Friday, September 6, 2013

Sweet Blueberries

A garden is something that keeps on giving...

Every few days K collects another cup of blueberries which we eat with our oatmeal at breakfast.



At dinner we often have nasu (eggplant) from our sole plant, piman (bell peppers) and cherry tomatoes.   And then there's the three okra plants which give us two or three fruit every day.


And for a little spice, there is red chili pepper, shown here with K's monster rosemary bush in the background.   This pepper is about 13cm (5 inches) long.


Do you know what is America's largest crop?

Lawn grass - with over 40 and half million acres!   Americans spend over 8 billion dollars a year and who knows how much time tending to grass - which they don't eat or even (ahem) smoke.  It just sits there absorbing chemicals (which pollute the ground water) and sucking up fresh water.   Oh, grass has it's uses, but that is what public parks are for.

The statistics are amazing:

PESTICIDE USAGE (from Beyond Pesticides)
  • 78 million households in the U.S. use home and garden pesticides.
  • Herbicides account for the highest usage of pesticides in the home and garden sector with over 90 million pounds applied on lawns and gardens per year. 
  • Suburban lawns and gardens receive more pesticide applications per acre (3.2-9.8 lbs) than agriculture (2.7 lbs per acre on average). 
  • Pesticide sales by the chemical industry average $9.3 billion. Annual sales of the landscape industry are over $35 billion. 
  • Included in the most commonly used pesticides per pounds per year are: 2,4-D (8-11 million), Glyphosate (5-8 million), MCPP (Mecoprop) (4-6 million), Pendimethalin (3-6 million), Dicamba (2-4 million). 
  • A 2004 national survey reveals that 5 million homeowners use only organic lawn practices and products.
Imagine if all those lawns - or even half of each - were turned into vegetable and fruit gardens like folks in Japan and many other parts of the world tend to do.   Herbicide and pesticide use could be eliminated or at least greatly reduced.    People would naturally eat more fresh, whole, fruits and vegetables.  Neighborhoods would become more resilient against emergencies or shortages, and people might actually talk to each other more, share their food and get to know their neighbors.  Disease rates could drop because people would be exposed to fewer chemicals and would be eating a better diet overall.   Gas and oil use could be reduced, since herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers are all made from fossil fuels, and regular mowing would not be necessary so air quality would be better (2 cycle engines are the worst polluters).   Spending time in the garden reduces stress too.

Give it a try.  Even if you live in an apartment, hopefully your manager or condominium association allows you to grow a few things in containers on your patio or certainly in a window sill.  If they don't - work on changing that.

My youngest daughter grows herbs on her balcony in Texas. 

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Alternatively, you can farm a small community plot like Bonnie does.
You can even try to grow something on the deck of your boat.  Just ask O Docker about that.  (Or maybe don't).  :)   Yes, there is a learning curve.  But approach it as you would sailing -  a fun and rewarding challenge.

Until next,  sweet sailing - and gardening.  


17 comments:

Martin J Frid said...

Nice herb garden, that must have a wonderful fragrance.

Love the blueberries too, hope I can get a harvest like that in a year or two. They really are magic for health.

Lawn grass - not my favourite but it can be decorative in small places. What I don't understand is the need for electric or petrol machines, when I spent all my youth mowing my father's lawns for him using the classic push rotor type that made me sweat a lot!

George A said...

Blueberry season is over for this summer in the mid-Atlantic. We now get Michigan blueberries (at an increased carbon footprint).

As for lawns, one of the pros is that a typical sized lawn contributes the equivalent of 70 tons of air conditioning to the surrounded house and thus (hopefully) reduces the amount of electricity that a family devotes to staying comfortable.

While I do water my lawn on an as needed basis, I don't encourage it with fertilizers--no need to chase the mower any more than need be.

And much to diaristwoman's dismay, we do have several suspiciously "boat-shaped" brown patches in the back yard. My retired next door neighbors have a beautiful lawn, but that's their thing. Stunting turf grass with small sailboats is mine!

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

Yeah, after reading this post, I am glad I stifled an urge to criticize my new neighbor across the street who worked so hard to convert his front yard from a lawn into a moonscape. Now I understand that he must have been guided by your thinking in this article. Although my small front and back lawns are mowed and watered, they are not at all as immaculate as neighbors on my side of the street. And they are randomly and nightly skewered by raccoons digging for mites. S'okay by me.

Pandabonium said...

Martin - Thanks. Yes, berries in general are super healthy. We have grass in a small area for Momo the Wonder Dog to lay on.

As for machines, well, same reason some folks use a 300hp SUV to go 3 km to a gym so they can work out, when if they went by bicycle or on foot they might not need to join the gym at all! Go figure.

George - air conditioning? why use that? I know - at time it is life saving, but not every day. And you know, a lot of other plants can replace it, some of them edible. In Japan, people, including government offices use vines of sweet peas or others to cover windows to provide shade and thus do the same job.

Doc - did you talk to your neighbor to find out what he/she was up to? If they don't have plan, how about suggesting something like clover - low maintenance and helps the soil by fixing nitrogen. Whatever fits your local ecology. Much of Southern California is actually a dessert and is only kept looking green by borrowing water from mountains, aquifers, and rivers. Can't go on much longer. Do you really think the only alternatives are unsustainable lawn vs moonscape? Use your imagination old boy. :)

George A said...

Additionally, a nice manicured lawn is a great place to rinse and dry sails. I always enjoy a regatta venue where we can rig up and break down boats on a lawn rather than grit or stones.

Pandabonium said...

I agree George. Like I said, grass its uses. I just don't think every yard, every open space, needs to consist of lawn. That it is so in the USA has more to do with the evolution of suburbs in the last century and a half rather than practical reasons.

George A said...

One of the newsy-news items that caught my eye after we started this conversation is that the City of Brigantine (were our summer home is located) has proposed "going green" by replacing the grass growing in boulevard medians with artificial grass. I suspect this move is more about saving money by not having to pay city workers to mow and maintain the grass in those medians than it is about any genuine environmental concern! You can read all about it here: http://epapers.webcographics.com/brigantinetimes/9.6.13/index.html

In environmental terms this sounds like the question one gets asked at the grocery store: "paper or plastic?" Mother earth loses either way... Somehow there must be a way to have some grass for my sails without the huge impact associated with turf grass horticulture; the lawn care equivalent of bringing your own cloth bag to the grocery store.

Sandscraper said...

My front yard in the Keys is white, crushed coral, not a blade of grass in sight. All my Herbs are in pots and do quite well, thank you. I guess why our water is so clean is that there are no more septic systems in the Keys and no fertilized lawns of which to speak.I still rake the coral, with different patterns that make it look interesting.

George A said...

Up here many people have pebbles instead of grass. The problem with that is we get quite a bit more rain than down in the Florida keys so those folks routinely spray their pebbles with herbicides to keep the weeds from taking over. Not sure that's a great way to go, although I must admit one doesn't need to mow the pebbles. Some folks would like to pave over their entire ground with concrete but the city limits the percentage of a given property's "hardscape" in order to allow rain water to percolate rather than flood. Standing water just adds to the bug population--and not in a good way.

George A said...

Up here many people have pebbles instead of grass. The problem with that is we get quite a bit more rain than down in the Florida keys so those folks routinely spray their pebbles with herbicides to keep the weeds from taking over. Not sure that's a great way to go, although I must admit one doesn't need to mow the pebbles. Some folks would like to pave over their entire ground with concrete but the city limits the percentage of a given property's "hardscape" in order to allow rain water to percolate rather than flood. Standing water just adds to the bug population--and not in a good way.

Pandabonium said...

There are lots of ground covers which are low maintenance and some of them are edible. On one side of our house which is not suitable for growing food, I have clover as a ground cover. It keeps the weeds out, fixes nitrogen to the soil, provides some flowers for pollinating insects. etc.

Of course one needs to do what is appropriate for the local conditions. Watering a lawn in the desert makes no sense. Grow what you can.

Don Snabulus said...

We have a dandelion and clover rich lawn. We haven't used weeding or sprays in years. We have honeybees everywhere. We had a swarm last year and from the look of it, we were a finalist this year as well (they seek out water and we had 6 to 10 bees at our little dish we set out for them and the kitty at any given time). Our neighbors are kind of mad sometimes, but that's life.

This year, we have a bumper crop of pumpkins, tomatoes, along with lesser amounts of acorn squash, cucumbers, and potatoes. In between them all, nasturtiums and primrose with a few calendula rise up and bring in the bees and hummingbirds. It is a bounty for all.

Ladybug keeps a couple dozen herbs going as well at any given time. Most of this is her doing so she gets the credit. We are hoping to expand into fruit trees soon and displace some more of our weedy lawn with extra garden next year (assuming there are no more calamities).

Pandabonium said...

Sounds great, Don. K and I hope Ladybug can grow her herbs and veggies without interruption from now on.

Friut trees are a good idea.

Frankie Perussault said...

Hear! hear! I agree I agree... suburbian lawns, front lawns, just lawns, what a waste of time!

Pandabonium said...

Bonjour, Frankie! An unexpected pleasure to hear from you. Thank you for your comment. I hope your pottery throwing is going well in Saint Civran.

Frankie Perussault said...

Well no, it isn't going at all, I just grow vegies on my lawn :-)

Zen said...

I am looking forward to stRting a garden next year. For now it is just setup and mind gardening.