Okay, let’s be honest here for a second. We all know that no matter what ‘safeguards’ for the consumer Congress comes up with, those crooks on Wall Street will figure a way around it and keep ripping us all off. This last financial meltdown was certainly my ‘Come to Jesus’ moment and made me realize that this whole economic boat we’re all floating on could capsize in a second. (Or even a nano second thanks to computers!) Which brings me back to the importance of vegetable gardens.
I read in the Wall Street Journal that there was a moment last year when the banks considered stopping ATM payments? Could you just imagine what would happen if people suddenly could not go to the supermarket and buy food? My grandparents would know what to do as supermarkets were a fancy new innovation to them. But what about us? We only know chicken under a plastic wrapper in the refrigerator. I remember my grandfather going out in the back yard and deftly grabbing a chicken and wringing its neck in one quick flick of the wrist. I couldn’t do that now of course. But really we all need to know how. This house of cards we all live in could come tumbling down any second. And the people who survive it will be the ones with the ‘home farms’. That’s a new term that’s catching on. The ‘home farmer’ revolution. It’s not just about growing vegetables, it’s also about creating value added products like ‘Aunt Maw Maw’s Chutney’ that you can sell in Farmer’s Markets and (if they still exist) specialty stores and supermarkets.
A food business is one of the last that you can still get going with very little financial resources upfront. I met a woman at the Specialty Foods Show in NYC. She said her husband (cheated) and divorced her for a younger woman and she was left with two little kids, living in her car, desperate to support them all. She said to herself, “Well my Grandmama taught me how to make bacon. I can do that.” So she started to make gourmet bacon in the trunk of her car and went to Farmer’s Markets, to sell it and to chefs at restaurants, and lo and behold there she was at the Javits Convention Center in New York City with a booth for her (now) 5 million dollar successful gourmet bacon business! (She should send a ‘thank you’ note to that good for nothing’ husband don’t you think?) Well almost.
So let’s get back to your new fall garden. Now is the exact time to be starting seedlings. Here’s what grows in the fall: cabbages, collards, turnips, & carrots, which are planted first. Then later: broccoli, mustard, kale, spinach, arugula, and radicchio. And don’t forget tomatoes!! You can harvest a whole new crop all through the fall. It’s so warm here, it’s really our ‘second spring’. My neighbor use to brag, “I picked tomatoes on Christmas Eve in Beaufort.” So let’s take advantage of our county’s fabulous warm fall bounty. If you want more info on home growing, go to www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic.
My new absolute favorite seed catalogue is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (www.rareseeds.com). What a gorgeous catalog! Great people too! Check it out. You might want to really consider planting Southern Heirloom seeds instead of some generic seed pack you buy off the rack at Lowe’s. Why? Because those Southern Heirloom seeds have been hand developed over several generations to best perform in our cruelly hot and humid part of the South. Here are some leads on where to source those Southern Heirloom Seeds:
South Carolina Seed Association
Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
The Cook’s Garden
The Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants
The Park Seed Company
Plant seeds in rows. Then thin and transplant to their permanent spots a few weeks later. Or just wait a few weeks until the heat is over and sow in their permanent growing location. Also, remember that you can do more than one sowing. Keep putting new rows of seeds down every week to get ‘successive’ weekly harvests in the fall. Some other ‘cool season’ crops to consider are beets, lettuce (all varieties) kale and radishes.
If you can get in the habit of planting seeds every week for both the spring and the fall, your family and friends will ‘harvest’ the results of your kind and thoughtful efforts until Christmas or beyond!
P.S. Over the next several weeks, Diane Keenan will be selling 23 varieties of heirloom tomato seedlings at her booth at the Port Royal Farmers Market on Saturday morning. Last Saturday I got a tray of seedlings from her – an heirloom from Tennessee called ‘Royal Hillbilly’.