Food for Thought

Its Springtime down under, and that means I’ve been busy getting my veggie garden going! It’s funny, you can read a lot about “how to grow vegetables” on the net, or on books (a surprising amount of veggie growing books at the local library, by the way), but it’s really nothing compared to going out there and doing it yourself. So much of it depends on what your local conditions are that trial and error is really the only way to go.

I’ve been having some good success with growing herbs in pots indoors. I have a small room in a perfect sunny position with big windows that is perfect to be used as a “sunroom” of sorts, and my Basil, Parsley, Coriander, and Salad Burnet grow just wonderfully in there all year round. Outdoors I have done well growing Mint and Rosemary. More edible-like, easy things like Broad Beans (they become rusty at the end of the season, but it’s easy to get rid of it on the ground for next season and usually it only happens by the time I’ve already harvested most of them), Mustard Greens, Leeks, and my well-established Grape Vine. Others… Not so much, most of my Cauliflowers bolted like crazy and I only got a couple of them growing well. Spinach never really took off.

You may be thinking this is all quite trivial (I mean, who cares about your plants?!), but there’s something quite satisfying about growing your own edibles. Even if you just use indoor pots and merely grow a few herbs and easy plants, you should give it a shot. I recommend things like Cress and White Mustard, they grow really well in a simple tray with soil, and they’re yummy in salads; even an oaf like me always grows them successfully. There’s also the fact that it got me thinking:

What would food be like in Dome City?

This is something that I’ve thought about for a while. Technically, the city is always in the shade under the vanilla plant-like Mistikos Vine. There are plants that grow in the shade, and I’ve been looking at them to better use the less sunny spots of my garden. The general idea is that Dome City is powered by a nuclear reactor (as it usually goes with all these shelters, underground or similar and powered by a nuclear reactor), and some of the energy goes to grow plants under artificial light, as it’s been alluded to as far back as in Chapter 1, but I can imagine that feeding the whole city shouldn’t just be dependant on these.

I’ve been thinking about re-doing the first few chapters for a while, mostly to show more “underground-like” life and, well, because about the only feedback I’ve got is about how the story really doesn’t start to pick up until a few chapters in.

As an aside: Not complaining! There’s a very positive feedback too, and that’s how every time right after I put a chapter up, I get all the hits from the feeds: Google Blog Reader, Comic Rocket (thanks Jamey!), Twiter… Thanks for reading! =)

So, the idea came together on how would day-to-day life be in Dome City. I can imagine people growing stuff themselves, and what could one grow under the shade of the dome? I consider the shade not to be complete (as, say, the shade under a roof), but rather the kind of shade you’d get under a not-so-thick tree. Not so thick that nothing will grow, but thick enough that it’s always cold under the dome.

The issues would be: Water supply (I’ve hinted that water supply is somewhat restricted in Dome City), and possibly insects, as pollination may be limited down there. I can’t imagine there being many bees in Dome City – unless they keep some in the artificially illuminated food production facility. Actually, I bet they keep them, they’re very useful (necessary?) for pollination of many vegetables.

So, what to grow based on my limited experience?

Mushrooms

 

The obvious choice. Mushrooms that depend on a symbiotic relationship with trees are probably not a good choice (the tree may grow under the dome, but eh). So, no truffles (or other, more common mushrooms such as saffron milk cap). But things like oyster caps, button whites, or even shiitake mushrooms would grow well if you can feed them enough crap and keep them in the dark (the Mushroom Management System™, also useful as a guideline for treating nosy relatives!).

I haven’t tried myself yet. I’m definitely thinking about trying; getting started is easy enough with a kit, but the real fun is to be able to continue after that first harvest. As with the veggie garden, I won’t know until I do it! I think that a bag of straw hanging in my toolshed would likely work well enough.

In Dome City, getting the vegetable material to grow them on could be done by collecting random weeds and tree leaves. Lots of weeds will grow on somewhat shady spots too (seriously, trust me on this!). They make great mulch and compost! I never pull weeds when they’re just grown, I always let them grow a bit so that I have more material for my mulch and my compost.

Brassicas

 

Brassicas in general do well in part shade, and I’ve been doing great with mustard greens (Brassica juncea) on the shady side of my backyard. I get an almost constant yield while still keeping a steady supply of seeds. Brassicas include not just leafy things (cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, mustard greens) but also root crops that can be kept for a while (turnips, kohlrabi, swedes).

Brassicas are really a staple of many cuisines, and very accessible to grow. Except cauliflower. Damn cauliflower always bolts on me.

Where to grow them? Well, these and the rest of the vegetables (except mushrooms). On the roof of the buildings! Potted veggie gardens are becoming popular in many cities nowadays as well (well, once things get going one can really save on food, seeds are a lot cheaper than the vegetables in the supermarket).

Beans and Peas

 

Yup, many varieties of these do well in shady spots! And yes, they can grow like crazy. As in “just how high is this thing going to climb up the wall”, and “am I going to have to go up there and kill the giant?” crazy. Fresh, tender fava beans are just great, but best of all is that one can simply dry them up and keep them for a while.

Spinach

 

Rumour has it that they do well with as little as three hours of Sun a day. Personally, my efforts have been less than stellar with them 🙁

Herbs

 

This is a very wide category, but many culinary herbs can grow great without much sun. Not just that, this is the kind of thing that, in general, used to be part of every household in many cultures (I know in my hometown and many other places in Spain it is).

You should give it a try too! Parsley, mint, chives, I can tell you they grow great and I never run out of them in my house. Whenever I’m cooking and I feel like adding them, I go chop-chop and get some.

Berries

 

While the best berries usually grow in sunny conditions, many do well in the shade. There are a couple of shady spots I’ll be filling with berries in my garden this season, so I still have no experience. I’ll know soon enough (and really hope it’ll work, some of my favourite fruits are berries!).

Fruit Trees

 

That’s something else I have been looking into. There’s a corner between my garage and my toolshed that I have to constantly de-weed (grass doesn’t grow well there, and I’ve planted seed to test it, but all these freaking weeds do), so I’ve been looking into what to put there.

#1 candidate is a Pawpaw tree. We used to have one when I lived in Venezuela. It’s a really nice tree, quite aromatic, and the flowers are quite cool too. And of course, Pawpaw is tasty! It can get a bit cold here in winter though, so I have to figure out if there’s a good cold-tolerant variety.

Regardless, several fruit trees can grow well in shade (Pawpaw is a forest understory tree, and really thrives in the shade, so anything that naturally grows in those conditions should do well in Dome City).

Chickens

 

Wait, what?

Yeah, what I figure is, chickens are like little feathered piranhas. A friend of mine keeps chickens, and during the summer they basically feed on whatever she throws over the fence from their veggie garden, and what they dig out of the big compost bin they keep on the back of the chicken enclosure (not a bad thing, they dig a lot and mix the pile, all good things to do when composting).

And with that, one could have a readily supply of eggs. Not a lot, mind you (they do eat quite a bit of food after all, if you have three stories or so per building, there’s not much surface per building inhabitant to grow things), but it’s something.

 

Yeah, my house is very well placed to get lots of sun, but the backyard gets a lot of shade from the house itself, the garage, the fence, and my fantastic lemon tree which I love to bits.

But trust me, if I can make edible things grow, so can anyone. And everyone should give it a try at least once! Go ahead, you won’t regret it.

Walkiry out!-

2 Comments ↓

2 Responses to “Food for Thought”

  1. Mischa September 30, 2012 at 7:49 am #

    the solution would probably be an underground hydroponics system pollinated by a mix of honey bees and bumblebees. that pretty much solves all your problems, allowing them to grow basically anything they want.

    i had this big comment written up, because this is a pet topic for me (hey, i know its weird, but im happy with it) but word press spam filter killed it for some reason. I’d be happy to type something up again if you want a more detailed explanation of the system/reasons, and i could probably even cobble up some sketchy scribbles if you want a visual.

    • Walkiry September 30, 2012 at 10:06 am #

      The spam filter ate your comment? Drat! It didn’t even end up in the spam folder! According to the plugin documentation, it’s supposed to be false-positive proof – it’s one of those “invisible password” things. Sorry about that =( I’ll ask my admin buddy to take a look and see if there’s something better.

      As far as pet topics go, anything relating to end-of-the-world preparedness is a good topic in my view. Followed by Zombie Apocalypse preparedness. And it probably needs a lot more thought that I’ve given it, heh. So yeah, I’d be very curious, thanks a lot!

      I’m wondering what kind of energy input it’d take to feed the city. Up here on the surface, sun-based (i.e., no petroleum-based fertilizers), it takes quite a bit of terrain to grow vegetables, since one needs extra surface for growing things like mulch and compostables (unless one brings fertilizer and material from outside, but all that does is shift the production off-site). Or maybe the drain of the hydroponics isn’t a big deal in the great scheme of things and I’m overthinking it!

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