Friday, February 29, 2008

Gardening as a way to save the world?

I made a total hash of the garden last year, I really did not try, but that was because I knew I was moving. This year I want to get a good garden underway for veggies and fruit.

I figure I will have about 300 to 400 sq feet to work with. What can I do with this space? A fair bit.

I would like to get some lettuce and spinach into the ground soon. I am trying to sprout some lettuce plants indoors at the moment. I figure I direct seed the spinach in a few weeks. If I can stay on top of it, we should have fresh greens from mid April through to November of this year.

I also want to get in a large number of strawberry plants and some rhubarb. Blackberries I can pick wild enough spots and I should have another large crop of figs - the tree is still huge after I pruned back a lot of it.

I figure I will go back to the square foot garden method I have used in the past. This means making the beds into 4x4 boxes with about 18 inches between them. This is a very effective way to use a small amount of space. Each box is fully accessible for all sides and the shape allows very dense plantings. The space needed to get around is much more limited than what you need with rows.

So what is the point of all this? I simply go back to the observation that most people living in the city have the space to grow some of their own food needs. The space needed is not that much and in return you produce some of your food.

Between everything I am proposing, I suspect I will produce 500 pounds of food. This means that 500 pounds of food will not be needed commercially. What is the impact of this? Commercially there is a higher use of chemicals and a lower production per unit of land - on a mass scale you simply can not pay as much attention to plants as you would in your own garden. There is also no use of any fossil fuels to bring the food here, though the amount of green house gases produced by the production of 500 pounds of vegetables is not that much at all.

What I find interesting is that I will do my part to make the world a better place but no one will reward me for it. There are so many other areas in which I can get some sort of reward for doing the right thing, but not for growing my own food.

There is no reason why the average Canadian could not produce 100 pounds of their own food each year. Certainly in rural areas this still goes on.

I remember in Lillooet the local grocery store manager could tell when the first frost came, people would finally come back and buy their produce from him. Many households grew their own produce and virtually everyone had their own fruit trees. In Lillooet people managed to produce a significant portion of their produce each year.

In Lillooet there was also a lot of hunting and fishing. On average, there is about 5 salmon caught per person - about 30 pounds of protein. To a lesser extent there is also deer and moose.

Here in Victoria we have an ocean at our doorstep with a bounty of crab, shrimp, fish and shellfish but very few people take part in harvesting any of it.

What it comes down to is that we have the resources in our urban areas to provide for a large amount of our food but we choose to give over the land to lawns and ignore out wild bounty.

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