Friday, October 18, 2013

Suburban subsistence

As long as we have enough lead time to respond to whatever future upheavals may befall us, we'll never need to starve in this country.  Now that I've been backyard-gardening for three years, I'm convinced of this.

Anaheims in Warhol-esque formation, photo taken September 30, 2013. 
More stuff in Warhol-esque formation, photo taken October 18, 2013.
The photo above shows this morning's harvest from one micro-garden in one micro-backyard.  It's important to realize that all those Anaheims from both dates (Sept. 30 and Oct. 18) are not originating from one garden - they're the product of one plant (a single stem coming out of the ground).  And one plant organically grown, to boot.  I have one bell pepper plant from which I've now harvested dozens, including this morning's seven shown above, and one Anaheim plant from which I've harvested hundreds. 

And I also pulled up one sweet potato by accident while weeding, and the okra in this photo represents 24 hours' worth of production from three plants that are continuing to limp through the off-season (okra is a summer crop). 

I'm currently growing in just 82 square feet of gardening space - a size smaller than the smallest suburban bedroom.  And I'm currently harvesting from less than half of that area, because the rest is planted in up-and-coming fall and winter succession crops, particularly collards, bok choy, bunching onions, broccoli and cauliflower (plus herbs).  And still, I can barely keep up with the yield.  A lot of it has to go into the freezer for future consumption. 

In sooth, we are surrounded by an enormous quantity of land that is not being put to any productive use.  I estimate that I have 1,250 square feet of potentially-cultivatable back yard (the rest is unproductively shadowed by the house), and 850 square feet of front yard.  I've got just 4% of my own suburban property in fruits and vegetables, and I often can't keep up with what it yields. 

Hopefully, as a society, we will never need to rely on what that unused space would be capable of producing in a pinch, but it's nice to know that it's there. 

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