Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Subsistence Garden

     I'm going to venture out of the kitchen (sort of) today to talk about subsistence gardening. What is subsistence gardening? Well, Merriam-Webster defines "subsistence farming" as: "farming or a system of farming that provides all or almost all the goods required by the farm family usually without any significant surplus for sale." So a subsistence garden is the same thing, on a much smaller scale. Basically, we have a garden that will produce crops for our own consumption. In the event of surplus, we can trade it, sell it, or just give it away.

It's very similar to this, but less intensely aggravating to your friends.

     Why do it? Produce is expensive. Plus, there's something really satisfying about growing a garden from scratch and reaping it's benefits. There's a really nice feeling you get when you decide you want a salad, and simply go out to the garden and get it. Maybe it's psychological, but produce you grow yourself seems to taste better. Granted, that might be due to the lack of horrifying pesticides or other sundry chemicals. 

     Each year, our garden gets a bit larger. This is nice because it means less lawn to mow. It also meant that we had about 50 assorted pepper plants, 50 assorted tomato plants, 8 zucchini, 8 squash, 16 eggplant, 6 green bean, 6 cucumber, some kohlrabi, cabbage, lettuces, chives, and green onions. Next year we'll expand a little more and maybe put in some corn. As the economy gets worse and worse, it is just more economical to grow it ourselves. 

     However, subsistence gardening can be labor intensive. Prepping the garden and getting the seedlings ready for planting is a lot of work. Keeping weeds out of the garden is a constant fight (made much easier by the wife putting down black landscape sheeting first). A few select bugs can decimate zucchini and squash. Rabbits love the garden, which is why we always plant a section of sacrificial cabbage and lettuce.  Then there's the work of harvesting and processing. You can't always eat EVERYTHING you harvest immediately. 

Which leads to this.
     I'm not going to go into the specifics of gardening. There are plenty of resources out there in print and on the internet that you can find and use. I will just break things down into a few pros and cons:

  • Fresh produce
  • Satisfaction of raising aforementioned produce
  • Less lawn to mow
  • Toads! I'm pretty sure they're good luck
  • Somewhere to put all your garden gnomes
  • Loads of stuff to jam into cans and sock away for the Barackalypse or Romneygeddon
  • Potentially backbreaking labor
  • Bugs could eat everything
  • Animals could eat everything
  • Neighbors could eat everything
  • Might not rain
  • Stuff might die for no good reason

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