Last weekend I had the pleasure to attend a talk by Pam Peirce, Bay Area Guru on vegetable gardening.
Having read Pam Peirce’s first book, Golden Gate Gardening and followed both her blog and column in the San Francisco Chronicle, I was interested if I would learn anything from her presentation or if it would simply be a rehash of what I had already learned from her.
To my surprise, it was vintage Pam Peirce but with a new twist on vegetable gardening that again got me thinking of how we gardeners go about our gardening. We get a lot of influence from the people that brought vegetable gardening to the area, which isn’t necessarily correct. On top of that Pam Peirce said, I also think that we are conditioned by the seed companies that start sending us vegetable gardeners seeds catalogs at the start of the year. Even though we should be gardening for a Mediterranean climate, we are conditioned to garden like we live in the Midwest or northern Europe.
One thing that Pam said that I have been unconsciously starting to do is to approach vegetable gardening with the end in mind. Thus, plant vegetables with thoughts of how and when you are going to be using the vegetables. Now there is no stopping the over-production that we all get in the best part of the growing year. But even here we should plant abundantly the things that we can best preserve and want to have in the off-season. We also need to use our year around vegetable growing season to our advantage.
I have been doing this by altering my vegetable garden based on what my wife buys from the grocery store and planting more of what we use the most of. I also have been working hard on having a constant supply of salad at our disposal. I still have a small waste on lettuce every now and then, but instead of planting a large crop in April, which I did one year, I am now making sure I have a small area in my garden that I can put a small amount of lettuce in year round. For us I need just a small amount and try to start a new batch just as we start to harvest small leaves. This seams to give just about the right distance between crops. I am working now on how much I need to shorten that in the winter when things grow slowly, versus the summer when lettuce can grow faster than we can consume, and have lots of other summer vegetables to choose from.
Where Pam Peirce and I differ is how she seems to be focusing on growing the most amount of vegetables that thrive in our climate. I on the other hand will probably always fight to find ways to make crops that I know will NOT do well in the San Francisco Bay Area and see if I can find ways to make them produce! Yes, my wife calls me a mule (and worse).
My deepest admiration and thanks go to Pam Peirce who leads the charge in providing the best information about local vegetable gardening. It would be nice if each microclimate that had unique vegetable garden challenges had their own Pam Peirce. For now I will just count my lucky stars I live in her area and will keep on vegetable gardening.
The bonus of this visit was a signed copy of her new book, Wildly Successful Plants in Northern California!