Eating Locally is Easy When You Grow Your Own Garden

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Jamie Geller
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Whether you’re planting window boxes or an outdoor kitchen garden now is the perfect time to get started on the summer growing season.

Eating locally is a hot topic in food circles these days. Restaurant chefs have long known that to serve the freshest ingredients, you need to choose items that are grown or raised nearby. Many chefs have entered into partnerships with local farmers to ensure steady supplies. But you don’t have to be a chef or a farmer to grow your own. In honor of Earth Day and the start of the spring growing season, I spoke with Heather, our “Green Gal” about kitchen gardens.

What’s the best way to get started with a kitchen garden, Heather?

It all depends on how much space you have. If you’re in an apartment or townhouse and don’t have a lot of outside space, an indoor herb garden maybe the perfect choice. You don’t really need much space at all and with a little soil, water and sunlight, you’ll have delicious, fresh herbs. The best thing about an indoor herb garden is that you can grow it year round. Herb plants are readily available at grocery stores and garden centers. You can also find seeds for less commonly available herbs on the net. My favorites are chives, thyme and oregano, but you can also grow things like basil, arugula or other greens, which are perfect for salads. It is really amazing what you can grow in your window or a balcony.

For those that have a little more outside space, consider a square-foot garden.

How does a square-foot garden work? How do you plant one?

Well, just like the name implies, square-foot gardens use very little space. The concept was popularized by Mel Bartholomew. It uses intense planting of compatible types of herbs and vegetables close together in a 4x4-foot open-bottomed box divided into 16 one-foot squares. You need less soil, less water and the close proximity of complementary plant species help with weed and insect control. Depending on the size, you can grow between 1 and 16 plants per square. That means that a 4x4 box could yield an entire season’s worth of food. The best part is you can place your box in a garden, on a deck or on a raised table.

Even if you don’t have the space, there are community gardens across the US where you can get some space for your green thumb. The American Community Garden Association maintains a garden finder to look up the community garden nearest to your location.

Awesome! What about timing? It’s still pretty cold in a lot of the country.

If you’re planning to plant this season, now is the right time to get seeds started indoors. That way, your plants will be ready to be transferred outside when it warms up. Edible flowers, greens and bulbs like green onions and garlic can all be started now. Use soil mixed with peat and vermiculite, a sunny spot, good humidity, and take plants out for a couple of hours each day to acclimatize them before moving them outside permanently. This is called “hardening off.”

Thanks, Heather. Enjoy your gardens everyone and let us know what you planted by leaving us your comments.

Selected Resources:

American Community Garden Association

Montreal Botanical Garden Green Pages

NY Botanical Garden Home Gardening Online

Square Foot Gardening Foundation