- Janette Keating
Chapter 7: Cultivating a Vegetable Garden
If anyone has ever grown their own food, they will know that it is something that is extremely satisfying! I have dappled with small gardens at various times in my life, however, I’ve never had such an amazing garden as we have created in Sonoma! Given the perfect climate and year-round ability to grow food, Sonoma is a very special place.
Our landscape plan included a garden patch with raised boxes, an herb garden, surrounded by fruitful bushes of bay leaves and lemongrass, artichokes and other beautiful edible plants. Outside the garden fence we have planted a fruit orchard. I suppose I am an earth person, as I play with clay in my art work, and I find nothing more exciting than seeing Mother nature develop plants that produce beautiful and delicious nourishing fruit and vegetables. I also love the colorful look of all these fruits of nature. It is so beautiful to see!
All summer long the garden is offering something ripe each day. In Sonoma we can live off the land. If you like a plant-based diet - this is the place to be. I like to use the eggs from the chickens to accompany a meal or as integral ingredients in some recipes. I have become very spontaneous about our menu planning, waiting to see what is ready each day to pick and prepare for meals. When we feel more like a gourmet meal, it is so great to go and cut some herbs and spices to add to the flavors of the dish!
The tendency though is to have a LOT of one thing at any given time. I have used the tomatoes to make all sorts of things. We grow roma tomatoes for pizza sauce and italian dishes, heirlooms for fresh sandwiches and salads and other varieties for cooking. I have invested in a canner to be able to preserve food for later if there is too much to be consumed at once. Apples become applesauce, and pie. etc. I spend a LOT of time in the kitchen. I hate to waste food, so I want to treat each gift from the earth with respect. There is a tradition that people bring extra fruits and veggies to the community center to share. I love contributing to that.
With the garden, I have found that there are always cuttings and some spoiled fruit to discard. I collect this in a wooden bin and transfer it to a compost that we have started. When the chicken coop is cleaned out, we take the refuse to the compost, along with grass clippings, and organic matter from the garden. Turning this from time to time, we will soon have rich compost to put back into the earth. The concern with sustainability is one that all of Sonoma cares about. There is a unified effort to keep the fertility of the land rich with sustainable practices. Vineyards across the county are certified “Sustainable” and the trend is wholistic and one that I adhere to as well.
I learn a lot each year about the plants we grow. It is so worthwhile and rewarding. Being close to nature, is a comfortable place for me. I do have help from the gardeners and together, we plan, and tend to the plants. I appreciate their work and I do as much as I can.