Monday, August 25, 2008

Grow your own ...

Today I was in my patio garden, collecting herbs and vegetables for a salad. It always amazes and delights me that fresh picked veggies smell and taste so wonderful. There is absolutely no comparison to the store-bought varieties. And while I'm no expert, I can't help but think that the nutrition of local foods is greater than foods which take days to get to my table. After all, vegetables begin to lose their nutritional value the minute they are picked so ... closer to home means more vitamins.

Whenever possible, we opt for local foods. When I wrote a post on the subject (click here to read it), I concentrated more on why it's a good idea and offered ideas on how and where to buy it. Today I'll talk about growing your own (that's real local).

Growing herbs and vegetables is fun ... and the good news is that almost everyone can do it, even if you don't have a large piece of land. In fact, even if one doesn't have a patio, growing herbs and some vegetables is as easy ... perhaps easier ... than growing houseplants. All it takes is a container, dirt, some seeds, a window and some loving care.

I have a small patio ... you know the type ... a small space just outside the apartment. Rather than put ornamental plants out there, we opted for plants that we could eat. It turns out that they are as beautiful as expensive ornamentals. Along the railing, there are long planters filled with herbs ... parsley, basil, and cilantro. We've taken plastic coffee containers, punched a few holes in the bottom, and hung them from the ceiling. They hold habanero peppers, green beans and peas. I've saved containers of every sort and they hold sweet potatoes, tomatoes, mint, rosemary, oregano and thyme. We even have a small fig tree and this year, we have our first figs. Soon, as the weather cools, I'll plant fall veggies: lettuce, spinach, kale and collard greens. All this in a relatively small space.

Planting "your own" is a cost savings. Consider the price of a bundle of herbs ... pretty high for a small bunch. How about the price of tomatoes ... or fresh green beans? For the price of a packet of seeds, one can get an entire season of veggies. And consider the satisfaction that comes with planting and caring for the food you eat. Here's another thought ... when the world is stressing over tainted tomatoes, those of us growing our own will be enjoying them without worry.

And here's the biggie ... growing "your own" will help Mother Earth.

So ... check your closets and garage for any usable containers. Buy a few seeds and perhaps some dirt (if you don't have access to any clean soil) ... and get started. Herbs, gourmet lettuces, green beans and peas are great starting places ... they grow quickly and easily in a sunny window. If you have a yard or some land ... great. Either way ... growing "your own" can be a fun, healthy activity. And if, in your area, it's too late to start a garden right now ... start planning for next spring. The Internet, farmer's almanac, and the library are all great resources for discovering which plants grow well in a variety of situations ... including container planting. I personally like the trial and error method ... I may not always get a bounty but I have a great time.

Here's wishing you a bountiful, fun garden!