As fall quickly approaches, many of us who garden in Florida are beginning to think about what to plant. Fall is the prime garden season here and the limitations as to what we can plant are, at least for this season, lifted. So faced with almost limitless choices, how do you decide what to plant?
We are all limited by time and space. It doesn’t matter if you are planning a few containers of tomatoes and herbs or a half acre of vegetables, eventually you will run out of both, so you need to decide what will be the best use of the resources you do have.
The first step in choosing what to include, would be making a list of what you like to eat. The purpose of being sustainable is to grow your own food, so there is no point in growing foods you don’t enjoy eating.
Second, for me, would be expense. If a food is readily available organically and generally inexpensively, I would not put it at the top of my garden planning list. Start with plants that will save you money, such as tomatoes, cucumber and peppers. Once they are in, add the cheaper vegetables. Exceptions might be made for rare varieties of common vegetables such as multi-colored carrots or blue potatoes.
Third is space, we are all eventually limited by space. Large plants that are also high yielding such as the squashes are not a waste of space, as they are a good return on the investment. Some plants though, just aren’t worth it. One year I decided not to buy anything in from the store I didn’t have to and grew 1/8 acre each of oat and wheat. In the end it was a lot of space for a small yield. A full 1/4 acre of irrigated space for a few bowls of granola. I learned it is OK to buy in some things. I try to concentrate on fruits and vegetables first, then add in a few starches such as potatoes, corn, and beans. I buy in my rice and grains.
Fourth, toxicity. Many commercially grown fruits and vegetables are soaked in toxins. Statistics say the average American eats ONE POUND of these chemicals a year. Not a pound of vegetables, a pound of CHEMICALS! Some of these foods contain up to 20 different kinds of toxins each and are so saturated that washing and peeling won’t help. Growing as many of these as possible in your home garden could protect your family from immune disorders, nervous system issues, and breast and prostate cancers.
The 12 most toxic are:
Peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes. All of these except for apples and nectarines can be grown in Florida.
The 12 least most toxic (to maybe help you decide what to leave out if your space runs out) are:
Onions, avocados, frozen sweet corn, pineapples, mango, asparagus, frozen sweet pea, kiwi, bananas, cabbage, broccoli, and papaya.
So make your list and get ready to start laying out your garden!
* All stats courtesy of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) www.ewg.org. A non-profit research organization in Washington DC. These statistics were based on 43,000 tests conducted by the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture.