I would like to get my front garden contributing towards the food bill.
I’m at a loss as to what to grow. Not only must the garden be
aesthetically pleasing (whingeing neighbours) but the house faces north
and the garden spends a lot of time in the shade. Any suggestions or
advice would be appreciated. Vegetables
Everything depends on climate. Where I live you can grow artichokes and
asparagus in part shade.
Plant a ground cover and have the artichokes as accent plants growing
out of it. However, in my garden, the artichokes grow in the shade of a
high-branching ash tree. They go dormant in the summer, sprouting up
again in late fall to produce delicious buds in the spring.
Plant asparagus against your house. When the spears start coming up too
thin, stop harvesting and let the plants grow for the rest of the year.
They will make a nice foundation plant. They turn golden yellow in the
fall and then go dormant in the winter. Mine grow in the shade of a
I also have dwarf citrus, guavas, and loquats in partial shade. These
are both ornamental and fruitful. My neighbor across the street has a
fig tree with delicious fruit; it's growing on the east side of his
house and gets only about 3-4 hours of sun a day.
Total shade, however might be a problem.
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
Well beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, especially with whiny
or prima donna neighbors.
If you eat, as I do, you garnish your sandwiches with lettuce and have
salad, and/or vegetables with dinner. These may not be big ticket items
but over 365 days they do add up. Lettuce comes in different shapes and
colors and if you "google" Chateau Villandry, you will see that their
extensive vegetable garden (a tourist attraction) is laid out in a very
pleasing way. It's an impractical scale for a home owner but it should
give you some ideas as to what can be done. Growing flowers, such as
sweet alyssum, amongst the lettuce attracts lacewings and syrphid flies
that eat the aphids that can molest lettuces. (see citation below, p.
Growing lettuce and Swiss chard can be decorative as well as aiding your
budget by providing "fresh" produce to your table when you want it.
I would advise growing it organically. Harsh chemicals can scorch young
leaves, and nitrogen fertilizers render lettuces more vulnerable to
insects. It seems the bugs are attracted to the' free nitrogen in their
leaves, and because of the more rapid growth of chemically nourished
plants, insects find their leaves easier to pierce.
If the taste and texture of fresh lettuce and Swiss chard wasn't enough,
you may save medical expenses as well. In the citation below, be sure to
read paragraphs four and on.
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
(Amazon.com product link shortened)
pg. 266 - 269
I had made pretty much the same meal on several occasions at home, using
the same basic foodstuffs, yet in certain invisible ways this wasn't the
same food at all. Apart from the high color of the egg yolks, these eggs
looked pretty much like any other eggs, the chicken like chicken, but
the fact that the animals in question had spent their lives outdoors on
pastures rather than in a shed eating grain distinguished their flesh
and eggs in important, measurable ways. A growing body of scientific
research indicates that pasture substantially changes the nutritional
profile of chicken and eggs, as well as of beef and milk. The question
we asked about organic food--is it any better than the conventional
kind?--turns out to be much easier to answer in the case of grass-farmed
Perhaps not surprisingly, the large quantities of beta-carotene, vitamin
E, and folic acid present in green grass find their way into the flesh
of the animals that eat that grass. (It's the carotenoids that give
these egg yolks their carroty color.) That flesh will also have
considerably less fat in it than the flesh of animals fed exclusively on
grain--also no surprise, in light of what we know about diets high in
carbohydrates. (And about exercise, something pastured animals actually
get.) But all fats are not created equal--polyunsaturated fats are better
for us than saturated ones, and certain unsaturated fats are better than
others. As it turns out, the fats created in the flesh of grass eaters
are the best kind for us to eat.
This is no accident. Taking the long view of human nutrition, we evolved
to eat the sort of foods available to hunter-gatherers, most of whose
genes we've inherited and whose bodies we still (more or less) inhabit.
Humans have had less than ten thousand years--an evolutionary blink--to
accustom our bodies to agricultural food, and as far as our bodies are
concerned, industrial agricultural food--a diet based largely on a small
handful of staple grains, like corn--is still a biological novelty.
Animals raised outdoors on grass have a diet much more like that of the
wild animals humans have been eating at least since the Paleolithic era
than that of the grain-fed animals we only recently began to eat.
So it makes evolutionary sense that pastured meals, the nutritional
profile of which closely resembles that of wild game, would be better
for us. Grass-fed meat, milk, and eggs contain less total fat and less
saturated fats than the same foods from grain-fed animals. Pastured
animals also contain conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a fatly acid dial.
some recent studies indicate may help reduce weight and prevent cancer,
and which is absent from feedlot animals. But perhaps most important,
meat, eggs, and milk from pastured animals also contain higher levels of
omega-3s, essential fatty acids created in the cells of green plants and
algae that play an indispensable role in human health, and especially in
the growth and health of neurons--brain cells. (It's important to note
that fish contain higher levels of the most valuable omega-3s than land
animals, yet grass-fed animals do offer significant amounts of such
important omega-3s as alpha linolenic acid--ALA.) Much research into the
role of omega-3s in the human diet remains to be done, but the
preliminary findings are suggestive: Researchers report that pregnant
women who receive supplements of omega-3s give birth to babies with
higher IQs; children with diets low in omega-3s exhibit more behavioral
and learning problems at school; and puppies eating diets high in
omega-3s prove easier to train. (All these claims come from papers
presented at a 2004 meeting of the International Society for the Study
of Fatty Acids and Lipids.)
One of the most important yet unnoticed changes to the human diet in
modern times has been in the ratio between omega-3 and omega-6, the
other essential fatty acid in our food. Omega-6 is produced in the seeds
of plants; omega-3 in the leaves. As the name indicates, both kinds of
fat are essential, but problems arise when they fall out of balance. (In
fact, there's research to suggest that the ratio of these fats in our
diet may be more important than the amounts.) Too high a ratio of
omega-6 to omega-3 can contribute to heart disease, probably because
omega-6 helps blood clot, while omega-3 helps it flow. (Omega-6 is an
inflammatory; omega-3 an anti-innammatory.) As our diet--and the diet of
the animals we eat--shifted from one based on green plants to one based
on grain (from grass to corn), the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 has gone
from roughly one to one (in the diet of hunter-gatherers) to more than
ten to one. (The process of hydrogenadng oil also eliminates omega-3s.)
We may one day come to regard this shift as one of the most deleterious
dietary changes wrought by the industrialization of our food chain. It
was a change we never noticed, since the importance of omega-3s was not
recognized until the 1970s. As in the case of our imperfect knowledge of
soil, the limits of our knowledge of nutrition have obscured what the
industrialization of the food chain is doing to our health. But changes
in the composition of fats in our diet may account for many of the
diseases of civilization--cardiac, diabetes, obesity, etc.--that have long
been linked to modern eating habits, as well as for learning and
behavioral problems in children and depression in adults.
Research in this area promises to turn a lot of conventional nutritional
thinking on its head. It suggests, for example, that the problem with
eating red meat--long associated with cardiovascular disease-- may owe
less to the animal in question than to that animal's diet. (This might
explain why there are hunter-gatherer populations today who eat far more
red meat than we do without suffering the cardiovascular consequences.)
These days farmed salmon are being fed like feedlot cattle, on grain,
with the predictable result that their omega- 3 levels fall well below
those of wild fish. (Wild fish have especially high levels of omega-3
because the fat concentrates as it moves up the food chain from the
algae and phytoplankton that create it.) Conventional nutritional wisdom
holds that salmon is automatically better for us than beef, but that
judgment assumes the beef has been grain fed and the salmon krill fed;
if the steer is fattened on grass and the salmon on grain, we might
actually be better off eating the beef. (Grass-finished beef has a
two-to-one ratio of omega-6 to -3 compared to more than ten to one in
corn-fed beef.) The species of animal you eat may matter less than what
the animal you're eating has itself eaten.
The fact that the nutritional quality of a given food (and of that
food's food) can vary not just in degree but in kind throws a big wrench
into an industrial food chain, the very premise of which is that beef is
beef and salmon salmon. It also throws a new light on the whole question
of cost, for if quality matters so much more than quantity, then the
price of a food may bear little relation to the value of the nutrients
in it. If units of omega-3s and beta carotene and vitamin E are what an
egg shopper is really after, then Joel's $2.20 a dozen pastured eggs
actually represent a much better deal than the $0.79 a dozen industrial
eggs at the supermarket. As long as one egg looks pretty much like
another, all the chickens like chicken, and beef beef, the substitution
of quantity for quality will go on unnoticed by most consumers, but it
is becoming increasingly apparent to anyone with an electron microscope
or a mass spectrometer that, truly, this is not the same food.
A ta sante et bon appetit
"For the first time in the history of the world, every human being
I vegetable garden to grow varieties that are not readily available at
typical greengrocers, to have absolutely fresh picked, and for fun. Even
with staggering my plantings where possible most of each crop ripens pretty
much all at once so I can't possibly consume it all before it rots... there
is only so much lettuce, tomatos, and cukes one can consume each day. And
even if so inclined salad veggies do not lend themselves to
canning/preserving, and if one chooses to can then that cost needs to be
accounted for; time, labor, energy, and materials... I freeze where I can
but maintaining an extra freezer costs too... I find it far more
advantageous to use my crops in recipes (stews, soups, sauces) and then
freeze that rather than the individual veggies. When I figure in all my
costs and what I give away rather than it rot not only don't I save money,
it costs me money to garden.... so long as you keep in mind it's a hobby
you'll be fine. It's not possible to grow veggies in the home garden at a
profit unless you sell your excess, and even then you're not likely to
recoup *all* your expenses. Were I to do an accounting of all my veggie
gardening supplies it would be enough to keep me in store bought veggies for
the next 20 years.
Zones or size are not meaningful to me as they aren't used here (which I
think also applies anywhere outside the US - I think that system is US
specific) . My State is 200,000 square kms bigger than Texas and this is
the 5th largest State in the country so it'd be interesting to see how
anyone would try to use a zone system here. We tend to use a more general
descriptor like 'temperate', Mediterranean, cold (althought cold here means
our form of cold, not Northern Hemisphere snow and ice type cold - heavy
frosts type cold.
I guess we too would have what you describe as two short seasons with
blazing heat in the middle, however that wouldn't be an issue with some
crops such as tomatoes or corn.
I need greens all year round somust continue to grow them through the
blazing plant crisping days of high summer.
I think that would be rather a nuisance. Have you tried the shading trick
to keep up production? Shaded ground is cooler ground both day and night
and it works well if somewhat painfull to keep up.
I've had very different experiemces with Swish Chard. I believe it is one
of the best value plants around because it's virtually bomb proof and it's
one plant that I always advise people to plant. If you have Swiss Chard,
eggs and a few basics in the pantry you can laways make a meal.
Perhaps I was too general and should have included recipes on the dozens of
ways I can use Swiss Chard. I also should have been more specific about the
conditions under which I grow it.
Try groiwng it in shade in your mid summer. Try using the tiny new leaves
raw in a salad. Try using the big thick old ribs on their own cooked and
served in a white sauce whilst using the leaves in soup. Onlyu 3 ideas for
this most versatile of vegetables.
Why not? It really is a wonderful vegetable. I couldn't stand it as a
child as it was always overcooked (always cooked! - it's wonderful raw) and
had that ghastly unrelieved iron taste to it. For that I have to thank my
mother's cooking. It was only as an adult that I came to appreciate it -
the same applies for cabbage. Home grown cabbage, cooked straight from the
garden was similarly a revelation to me as an adult.
but being a vegetarian I will certainly try
It's one of those veg that, although I have lots of recipes in which I use
it, I use it more frequently in a quite ad hoc way. If something I'm
making needs a bit of raw green, then I'll chop up tiny new leaves - I use
if often in rice salads for instances. I add it to fritattas (not useful
for a vegan I know but I keep chooks and have to use lots of eggs) but that
is just another example. I've even used it with goats cheese and Balsamic
vinegar to top a pizza so it was wilted rather than cooked. Too many uses
really to be too specific.
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