Press-Republican

Columns

June 30, 2014

Appreciation for vegetable producers

Gardening, especially growing your own food, is one of the No. 1 pastimes across the country.

But ask anyone who has actually tended a garden and they will also admit it is a humbling experience.

You don’t just drop a seed in the ground and voila — a basket of tomatoes appears.

There are bugs, diseases, fertility, too much or too little water, and then there are weeds, weeds and more weeds to contend with.

Supermarket shelves brim with perfect produce, and farmers markets and roadside stands have beautiful piles of all sorts of vegetables; they make it look so easy.

Home gardeners might be content with having enough for a few meals, but our growers are in this as a business. If they don’t make a profit, they aren’t going to keep farming.

Today I hope to increase your appreciation of the work and innovations our growers use to produce all that beautiful food.

IRRIGATION

Some growers still rely on rain to provide enough moisture to keep their vegetables alive, but most have learned that investing in some irrigation will increase their yields and profitability.

Some have good wells, some pump out of nearby streams or build irrigation ponds. They need to invest in pumps, pressure regulators, filters, drip lines and so on.

ROWCOVERS

You may have noticed large sections of fields covered with a white sheet this spring.

This is a lightweight, breathable material generically called rowcover that growers lay right over certain crops to keep out early pests like flea beetles and cucumber beetles, and to provide protection from the wind to get their crops off to a good start.

Home gardeners can use rowcover, too, and the difference between covered and uncovered crops is impressive.

Sometimes it is held up above the crop by low wire hoops and other times it is laid right on top of the plants. It needs to be removed for pollination but it is a huge advantage in May and June.

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