Here in Southern California, we are fortunate to have mild weather mostly all year long. It is now mid-November and although Autumn is officially here, it feels like Indian Summer with temperatures in the 70’s daytime and 50’s at night with lots of sunshine during the day. But even here there are issues; we have an unprecedented 5 year drought and a huge gopher problem in my area. They are such cute, ambitious underground critters that we would never harm them. Now i think we have found a solution to growing vegetables without their interference. Whatever they like, they will devour from the roots upward really only looking for moist sustenance. This idea was suggested by my friend Eric, a organic and sometimes Vegan gardener. He saw it in Mother Earth News so he modestly denies any credit or originality for the concept.
What my friend suggested was to purchase the best organic planting soil in the biggest bags they sell. Simple lay them down in a sunny spot on the ground or on your patio or on your fire escape, if you live in the inner city. Cut out a big rectangle like a picture frame and roll back the plastic, keeping the plastic sides intact to hold the soil and the water. Purchase plants that have already been started at the nursery that are of the shallow root variety. For example: lettuce (green or red), kale (all varieties), swiss chard, spinach, scallions, peppers and varieties herbs like basil, oregano, dill, etc.
Now add a little organic vegetable/plant fertilizer on the top of the soil in the bag mixing it in a few inches with a trowel. Plant the vegetable starters a couple of inches apart from one another so that they have room to grow. Make a note so that you remember what you planted and the date begun. Remember to water either every day or every other day. Some suggest making small holes in the bottom of the bags so there is access to draining but i did not find that necessary and wanted no temptation to invite the gophers, plus my bags were on the patio stone so no access was provided for the critters to get at the roots.
What i like about this idea is that this can be used by just about anyone with any conditions. You do not have to dig up the plots, weed the soil, or remove rocks. As long as you have access to sunlight, a water source, and the means to purchase the bags and already started plants from the nursery, this MAGIC can happen! Of course, here in CA. we have very few marginal frost evenings, mild temperatures and mostly sunny days, so merely covering the plants with a tarp should keep them viable on those rare frosty evenings. In other locations, more attention has to be considered for planting at the right season as well as avoiding deer and rabbit interference to succeed.
Here is a picture of the first week planting, on 9/10, still young but already taking hold. This bag includes: buttercrunch lettuce, green bell pepper, walla walla onion (harvested young as scallions), and Dinosaur Lacinato kale.
The growth is quite rapid with these plants and this is only one month later.
The second bag contains swiss chard, 3 different types of basil (Red Rubin, green and Greek), Red Romaine lettuce and Greek oregano.
This was started about 2 weeks later than bag #1. See the growth by 11/4. They are hardy and ready for harvest. Actually all along this process, individual leaves may be harvested, washed and put into salads and cooked dishes. What can be fresher than that?
Here are both bags side by side flourishing and not even disturbed once by the garden animals living side by side, in peace and harmony
Imagine having your own “Farmers Market” of fresh greens and herbs right in your backyard, right next to your kitchen, ready for any dish you desire at any time you like. Speaking of the dishes you can create, here is harvested kale, scallions, basil and oregano, ready for a stir-fry.
Recipe for Stir-fry:
Use a sharp knife to remove the woody stem from the kale stalks and discard or save for future soup broths. The sweetest part of kale is the succulent leaves. Remove the fibrous stems of the herbs and dice the scallions and herbs finely. Chop the leaves of the kale in small pieces and sauté in 1/2 cup Vegan broth, adding the herbs and some diced fresh garlic. Many modern day nutritional experts recommend to avoid using any oils for heart health and to reduce cholesterol. Note: There is not one drop of cholesterol in any of the vegetable or fruit kingdom! This is a gift from nature to give you abundant vitality and optimum nourishment. The usual rule of thumb is to sauté until the green colors are the most vibrant, adding more broth if needed. Serve with a whole grain, i.e. brown rice, quinoa, millet, or buckwheat.
Here is a harvest of the green and red lettuces, scallion and a freshly picked Meyer lemon from one of our bushes in the backyard.
Recipe for Salad:
Wash leaves well in cold water. Never cut lettuce but trim the bottom stem off, keeping the rib intact as it should be quite tender and tear into small pieces. Dice the scallion or any other fresh herbs. Drizzle with the juice of 1/2 lemon depending on the amount of greens you have gathered and spritz with a tiny spray of olive oil from a organic can (Spectrum brand). Add any cut pieces of organic tomatoes, celery, carrots and peppers, you have on hand. Toss gently and serve with a smile.
There is nothing like fresh from one’s own garden patch and now to have the ease and convenience of growing veggies in a bag, the world of personal gardening is available for much of our population. Remember to cut down the “bolted” tops of some plants to encourage the lower leaves to mature. Here is a recent picture of the “Gardens in a Bag” that is available to you with a minimum amount of toil and with compassion towards the animals who share our spaces.
Happy planting and may the harvest be with you!