Feed your family and use water wisely | NevadaAppeal.com

Feed your family and use water wisely

JoAnne Skelly
Special to the Nevada Appeal

Listen to the news on TV or radio – everywhere we hear about economic hardships. The water reserve outlook is not positive either with so little snowpack. With both of these challenges, we may want to rethink our gardening strategies this year. Let’s use our precious water on plants that supply food. Let’s plant fewer plants whose only function is aesthetics and more plants to feed our families.

My grandmother always had a garden filled with the best-tasting tomatoes, beans and corn. Many people grew up with gardens that were not mere hobbies, but that fulfilled a family’s need for healthy produce. Canning the surplus often provided enough food through the winter. Perhaps now is a good time to resurrect growing our own fruits and veggies and canning or freezing them.

My friend Teri grew up in the Midwest in a family of eight. Her mom planned their garden by calculating their vegetable and fruit needs to last the winter. She would count 150 days from Nov. 1 to April 1 and multiply four quarts of vegetables and four quarts of fruit per day. One year she canned 500 quarts of tomatoes, which she then used for vegetable soup, spaghetti sauce, chili, etc.

To feed a family of four, seed companies recommend planting an 80- to 120-foot row of bush beans spaced 4-6 inches apart. They suggest planting a 40-foot row of carrots, 12 to 15 plants of broccoli, a 20- to 30-foot row of leaf lettuce, 10 to 15 tomato plants and a 120- to 160-foot row of peas.

An important part of growing your own fruits and vegetables economically is watering efficiently and not wasting any water. Overhead watering is the least efficient method of watering. Hand watering isn’t much better. Drip and laser tubing systems really maximize effectiveness, especially when used with an automatic timer. Mulching the beds holds the water in.

Before you decide on doing a garden to save money, will growing your own be advantageous economically? Do you have good soil or will you have to buy amendments? Will you buy fertilizer? Will you need fencing to keep out the critters? Should you have row covers? Will you buy plants or start them from seed? What irrigation supplies will you need? What will your water costs be? Consider the labor involved. Can you commit as much time as is needed to have good garden yield?

After weighing all the pros and cons, remember how good homegrown tomatoes taste!

For information, contact me, 775-887-2252 or ske

llyj@unce.unr.edu, your local University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office or at http://www.unce.unr.edu. “Ask a Master Gardener” at mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu

– JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension

educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.