Friday, April 3, 2009

Lawn as a garden

All my patients and friends remember me for saying: “if you want to be healthy, you should eat 4 cups of raw vegetables per day, 2 cups of cooked vegetables per day and 2 cups of fruit per day.” But how can we do that when the economy is down and prices and unemployment are up, and many are cutting their food budgets?

Here are two thoughts:

1) Follow the First Family and use your lawn as a garden.

2) Look for a public garden in your neighborhood.

For the past three years I have had a garden. It is not in my back yard; it is one block away from my house in a public garden. The term “Public garden” does not mean that all neighbors regardless of their participation can harvest (although they sometimes do), it means that I have my own small plot in a large parcel of land where I can plant and harvest. The size of my plot is about 7 feet by 7 feet.

Here what I’ve learned from my 3 years of gardening:

This plot size can provide me with all vegetables I want during the summer!

Start early, at the end of March. I do not wait till May 15 or the weather is warm; I sow seeds of arugula, onion, mustard, kale and chard. I do not put them into the frozen ground, but I start soon after the ground is defrosted. Seedlings of those vegetables can withstand the cool temperatures of April; as a result I’ll have my first fresh salad in mid- May. The chard will be good all the way through the summer to the end of October.

In mid-April I buy 6 seedlings of green and red salad, 4 tomato plants, one cucumber and one zucchini plant. Check the weather for frost in your area. You may need sometimes to cover those seedlings overnight. Use old pots or old plastic shower curtain with sticks.

In early May I soak several different kinds of beans for 48 hours. Once they sprout they go into the ground. They will grow up tall and require long sticks. Also you will need long poles for the cucumber plant and to support your tomatoes. I like everything that grows up tall, because these plants do not require a lot of space.

At the end of August re-seed arugula, kale and mustard. They can be harvested till first frost. Last year I was able to eat from my garden from mid-May till the end of October.


S Sweeney said...

Great topic and and you look wonderful in your garden!

For the beginner and the high-rise dwellers (like me), try a few herbs and veggies in pots. Every plant we raise ourselves helps!

Spring and fall, when it's not too warm, I grow salad greens, radishes, and cilantro from seed in pots on my balcony. I also pot up a $1 bunch of scallions from the grocery and have scallion greens until frost in the fall.

I have a little bonsai chili pepper tree that lives on the balcony summers, and on a warm, sunny windowsill in winter. I dry and grind the chilis. You can do this with bay and rosemary if you have a cool (55-65F) sunny space indoors in the winter.

If you're blessed with full sun (ie. 10AM to 4PM) you can grow just about any known herb or vegetable outdoors in a pot. Wind vines such as zucchini and cucumbers up a pole to save space. Remember to water; for annuals, start with fresh commercially-sterilized soil every spring.

For part shade, I have a wonderful spearmint with a hint of chocolate that a friend gave me years ago. All summer, I have fresh mint for tea, seasoning and garnishes. I periodically cut the plant back and dry the cuttings for winter tea.


Aurea said...

I just started weeding and clearing an area to make my own garden, too. The green revolution is on!