It’s cold out there…Brrr. The likelihood is, in most parts of the country, the cold has frozen everyone’s resolutions for a greener 2009. But now’s the time to get moving, especially for those who have made a commitment to eat locally this year.
If you’re truly concerned about the distances foods travel to your table, you need to get down and dirty – literally. You can’t get any more locally grown that a garden in your back yard, or somewhere on your property. And while it may be hard to imagine beautiful growing vegetables with all that snow, start thinking now about where you’ll be putting that garden. It’ll be time to till before you know it.
Winter is the time to start planning your summer vegetable garden. Go on line, or get some catalogs from companies like Burpee and start considering what you want to grow. If you’re new to gardens, you might want to start with some research at your local library on the different types of gardens and how they work. You’ll also want to start observing your yard to find out where plants will get the most sun and grow best.
Think now about what you want to plant in that garden. How about some herbs to spice up your cooking? Some – like basil, parsley, rosemary – are easy to grow. You can even plant them in containers on your porch to save room in your garden for things like fresh tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, zucchini and peppers. It’s amazing what you can grow in your own garden under the right circumstances. Watermelon, any one?
But getting back to winter. If you want to plant certain items, it’s important to research their germination dates, so you know when to plant them. Germination varies for every plant, even for various types of the same vegetable, so be careful. Some vegetables can take quite a bit of time from plating to eating. Don’t disappoint yourself by waiting too long to get seeds or seedlings in the ground.
Something else you’ll want to start now to create a healthy, environmentally friendly garden: compost. If you’re not already a composter, you’ll want to be if you choose to grow some of your own food. Composting is one of things many tend to think of as a major undertaking. It’s not. You don’t need a fancy bin for the backyard. You can make your own, or even go without one. When done correctly, compost should not cause an odor problem or invite pests. Just know that without a fancy bin, you’ll have to go out and turn the heap from time to time. Bonus – its good exercise.
Those counter top composters with the carbon filters are nice. But you really don’t need that either. Find a container with a tightly fitting lid, and some room for it under your kitchen sink, and your ready to go. From time to time, empty the container to your main compost heap in the yard, turn the heap once in a while, and soon you’ll have some nice dark soil to apply to your garden for nutrients.
The trick to compost is a balance between carbon sources and nitrogen sources. The ideal ratio is about 30:1 in favor of carbon. Carbon sources are things like coffee grounds, egg shells, and fruit wastes, in addition to leaves, pine needles, straw, newspaper, and wood chips. Nitrogen sources are items like manure, weeds, garden waste and grass clippings. Don’t use food wastes like meats and fats. For complete instructions on composting, check in with your local agricultural extension office.
Remember, most farmers markets aren’t in full swing until mid-summer, but you can get moving on your commitment to eating locally right now. Feeling warmer yet?