Since this blog is not at all about doom and gloom (more about do+glue, meaning do it and stick with it) I’m not going to quote the plethora of varying statistics about the percentage of greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted by agricultural activities. Suffice it to say that agriculture is a major contributor to climate change and that is good news, since you and I can do something about that.
Even growing a small amount of food in your backyard or on your balcony makes a difference. Think about the trips to the grocery store that aren’t taken, the food miles that don’t happen, the health benefits of using fresh ingredients and the environmental benefits of using seasonal food. Then there’s also the benefits to the pocketbook, to pollinators and to the sense of well-being that can be gained from nurturing seeds and seedlings into mature plants.
Growing your own goes beyond simply planting rows of crops or using the square foot gardening method. We need to think outside the raised bed planter. There are many other ways to build food security into your yard - ones that ensure a yearly harvest with a minimal of time and money inputs each year. Our classic agricultural inspired gardens use annual crops. This means that we are reseeding every year. While there is joy in this way of gardening, there’s also a way of gardening that frees up time and actually provides you with more secure and sustainable food sources.
Our current food system is a somewhat fragile system. Reliance on fields made of a single crop or series of crops means the plants are more vulnerable to outside forces. Traditional and/or perennial food systems contribute to greater food security by working with flora that are native to and/or thrive in this Bioregion. These food systems use a diverse set of crops, provide nectar and forage for native pollinators and birds, allow more food to be grown in a smaller space (through the use of layering) while helping us to gain access to a wider variety of vitamins and minerals.
Think about it, most of us survive on a mere handful of crops. There is a whole world of phytonutrients available in plants that don’t normally make it onto our plates and it’s pretty much an established fact that having a diverse diet is what will help you live in optimal health.
At THRIVE, we mingle food crops with edible ornamentals and other beautiful bits and pieces. So many of our classically ornamental plants are actually culinary or medicinal in nature. A few that come to mind are Violet, Epimedium, Agave, Cimicifuga, Daylily and Rose to name a few. These plants let you merge the classic landscape with landscapes that allow you to bring some 100 mile diet principles into your life. You don’t need to sit and wait 50 days for your radishes to be ready, you can go out and pluck some petals or harvest roots of these plants throughout the year.
But what does this have to do with you, you ask?
This, the second month of the year, is a great month to plant fruit trees and shrubs. February is when the seasons begin to change here in the Pacific Northwest, though our Gregorian calendar tells us that Spring doesn’t begin for another 50 days or so. Days are longer, but there’s still not a lot to do outdoors. Use this time to plant.
Aside from your usual Apple, Pear, Fig, Plum and Cherry trees, try these for a bit of looks combined with a bit of practicality:
Mahonia nervosa aka Dull Oregon Grape (I take exception to this label since there is nothing dull about this plant.)
Vaccinium Ovatum (This is my current plant crush. Its voluptuous habit defies definition.)
If you’re having trouble deciding on what should go where, give me a call!
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I just picked up the 2016/2017 Fall/Winter issue of CONCRETE GARDEN. If I were the envious type, I’d sulk in my livingroom for months, since this glossy semi annual mag is simply fantastic. Definitely worth the read, it is all about food and food security in the Pacific Northwest, written and published by UVIC students. The content is as as timely as it can get, providing information on sustainable and indigenous food systems; not at all a token nod to hip food politics. You get the sense that the magazine could be the next “it” rag in the city and that the contributors actually believe in their work. Have a read. The new issue is due out in the coming weeks...