Sunday, April 1, 2018

Different Growing Philosophies

"A" wrote to ask what my gardening philosophy is. 

Huh? I guess it's any method that successfully grows safe food for hubby and me. Nowadays it seems that people get into a particular philosophy or method and stick within its boundaries.....regardless. They get into organics and refuse to use one drop of forbidden pesticide to nip a problem in the bud. The adopt biodynamics and refuse to budge from its mandates. The grow just heirlooms and bemoan the fact that their garden isn't giving them what they want. They use an "all natural" approach and complain about the chaos and lack of production. I'm hearing about all sorts of gardening philosophies and some emailers appear to be pressuring me to adopt theirs. No, I'm too old to fall victim to peer pressure. It's not that I'm an old dog that can't learn new tricks, it's that I've observed the foibles in blindly adhering to any one philosophy.  My own farming approach is diversification. I grow a bit of everything that I can. It keeps farming interesting and gives lots of opportunities to experiment. Thus this farm hosts a wide assortment of annual crops, perennials, food trees, and livestock. 

I hear from lots of other growers and discovered that there is no one farming philosophy that should be, or is being followed. There's quite a variety of principles that guide one's own food production approach. Some people are strict followers of one philosophy while others have hybrid approaches. 

When there is limited space, resources, or time, people seem to focus on one method rather than diversifing like I do. Here's some of the approaches I've learned about......

1- high calorie per effort or square foot approach. The focus is to produce things that are calorie dense -- Egg/meat production. Core crops like potatoes, sweet potatoes. These gardeners don't bother with things like lettuce and herbs. 

2-  everything edible approach. Focusing one low wastage crops so that you get to eat as much of what you produce as possible. These growers plant crops like lettuce, beets, cabbage, onions, etc.  Chickens and rabbits compliment this approach. But crops like pumpkins and corn have too much wastage for these growers. 

3- hard to buy approach. Depending upon one's area, the focus might be upon select herbs, yacon, colorful non-commercial veggies varieties (potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beets, etc). Amaranth and edible flowers would fall into this category. If it's hard to buy in the local store, then this gardener grows those things and plans on buying basic veggies, eggs, and meats commonly available. 

4- costly to buy in the stores. Select herbs, leeks, daikon, brussels sprouts, asparagus, etc. they will grow the things that they find difficult to locate in stores. 

5- delicate or unique crops. Edible flowers. In my area, this group would include white pineapples. Raspberries and blackberries are too delicate to show up in some stores. 

6- easy to grow, no hassle crops. I find that for me this group would include beans, potatoes, peas, assorted greens. Also bananas, pineapples, and most other tropical fruits. Each region would have a different list of foods that are simple to produce. These gardeners like having easy success. 

7- space misers. Patio containers and hanging baskets types. Lots of veggies are suited for small spaces, including certain varieties of tomatoes, peas, beans, beets, etc. Some gardeners strictly grow container happy veggies. 

8- like to eat. Lots of variablities in this group, all depending upon the preference of the grower. It makes sense to grow what you actually like to eat. But I like eating prime rib and carrot cake. I haven't been successfully finding seed for those. Dang.

9- storage foods. Some folks who I've chatted with place a lot of emphasis upon choosing foods that they will store through the winter. So they focus on growing  beans & peas for drying, cabbages for kraut and drying. Corn and tomatoes for drying and canning. Potatoes. Pumpkins. Plus easy to preserve meats and eggs. 

10- perennials. I've met folks who prefer to set up their land with just perennials. They buy the rest of their food conventionally. This limits the amount of time and effort needed to produce foods at home. Good approach for working families. 

11- growing for the pollinators. Some gardeners aren't focusing upon food production. They are passionate about growing to support the area's wildlife. A totally different approach than what I'm used to, although back in NJ I used to plant flowers specifically for the hummingbirds. I do now grow various flowers for the bees, but it's not my main focus. 

12- self sustaining approach. Several small gardeners that I've met grow primarily what they can propagate or save seed from. That way they garden without needing to buy seed, seedlings, or cuttings. They save their own seeds, maintain stock plants for cuttings, save potatoes to replant, etc. 

13- grow things that will work around the gardener's absense. Some gardeners I know are not around their gardens for a month during the summer (or don't want to out there working during the summer heat). So what they grow revolves around that month of neglect. Spring crops fit this method well. And certain fall crops work, too. Fruiting trees and long season crops do ok with this method. 

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