If you’ve ever picked apples on a farm, or eaten fresh, unwaxed produce from the farmer’s market, you know how delicious local food can be. What’s more, eating local’s better for the environment and often less expensive.
Even those far from the farm can enjoy a local harvest. Many urban dwellers eat local by joining a CSA or shopping at farmer’s markets (find both at LocalHarvest.org). In addition, if you have some roof space, a balcony, or a sunny room, you can have a mini-garden of your own. Here are 6 tips to get started.
First, check out the following books. You Grow Girl is a pretty but solid gardening book by Gayla Trail (see also the info-packed You Grow Girl website). The highly rated McGee & Stuckey’s Bountiful Containers focuses on container kitchen gardening, while GRUB tells you how to prepare your sustainable eats (see also the GRUB website). For more general overviews of sustainable eating & living, read The Real Food Revival (read an excerpt here) and The Newman’s Own Organics Guide to a Good Life, co-written by Nell Newman.
Second, visit the American Horticultural Society’s website . In it, you can find a Gardening Q and A, links to gardening resource center sites, and information on master gardener courses throughout the country.
Third, get your gardening supplies at Home Depot. Actually, get them anywhere you like. Smith & Hawken is pretty, if pricey; Shelterrific recommends GRDN, a similarly stylish store aimed at urban gardeners. Domino Magazine’s Black Book has great gardening supply links.
On the budget end, Home Depot, Wal-Mart & Lowe’s have well-stocked gardening sections, and Target offers a Smith & Hawken line. Local nurseries and farms are good resources (see the wonderful LocalHarvest Store).
You can also get used supplies at garage sales, on eBay, from family & friends (ask around–you’re bound to find someone who’s bought supplies they never use). If you have several friends in the same building with their own gardens, you can always share gardening tools.
Fourth, numerous blogs have mentioned the AeroGarden by AeroGrow International. It features “NASA-tested Aeroponic Technology”, and has daylight spectrum bulbs, making it perfect for those with darker apartments or blacker thumbs. AeroGrow offers seedpacks for chilis, cherry tomatoes, international basil, petunias, and garden greens, but my favorite is the pack for herbs (cilantro, chives, italian basil, red rubin basil, dill, mint, and parsley, pictured at right), which are expensive fresh and spoil quickly.
Other possible solutions include this Upside-Down Tomato Garden from Hammacher Schlemmer and the Hortuba table profiled by Treehugger. McGee & Stuckey’s book, as mentioned before, specifically tackles gardening in small spaces using containers.
Fifth, the movie that taught me more about gardening than any other: Saving Grace. It’s not a great film, but for pure inspiration, nothing beats Grace’s (a winning Brenda Blethyn) heroic rescue of a marijuana plant.
Sixth, learn more about kitchen gardens and eating a local diet (aka “the 100-mile diet“) by visiting the following six blogs:
- Cold Climate Gardening
- In My Kitchen Garden, which is an offshoot of
- Farm Girl Fare, an wonderful website by a Missouri-based farmer. She has the best mother’s day post ever (featuring a lamb).
- Eat Local Challenge, which was recently profiled on Typepad’s homepage.
- Treehugger tells you how to Grow Your Own Food.
- Life Begins At 30: Eat Local Challenge Section
Another thing to consider is community gardens, a slightly different subject that deserves another post. For now, see the Green Guerillas’ website for more information.