More and more American consumers are going local, focusing on nearby ingredients and producers. Even more impressive is the trend for people to go the extra step and start their own food gardens. In fact, my family has recently done just that.
Buy local is a movement aimed at supporting businesses in your area while decreasing the environmental footprint of shipping goods. Another great reason to go local is because fresh produce that’s picked at the peak of ripeness yields better flavors and nutrition when compared to produce picked early so it can survive transportation across the country.
Grow Your Own
The number of home food gardens increased 14% last year to a record 41 million households, according to Garden Center Magazine. Did you know that 80 percent of U.S. households have a private lawn totaling over 25 million acres? Well, one of the biggest trends is converting those expensive to maintain, water guzzling, fertilizer demanding lawns into vegetable and fruit gardens.
Last summer we started a home garden after moving to into our house (that’s us at the top). It truly was a labor of love; we’re next to a creek and as I dug down 18 inches to loosen the soil, I literally hauled out tons of river rock. Ten weekends and 95 wheelbarrows of organic soil later and we had 24 inches of growing space for our veggies.
It’s truly amazing to taste the fresh flavors from the garden that you just can’t get at the grocery store. One of the biggest benefits of the home garden is seeing our three-year-old’s enthusiasm for fresh veg. I’m not kidding. He likes to go out to the garden and help cut lettuce, which actually weeps from the stalk after you cut it. He won’t eat frozen green beans dripping in butter, but he but loves a fresh salad – go figure.
Seeds or Starters
Last year we had trouble growing from seed. It seemed like every time I’d bury the seedlings in the garden they’d burn up or would be gone the next morning (a flock of partridges was responsible for the latter). We tried again this year after some inspiration from Jamie Oliver, who said something to the effect “put some seeds on the ground, cover them with a little soil, keep them moist and 8 out of 10 times, something grows.”
Don’t Be A Drip – Actually, Yes Do Be A Drip
I watched the tutorials at Irrigation Direct and designed and installed our drip system. It was fun and easy to do. Now with the timer hooked up everything gets an even watering and the weeds are at a minimum. We use a chicken wire cage over the seedlings until they’re too big for the birds to care anymore. The first crop of the year already yielded 28 heads of lettuce, bok choy and about five square feet of arugula that just keeps coming back after you cut it. Not bad for about $7 of seeds.
Join The Food Nation
It’s great to see so many American’s getting in touch with where our food comes from. I see lots of talk on social networks this summer about what varieties to plant, beneficial insects and inter-planting to save space. It’s not just people with yards getting involved; the urban gardening craze is alive and well, with potted vegetables and vertical gardens reaching skyward.
If you haven’t caught the bug yet, I recommend getting a good organic gardening book like The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible. Try it and I’d wager that you’ll find the temptation of adding gardening to your food and wine experiences too difficult to resist. If you make it to our Kendall-Jackson Wine Center you’ll see our working culinary garden where we grow food for our events, food and wine pairings and local charities. Let us know if you’ve gotten involved in the buy local movement or are growing your own and how it’s going.