Monday, December 15, 2008

Victory Gardens and Micro Farming

During World War I, the late stages of The Great Depression and World War II, the small family plots containing fresh vegetables, herbs, and other foodstuffs were called "Victory Gardens"

The Victory Garden on a slightly larger scale (2 -5 acres) is called a Micro Farm.

Victory Gardens and Micro Farming are an excellent way to offset high food prices, and insulate oneself and one's family against possible shortages as the economy continues to contract. There are also health benefits to be realized. One knows exactly how the produce was raised, and what (if any) chemicals were used on it. The food is straight from your garden to your table which means it is fresher and has a higher nutrient content.

If one has purchased heirloom seeds, the garden is self regenerating, as some seed from the current crop is set aside for the next cycle. Heirloom seeds are open pollinated, non-hybrid seeds that reproduce true from cycle to cycle.

Currently it is the middle of December here in California, but I have 72 Green Bell Pepper Plants along with about 16 Capsicum Pepper plants started. There are also a couple of Portuguese Hot Peppers, a couple of Jalapenos, and a couple of Italian Sweet Peppers. There's also a few "mystery" plants.

The "mystery" plants are from a bag of seed I found in my seed stash that either I forgot to label, or the label fell off somewhere. As they have continued to grow, I'm thinking that they may be a Honeydew Melon.

All of these are growing, in of all places, the master bedroom of my home. The master bedroom has three large south facing windows that provide an ample amount of light, even if the days are short.

The bedroom garden started as an experiment to see how early I could start a crop of plants and maintain them indoors, and how well they would perform. My wife and I planted the seeds back at the end of October just as the last of the harvests for this area were being brought in.

I am not providing the plants with anything other than natural light, organic fertilizer, and water. They are not in a greenhouse, and do not have heated beds. Yes, there are heated beds for starting plants. They're basically a heating pad placed below the flats. There are some excellent suggestions here for starting plants with exterior heat sources other than expensive commercial flat heaters.

I'm not using the winter sowing method, as many peppers require warm, dry environments.

So far, the plants seem to be strong and healthy, but are growing slowly. This is to be expected as the temperature in the room doesn't exceed 68 degrees F. There's only about 6 hours of good, fairly strong daylight at this time of year. Sunrise 0717 Sunset 1651 today.

Many herbs lend themselves to use as landscaping. I have an abundance of Rosemary that has taken over an entire plot and must be thinned regularly. One of the nicest sites that I have found with good photos is Malaysia Gardening and Landscaping Blog. The photos illustrate that the landscaping around your home can look magnificent and be edible too. Gardens Ablaze has some recommendations on which herb to use where for effective landscaping. If you decide to use herbs in your landscaping, this book is recommended. Landscaping with Herbs, James Adams. Google allows you to view selected pages here.

There's a blog called Tiny Farm Blog that chronicles the daily life of a two acre micro farm. I also enjoy visiting the website of The Laughing Dog Farm which was started by a former teacher.

To get an idea of how productive a Victory Garden, or Micro farm can be, check out this site. It is the site of an urban micro farm located in Pasadena, California. Look to the left side of the page down to Urban Homestead Facts. Impressive, isn't it? 6,000 pounds of food annually. They even produce their own bio fuel off of less than 1/5 of an acre along with everything else!

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