Over the past three years we have been working on getting our hands on better vegetables. Three years ago we bought a half-share in a CSA (community-support agriculture). If you are not familiar with the concept of a CSA, you pay up front for a share in a farmer’s crop and you receive weekly baskets of various produce. In our case the CSA was run by a friend of a former coworker, we sent our check in and we were in. The produce was great, but the pickup location was not convenient and it required me to get out of work early and struggle through rush hour traffic.
The next year we decided to try our hand at growing some stuff ourselves. I built a small 4’x8′ planter and we got some tomato, bean, cucumber and herb plants. Things were going pretty well, we had lots of herbs, tomatoes and cucumbers, not so many beans and the deer ate them, but it was looking OK. Even though some watering was missed we got a lot of cucumbers and used some of them – wow you end up with lots of them – we gave a lot away. Then the tomatoes started developing some sort of rot and to to finish things off there was an industrial fire in a neighboring town and we wouldn’t eat the stuff that was left.
And finally this summer we tried our hand at a CSA again. This time it was from farm that is about a five minute drive from our house. No logistical issues this time. Lots of great produce, but the baskets were somewhat lopsided. Always lots of things like zucchini, but not a lot of corn. We like zucchini, but had trouble keeping up with it. No fault of the farm, there, just lack of planning and actually doing something with it. If we weren’t planning a garden, we’d do this again.
For our 2014 garden we are planning going a littler further than we have in our last effort. This is going to include fencing and watering, that we were missing the last time around. The plan is to figure out exactly what we want to grow, and how much we will be able to use and preserve. The last thing that we want to do is invest a lot of money into building up raised bed gardens and fencing and have it end up rotting away.
We are thinking that for this year we are going to go with plants from a local farm rather than starting ourselves from seeds. We want to can whole and crushed tomatoes, so we are going to look at different varieties that are best fitted to that. We would like to make our own salsa and can that. We have made some really good salsa in the past and we think we are up to the task. For this we will need to find a tomato variety that is well suited to that. Hopefully one of the canning varieties will be able to double as our salsa tomato. For this, we also need jalapenos. With that, it brings us to peppers. We are going to grow bell and various chili peppers.
Since we eat a fair amount of broccoli, we are going to try our hand at that one as well. Round it out with a couple different types of greens and lettuces and we should have enough to keep us busy during growing and canning season.