The first thing that struck me was here was someone who had just lost their source of income, but they had also gained something they may not have had before and that is time. Now she could prepare more time-consuming but less expensive, more nutritious food for her family. Yet she had chosen to purchase food that required minimal preparation time, was costly and for the most part lower in nutrition.
The second thing that struck me was that this woman now could have the time to devote to gardening for food to feed her family. I don’t know if she had a yard with room for a garden, had access to a community garden plot or had a friend or relative with room for a garden but if she did, then gardening for food was right for her. She could feed her family fresh veggies and also preserve some of the bounty of the garden for later consumption. Eating more nutritious food at a lower cost is a win/win situation. This is especially true as the bounty of summer gardens begins to fill our tables.
I’ve been gardening for food for many years, not because I can’t afford to buy processed foods but because I want the freshest, most nutritious organic and non-genetically engineered food possible. I want to know where my food comes from, how it was grown and I want it year round. I started with several 4 ’x 8’ raised beds and every year I added one or two more until I now have 32 raised beds. No one needs 32 raised beds for a family of two, so much of what I grow is given away and I take great pleasure in being able to do this.
Gardening for Food includes home-grown veggies such as tomatoes, summer squash and eggplant that you plant in the spring to eat in the summer plus winter-planted veggies such as garlic, onions and potatoes that can be stored and enjoyed months after harvest. The garlic we grow usually lasts for almost a year. Onions will last for months and we never have to buy potatoes between June and December.
Another spring or early summer veggie I love are shell beans as they last forever, and when you grow your own and get used to eating beans that are less than a year old you realize how much more flavorful they are at a young age. A few years ago we started growing Floriani Red Flint Corn, which is widely planted in Italy for grinding and making polenta. You’ve never had polenta as rich and flavorful as that made with your own Floriani Red Flint Corn.
Last but not least are the veggies that are planted in late summer to early fall. These include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, kohlrabi, chard and lettuces. It’s very rewarding to watch them grow and be available to you.
Gardening for food also includes preserving some of the harvest through canning, freezing or drying so that you can enjoy the production of your garden months later. In our house, there is no such thing as too many tomatoes. Some of what isn’t eaten fresh is skinned and seeded, becoming first tomato sauce and then catsup, chili sauce, BBQ sauce, marinara sauce or reduced until it becomes tomato paste. Other tomatoes are canned whole or chopped up and canned as salsa. Chile peppers are roasted and then frozen for use later in many southwestern dishes. We dry chiles, tomatoes and herbs for use as seasonings year round.
It’s been over five years since I saw this story on the news, but I haven’t been able to get the woman out of my mind. My hope is that one person will read this article and start gardening for food and then tell another person until we have everyone eating less expensive and more nutritious food day in and day out.
Vegetable Workshop: Napa County Master Gardeners will lead a workshop on “Cool Season Veggies” on Sunday, August 18, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Yountville Community Center, 6516 Washington Street, Yountville. Learn how to grow your own vegetables even when days are short and nights are cold. The key is starting while weather and soil are still warm. Learn which vegetables will thrive in cooler temperatures, how to protect them from heat when they are getting started, and how to time plantings for months of harvest. Cost is $15 per person ($10 for Yountville residents). Class size is limited and pre-registration is required. Register through Town of Yountville, Parks and Recreation: Mail in or Walk in registration (cash or check only). For additional information, call (707) 944-8712 or visit their web site.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. Napa County Master Gardeners ( http://ucanr.org/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions?
Open Garden Days: Napa County Master Gardeners welcome the public to their demonstration garden at Connolly Ranch on the first Thursday of every month, from April through October, from 10:30 a.m. to noon. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions. Connolly Ranch is at 3141 Browns Valley Road in Napa.
- Posted by: Yvonne Rasmussen
- Author: Susanne von Rosenberg
November 09, 2012 • By SUSANNE von ROSENBERG UC Master Gardener Napa County
Do you love onions and garlic? They’re easier to grow than you might think, and now is the time to plant them.
Onions and garlic are in the allium family, along with leeks and shallots. You can plant onions from now until January for harvest from May through July, depending on the variety.
Onions can be planted as seedlings from six-packs, transplants (available at local nurseries now or soon), or sets (baby onions). Sets are not recommended for California because the varieties are typically not adapted to our area, and they will bolt rather than form bulbs. Planting at the wrong time will have the same result.
Sweet onions are ideal for eating raw. American onions are better for cooking and will keep longer. Yellow onions typically store better than white strains of the same type, and red onions fall somewhere in the middle.
Leeks are also easily planted as seedlings. You can start onions and leeks from seed as well; consult Napa County Master Gardeners for information on the best time to start seeds, as timing depends on the variety.
Onions need a minimum number of daylight hours to start to form bulbs. Intermediate-day onions and certain strains of long-day onions do best in our area; local nurseries will carry appropriate varieties.
Onion and leek seedlings and transplants are hardy. You may not believe that these tiny plants will survive transplanting, but as long as you provide well-amended soil and adequate water, they will thrive. Keep them well watered and weeded initially, then maintain a regular watering schedule through the spring.
Onions do not need a lot of fertilizer. Feed lightly before planting and again in early spring. When the leaves become less firm, the bulb is mature, and you can taper off the water. The bulb is fully mature when the leaves fall over. (They will still be green.) The first time I saw these prostrate leaves, I thought some animal had trampled my onions.
Plant onions four inches apart; they need room to form bulbs. Alternatively, you can plant your seedlings or transplants closer together and thin them for use as green onions or spring (immature) onions. They are edible at all stages of growth.
Plant garlic now through February. Garlic is planted in the form of cloves. Be sure to buy certified disease-free seed stock from a nursery, catalog or certified grower to avoid spreading disease in your garden. Consider trying an unfamiliar variety. At the Heirloom Festival in Santa Rosa in September, one grower had more than 100 varieties of garlic on display. Soft-neck varieties keep better than hard-neck types, but hard neck varieties.are easier to peel. Grow soft-neck varieties if you want to braid your garlic.
Plant individual unpeeled garlic cloves, pointed end up, about one inch deep and four inches apart. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Like onions, garlic plants are light feeders. In May or June the leaves will begin to turn yellow, even with adequate watering. Taper off the watering, and when the leaves are at least 60 percent brown, the garlic will be ready to harvest.
Plant the smallest cloves from your seed garlic closer together and harvest the leaves for green garlic. These leaves have a mild garlic flavor and will be ready long before your garlic bulbs have matured.
Garlic and onions must be dried if you plan to store them. Lift them from the ground with a garden fork. Wait until onions are completely dry in the ground before lifting them, then put them in a warm, dry place away from direct sun for a week or two. Garlic will take two to three weeks to dry enough to store. After your onions and garlic are sufficiently dry, bush off the dirt, trim the roots to one inch, and either braid the tops or cut off the tops about two inches above the bulb.
Napa County Master Gardeners (cenapa.ucdavis.edu) answer gardening questions Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Ave., Suite 4, Napa, 253-4221.