GreenChic / Jennifer Spaide
Published 1:03 am, Thursday, April 1, 2010
Spring has officially arrived and there is no better way to celebrate than with fresh flavors in the kitchen. But if cost is putting a crimp in your fresh-from-the-market fare, then fear not because there is a simple solution -- grow your own! Eating produce right out of the garden is the epitome of fresh, organic, local, sustainable -- talk about convenient! And despite an initial cash output to purchase a few items, it's a relatively inexpensive way to work fresh veggies into your diet.
Without a doubt, the cheapest and, initially, the easiest way to create a backyard garden is to pick a sunny spot in the yard, tear up a section of grass, and start planting away. This is the method farmers have used for centuries. But it can also result in an overgrowth of weeds if not planned out carefully. If you don't mind getting your hands a little dirty and spending a little extra time getting rid of strays, then start tearing away. But if you want the goods without the fuss and muss, there are options for you as well.
Raised beds, for instance, are like a sandbox full of dirt and plants. You can make your own, or buy them, plop them down wherever you want and fill with dirt. Just add seeds (or seedlings) and water and watch your garden grow. The great thing about raised beds is that the plants are able to grow deeper roots so generally end up being healthier and more productive. And you can pack a lot into a little space, leaving more room for your veggies and less for weeds.
Containers are another great option as they come in all shapes and sizes, from planter boxes to wooden barrels to hanging baskets and large flowerpots. You are only limited by your imagination. However, there are a few considerations to take into account if going this route. For example, some plastic containers may deteriorate, and terracotta can get very hot which could burn the plant's roots and dry the dirt out quickly. Keep in mind there should be ample holes for drainage. Many container gardeners will stack their potted gardens on cinder blocks or bricks to allow for better drainage. One of the most convenient aspects of container gardening is that you are not limited to yard space to grow your plants. You can strategically place your containers where they are easily accessible (and aesthetically appealing) -- patios, porches, steps, stoops -- as long as they get at least five hours of direct sunlight.
There are a couple options for obtaining plants as well. Seeds or seedlings. If you want to grow your own plants from seed, you can start your seeds inside as it provides them with a hospitable environment to begin germinating. Buy seed starter kits at your local hardware or garden store, or use clean yogurt containers or egg cartons -- just punch a hole for drainage in the bottom. Fill up with organic potting soil and plant seeds according to package directions. Or, if you prefer, you can visit a local farm or plant store to purchase seedlings -- baby plants -- at the beginning of spring and put them straight into your garden or container.
And don't forget to involve the kids in the planting and gardening process. They love to dig in the dirt, find worms, plant seeds, watch them grow and eventually pick the fresh produce. And we parents love that they are learning that carrots don't come from the store and that peas don't come from cans or bags. Some of my fondest memories are of helping my grandparents in their gardens and it's that same appreciation for nature and fresh foods that I want to instill in my own son by gardening at home. So what are you waiting for?! Get growing!
Jennifer Spaide received her master's degree in human nutrition from Columbia University. She is a personal chef and freelance writer residing in New Canaan. As founder of GreenChic, Jennifer is dedicated to inspiring individuals to get fresh in the kitchen and eat their way to a healthy life. You can contact Jennifer at 203-247-2002 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.thegreenchiclife.com to learn more.