May 22, 2007

On Urban Agriculture and Stretching Dollars

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(Toledo, OH) Over the past few summers I have become more focused on what I call my experiments in urban agriculture, based in part on my love of the outdoors as well as my decision to take the graduate student vow of poverty.

So far I have planted six varieties of peppers, four types of tomatoes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and eggplant. Over the course of the next few days I will be adding the rest of my seeds with the hope that 2007 will be the most bountiful of harvests.

There is an old saw that goes something like this: "For $20 in seeds, I can generate $200 worth of produce with only 500 hours worth of work." While the cynical gardener who first uttered this line was onto something, there is much to be said for the money that can be saved through judicious home gardening.

In the past I have tried to grow almost every vegetable in the spectrum of plants that will survive our temperate Ohio weather, even delving into oddities such as okra and casaba melons. This year, though, I vowed to only plant those crops I have been able to successfully nurture in past years.

So no more attempts to grow my own corn, especially when you can get a basketful of eared corn at Kroger's for just a few dollars. Ditto for the green beans that continue to bear ugly black fungus spots in my yard, and the pumpkins that take up many square yards of real estate for a handful of pathetic-looking fruits.

In addition to the above plants, I will focus on snap peas, dill, cilantro, cucumbers, zucchini, basil, and a few other items that slip my mind. Oh, and sunflowers over every available sunny space in my yard.

7 comments:

microdot said...

I never had too much luck with melons, last year I had a paltry 2 that were edible. But pumpkins and potimarons? Great success. I grow all the potatoes we eat...I still have a few kilos in the basement from last year. I also have corn...sweet corn is not common in France, so I grow it , parboil it and freeze it.
I think for greenbeans, you have to have room and they need air, if they are too cramped, it promotes the malades you spoke of.
I am lucky to have enough room and I have a lot of strawberries which are producing now and many many raspberry plants in a two row hedge around 15 yards long.
After living in apartments all my life, I have an unleashed greenthumb which I cannot restrain!

SensorG said...

Mike,

You can't plant cantaloupe, cucumbers, zucchini and eggplant together.

They will cross pollinate and you'll wind up with some very interesting fruit. If you look on line, a bunch of the university and professional web sites tell you it's not possible. But a bunch of small sites and blogs are filled with examples.

I speak from experience. My cucumbers crossed with my cantaloupe two years in a row and one year I swear my zucchini tasted like egg plant. They were great on the grill with a little olive oil and salt, but not so good in the zucchini bread.

If you decide to proceed, keep us informed if you get anything tasty out of the mix.

historymike said...

SensorG:

Last year I made that mistake with cucumbers and pumpkins, producing what I termed cucumpkins (photo included of the strange hybrid)

historymike said...

Microdot:

I have had decent success with potatoes, and I continue to get new plants each year from some potato eyes I planted in 2003.

We also have strawberries and raspberries that bring us excellent fruit each year, plus a couple of bitter cherry trees.

historymike said...

SensorG:

After looking at my garden again, my eggplants might be a bit too close to the cantaloupes; I'm going to cross my fingers and hope for the best!

Hooda Thunkit said...

Our 40' x 40' garden keeps us busy.

We're down to only 2 tomato plants, cauliflower, beets, zucchini and 3-4 dozen cabbage plants and some cukes/pickles, but the corn and the melons are a waste of time in the clay soil and with the marauding bands of raccoons.

Some time I must tell you about my Amaranth experiment. . . ;-)

Maggie Thurber said...

If you like brocolli, we've always had much success with it...goes well next to the yellow squash...of course, from the posting I did about my duck nest, I'll be envious of anyone with a garden this year...