Monday, January 19, 2009

Grow Your Own - Be a Locavore!

The Chicago Tribune had a nice little article on local agriculture.  This should be a boom year for gardening, driven by a confluence of factors including the growing 'locavore' trend as well as the tougher economic climate.

What are the benefits of local agriculture?
You know the growers and you don't have to wonder what kind of pesticide was used.
Minimal environmental impact - less greenhouse gas produced to ship products.
You don't have to worry about e coli infections from some distant processing plant.
Fruits and vegetables can be picked at the height of freshness, rather than being picked 'green' and steam ripened in railcars en route to the distribution center.

If you're interested in starting your own garden, here are a few tips from the Tribune:
  • Find full sun. A vegetable garden must have eight hours of sun every day. Remember that shadows may fall later in thh season as the sun moves through the sky.
  • Start small. Gain experience from growing a few plants, and you'll be able to build on the knowledge next year.
  • Test your soil. All gardening depends on the quality of the soil and the organisms that live in it and provide nutrients to your plants.  Soil that has been under a lawn or play area is likely to be pounded hard and biologically dead. Take samples to a good garden center for an informal assessment of its texture, but also get a laboratory soil test, which costs about $35. If you live in the city or in an old house or near a heavily trafficked road, have the soil tested for lead, a deadly poison that may come from old paint or decades of auto exhaust.
  • Try containers. If you choose "compact" or "patio" varieties of vegetables, you can grow them in containers, if you are willing to water frequently - at least once a day as the summer goes on and the plants get bigger.

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