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How does your NH garden grow?

Collard greens & spinach in my garden
Why Southerners eat collards

I am by far *not* an expert gardener. My experience is limited to tomato plants on the deck, planting and tending a few raised beds over the last couple of seasons, one disastrous garden of a few years ago that was little more than a food plot for squirrels, and several vegetable gardens during my younger years in California.

While that last example certainly provided some quantitative experience, the couple of dozen years I skipped gardening in favor of the supermarket didn’t help me to retain whatever vegetable growing knowledge I gained from my youth. The larger factor in the near-irrelevance of this past experience is that, compared to Georgia, I could put anything in the ground and it would grow. At least, it seemed that way.

In SoCal, my half-hearted attempts with tiny plots had relatively great yields given what I invested. Aphids on corn were the worst pests I can recall. I did have an apricot tree that I had to net if I didn’t want every last fruit pecked and gobbled by hungry birds.

Here in Georgia, squirrels and rabbits steal the tomatoes and strawberries I walk away from thinking they’ll be just perfect the next day. I do remember tomato horn worms from our family garden growing up, but they weren’t so numerous that Dad couldn’t just pick them off. Here, they will tear up a plant before I spot them. At least, that’s what they did before my friend Regina introduced me to neem oil, and my friend Brenda suggested BT (bacillus thuringiensis). Armed with these weapons, hubby and I were able to bring our tomato plants back from the brink of death a couple of seasons ago.

Sometimes I imagine the benefits (and obstacles) of vegetable gardening in New Hampshire. I haven’t yet studied the differences between it and Georgia. The easy assumptions I’ve made are that there’s a much shorter growing season and that there will be fewer insect pests. Maybe that last assumption is more of a hope, but surely any other region in the country has fewer bugs than we have in the South.

When I planned the garden this year, I made several choices based on how much of a pain in the ass a given plant was vs. its yield. Last year I planted vegetables we tended to buy at the supermarket, even though some of those were grown far outside our region. It’d be bad to grow things no one likes to eat, but it wasn’t until this year that I had a blinding flash of the obvious: given identical environments, some plants do better than others and those are the ones to go with when time and energy aren’t limitless. Which for me is always.

In the photo above, the little stub of a plant you see in the background is spinach. I planted it at the same time I planted the collards. This is the second year I’ve tried spinach. I love the stuff – it’s nutrient-dense and versatile. I was determined to grow it. Right now I’m running at about a 25% success rate as far as getting it to sprout; less than that in seeing it grow beyond an inch or so. I have planted and re-planted. Contrast those efforts/results with the collards in the foreground. The day I took the photo I was marveling at the difference when it struck me: No wonder Southerners traditionally ate collards. I just stuck the seeds in and left them. Every one sprouted, and they grew rapidly.

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre
Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre

A few months ago I realized that the author of IMO the best vegetable gardening book around – Mini-Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre – lives and grows organically in southern New Hampshire. I’d read the book cover to cover a few years ago, before the thought of moving to New Hampshire ever crossed my mind. So I already have a guidebook – I just need to re-read it with location in mind and see what will work well in the North.

I’m not really into gardening as much as I’m into eating actual real food – the stuff that tastes good, doesn’t have all sorts of nasty chemicals on/in it, and wasn’t picked a week prematurely so it could survive being hauled in a semi-truck to my local supermarket. I also like the bumps in life that having a garden helps smooth out: lacking motivation for a trip to the grocery store…not wanting to cut the bank account too close…wanting home-grown vegetables in the dead of winter.

I suppose when we move I’ll have to be far more intentional about a garden given the shorter season and the likelihood of being unwilling – or unable – to venture out for groceries for days at a time. What else do I need to know?

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