of our veggie garden hasn’t come at the expense of reducing the amount of ornamentals we have.  In fact, in winter, I added 13 standard roses to the garden, mainly David Austin varieties.   Difficult decisions I have made along the way include:

  •          Farming the soil very intensively. This is necessary in order to achieve year round self-sufficiency.  I struggle with this as I believe a cover crop would be very beneficial in terms of replenishing the soil.  This would also provide me with a much-needed rest over winter!
  •          Not rotating crops.  You may recall me mentioning that I have been following potatoes with more potatoes, due to limited areas of the garden where they can be grown.  I’m just asking for diseases in the garden!
  •          Harvesting veggies before they reach maturity.  I started bandicooting our Liseta spuds a week before the period recommended by Morton Smith-Dawe, justified on the principle that a smaller crop from the garden was better than purchasing potatoes from the supermarket.  I also had to harvest our mixed row of Swift and Rocket potatoes a week early so I could plant the next lot of seed potatoes before the rainfall now, which is required for them to germinate and grow.  If I left it until later, it would get too hot and dry for them to surface
  •          Using black plastic.  This year, I have used black plastic underneath my pumpkins, squash and melons to keep the soil warm.  However, it does inhibit air flow and soil activity, including earth worms, which is a shame
  •          Increased use of non-organic substances in order to improve yields and protect plants from pests and disease.  One example is using potato dust on stored potatoes to extend their shelf life (which didn’t work that well anyway). Another is the use of Yates Success spray on my seedlings in the greenhouse which were being nibbled by pests (I just felt awful using it after I read the warning about bees on the back)

Should self-sufficiency be my goal at any cost, even if it compromises many of my personal gardening principles?  One of the problems I have with my current operation is that it’s a bit like running a business and only caring about the turnover.  It’s not just quantity that matters.  The quality of the end-product and processes used to procure it are important, too.  For me, there has to be integrity in what I’m doing, whether it’s being a lawyer, selling plants in a boutique nursery run from home or trying to put food on the table.  In trying to be self-reliant for veggies, I feel that I’ve had to compromise too many personal values. Furthermore, the current model isn’t really sustainable long term.   As I have mentioned in a previous post, managing such a large garden on my own demands a great deal of time, effort and expense. In earlier posts, I’ve also opened up about how exhausting running this self-sufficiency operation is and the toll it has taken on my physical health, including the onset of RSI.   But it has been an interesting and worthwhile project.  I certainly don’t regret stepping up to the challenge and I have learnt a great deal in the process.  I’m pleased with the progress I have made around the garden this year but there is room for improvement. I may well down-size in future to make the garden more manageable, especially if my health deteriorates. If we can no longer be self-sufficient, what is an acceptable alternative for us?  What has become clear to both of us is how much we value and enjoy eating fresh produce from the garden.  Indeed, there is no point of having an edible garden if you don’t eat what you grow.  We certainly don’t want to decrease our intake of veggies or this might compromise our health.  We both have good control over diabetes and don’t want this to change.  We could perhaps try to supplement veggies grown in a smaller garden with locally grown produce from a farmer’s market like Simone does.   This is one idea.  I’m sure there are others.  I need to give this some more thought.

I’ll continue this thread tomorrow with an outline of my goals for next year. Today’s photo is of the Swift and Rocket potatoes that I harvested over the weekend.