Thursday, February 9, 2017

Do You Have Any Courgettes to Spare? By Joyce D’Agostino

Photo courtesy live strong.com
There was some surprising news from the UK recently regarding shortages on some of their favorite produce. One that is in short supply and high demand, the courgette, (otherwise known as zucchini) is becoming harder to find in their supermarkets.

Photo courtesy samarooj.com

Publications such as the Wall Street Journal here in the US and the Sun and Telegraph newspapers and the BBC in the UK have been reporting on this serious situation. Residents are going to the store where they normally have been able to easily find things like broccoli, lettuce, peppers, cabbage and lettuce and found the produce bins either empty or in very limited supply.

The reason is that much of the region’s produce is grown in certain areas of Spain, which has experienced some difficult and unexpected weather recently. The result was surprise cold spells with frosts and snow causing warm weather vegetable crops have been destroyed. The areas that have been able to get some of their favorite vegetables are finding themselves rationing what they were able to purchase. 

While we have not yet had such a similar shortage here in the US, it does bring to mind what can be done to prevent this kind of crisis situation. Options are to grow sustainably and cope with what seems to be ever-changing weather issues and challenges. The area of Spain that has been hardest hit with the problems is also the area that has been reported to grow between 50 -90% of the produce sold in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands so their weather problems caused shortages literally for millions of people.

For those of us who garden in Colorado, we know that the weather can often be unpredictable. We can have frosts the continue well into May, even after the reported last frost date should occur, frosts that come earlier than we expected in late summer or early fall, and then there is always the wind and hailstorms that threaten our gardens. The growers in Spain might be doing their best to protect their crops, but this surprise cold weather and the loss of the produce is an example of what we all must try to do as gardeners and growers to prevent substantial loss and that expecting the weather to be consistent and perfect year after year is probably not reasonable. 

Also, focusing on just a limited type of crop or crops might serve a demand but could also start creating monocultures that can leave the plants open to disease, deplete the soil from nutrients and introduce pests that hadn’t been a problem before. 

Keeping informed about how to grow sustainably and successfully in your area should be on ongoing effort so that your soil remains healthy. Aim to grow a variety of fruits and vegetables available throughout the season and for a well-rounded diet. Growing your favorite vegetables each year is not an issue, but also try new varieties, especially ones that have been tested in your area to be well adapted to your climate. 

Visit the extension website shown below for free publications on how to grow your favorite vegetables, keep your soil healthy and even try some new options that work well in your area. By growing the “right plant for the right place” and learning tips to protect your plants, you can enjoy more garden successes and can even help avoid serious situations like food shortages. 

Another great resource to find well adapted plants is the Plant Select site. The plants listed on this site are research based collaboration with Colorado State University and Denver Botanic Gardens, and have passed eight criteria for durability including water conservation, disease resistance and very important – thriving in a wide variety of conditions. There are several years of tested plants to view -  a wealth of useful information.