The food we are growing in the world today is not as nutrient dense as it was 30 years ago and according to some researchers, it is declining at a rapid rate. This is due to our growing conditions. We are trying to grow more food per acreage to feed more people. Our soils are becoming depleted of vitamins and minerals. Farmers are growing only those vegetables that can provide more yield but may not be the most nutrient dense choice. This means our food quality is declining and we, the consumers will pay the price with our health.
I have been growing some of our food on our city lot for the past 20 yrs, and each year I add a new food that I find grows well in my growing zone. I have found if you plan on growing food for daily eating and winter storage; it may mean giving up some other things in your life, for example, I spend more of my free time in the garden than I did in the past. Some people try and sell books claiming you can grow food with only 10 minutes out of your day devoted to producing excellent quality food. Yeah, right! I promise you it takes time, thought and proper planning to utilize a small space which is what most of us have on a city lot. I also plant different crops for different seasons so I can use my limited space more than once a year to double my food growing. The ground in our Urban Potager is always working to provide nutritious food.
English researcher Anne- Mayer, Ph.D. was one of the first researchers to report a decline of mineral concentrations in 20 United Kingdom based crops from the 1930’s to 1980’s. This is not just occurring in the United Kingdom but all over the world. Our food is not as nutritious as it once was and it should be a concern for all people, for we depend on our food system to keep us healthy. How can we battle disease if we don’t have high-quality food?
In the USA, Dr. Donald Davis led a team of researchers that analyzed 43 fruits and vegetables from 1950 to 1999 and discovered a significant reduction in mineral, vitamins, and protein. They found that nutrient value declined in recent decades when farmers started planting crops to improve certain characteristics. Some of these traits were to breed those plants that provided better yield, bigger vegetables, better resistance to pests, adapted to different climates, and quick to mature. When growing these vegetables with these particular traits and increased use of synthetic fertilizers these foods have fewer phytonutrients! We don’t have the nutrient dense food daily to help us battle disease.
Spring is around the corner here in Midwest USA, and we all need to start thinking about what we want to grow. This year, I have made the decision to only grow food that I can’t purchase locally organically. I have a small city lot which means I don’t have a lot of space. Each year I trial a variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers in our Urban Potager to see which work best in our climate. Once I establish what perform best in our area, I try to save seed from those plants. When you save seed, you have plants that acclimate to your growing zone. In 2017, I will be exploring, again which crops are best grown on my city lot and which ones I should let the farmers grow locally for me.
I have found that growing multiple crops throughout the growing season provides more food. I practice succession planting and replenish the soil after each crop finishes in a garden bed.Right now, I have under lights all my cool season spring greens for April salads. In our growing zone, the summer heat sends most of my cool season veggies to seed late spring or early summer.
If you want to grow a lot of food on a city lot, you have to select the varieties for your climate. This means you have to research a bit to find those crops that grow best in your succession planting schedule. At this time of the year, I have my annual, cold tolerant veggies or those that handle a light frost germinating and growing under lights in a room I designate our “growing room.” Once I start placing these cool season vegetables, flowers and herbs outside, I will start germinating under lights the hot summer crops the week of St. Patrick’s day. My goal is to never have an empty space in our edible garden. The key is to replenish your soil after each crop is done performing in the growing beds. A good top dressing of compost into the bed and any other amendments to enrich the soil is best to add before you start the next crop. My goal is to always have another plant ready to take the place of the one just harvested.This means you can grow more on a small lot!