How to Grow Better-Tasting Vegetables!

fruit 2Everybody’s had that one piece of fruit or vegetable whose taste just knocked their socks off. Mine was a blackberry given to me by Chef Jess at Triumph Brewery New Hope: it was at the peak of ripeness, perfectly sweet, utterly memorable.

But how do you grow tasty fruits and vegetables yourself? What’s the secret?

Turns out there are a variety of factors.

The first deals with climate. Make sure the plants you intend to grow are appropriate for your particular climate, microclimate, and growing season. This sounds obvious, but can make a huge difference where taste is concerned. Root crops and leafy vegetables prefer moist, cool conditions; and melons and most nightshade prefer sunny and warm weather. Planting your fruits and veggies in ill-suited microclimates will inevitably lead to an inferior-tasting crop.

Another consideration is the age at which you harvest.  Harvesting immediately after maturation—especially true of root crops—tends to provide a fresher, ‘brighter’ tasting crop. This window is generally narrow, so make sure you’re checking your garden daily!

Of course, the plant’s genetic background also makes a huge difference. Seed brands chosen for outstanding taste often make an enormous difference. However, while selecting for taste, breeders have often inadvertently bred out essential nutrients in the process.

The most important determinant of taste, however, is soil. In short, the better one cares for one’s soil, the better tasting one’s fruits and veggies.  A crop grown in healthy soil will have consistently higher sugar levels, and will also have higher diffusion levels. (Diffusion is a measurement of the dissolved solids within a particular plant, including flavor, nutrients, and aromas.)  To improve your soil health, follow the tips in our blog: It’s the Soil Stupid.

veggie 2Growing excellent-tasting fruits and vegetables does involve a little extra work, but is well worth the effort!

By | April 24th, 2015|News|0 Comments

What is Permaculture?

downloadPermaculture is one of those words that gets tossed around almost as often as ‘sustainable’—and is perhaps just as misunderstood. But just what is Permaculture? It sounds intimidating, as if it were some complicated growing practice that only someone with a doctorate in horticulture could understand. But the basic tenants of Permaculture are surprisingly simple, if not downright obvious.

Permaculture is defined as “an agricultural system or method that seeks to integrate human activity with natural surroundings so as to create highly efficient self-sustaining ecosystems.” The term was first coined by Bill Millisons and David Holmgren, the originators of the modern Permaculture movement. Basically, Permaculture is the practice of a.) working with nature to avoid unnecessary labor, and b.) incorporating one’s crops within the existing environmental backdrop. Where agriculture requires the destruction of the landbase to accomplish its ends, Permaculture works within that landbase.

Like nature, Permaculture works in layers. That is, different species that grow to different heights are planted together, creating special ‘microclimates’ which are optimal for each particular plant. These layers include the canopy, understory, shrubs, herbaceous (plants that die each winter), soil surface and ground cover, and the rhizosphere (the root layers). By arranging plants within appropriate layers, you can diminish the need for watering, irrigation, and pest- and disease-control.

Permaculture also makes use of guilds. In Permaculture, guilds are groups of species where each individual plant provides a unique set of diverse functions that work in conjunction with the whole. These can include more than just plants—insects and animals too. In the same way that a traditional ‘guild’ involves individuals working toward a common goal, so too do Permaculture guilds involve a synergistic collaboration with the goal of mutual betterment.

download (1)Another feature of Permaculture is zones. Zones are ways of organizing design elements on the basis of the frequency of human use, as well as plant or animal needs. Basically what this means is those plants that need the most attention—or that would be used the most—are planted closest to your house.  This is Zone 1. (Zone 0 is your house). The zones continue spiraling outward, until Zone 5 is reached, which is a wilderness area.

For thousands of years, Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest made use of Permaculture principals to great effect. With traditional agriculture saddled with so many problems, a mass switch to Permaculture might just be what our ailing planet needs.

By | April 10th, 2015|News|0 Comments

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