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Planting the Seeds of a Food Revolution

The weekend is just a day away and that means a trip to the grocery store is likely on the horizon, so it’s time to stock up and plan your meals. But when was the last time you took a good hard look at the food you buy?

By Michael Buck and Michelle Pittman

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Where did it come from? How was it grown? Was your chicken or beef fed on grass or grain ?

That’s where Feaston comes in. Every Thursday, we’re going to show you how to eat locally, in the Lehigh Valley. From the grocery store to the farmer’s market, to your own backyard garden, we’re going learn about local food. We’re not experts, but we talk to them and we learn a lot.

There’s a two-for-one deal in it for you: along with these great ingredients, we’ll show you what to do with them. Once you’re finished here, check out Feaston’s blog, feaston.wordpress.com. We’ve been at this for a while now, so take a cruise through our archives. We’ve had a lot of successes and some epic failures, but in the end, it’s all about the food.

This year we decided to roll up our sleeves, play in the dirt and plant our own real live vegetable garden. After all, there’s nothing more local than food grown in your own backyard — start to finish, Earth to plate.

So here’s the scoop: we’re going to show you how to successfully (we hope!) plant a garden. It’s our first go ’round, so we’re not planting anything terribly complicated.

During our harvests, we’ll have great recipes using everything we’ve grown. If you’re not planting this year, that’s cool … no problem. Hopefully we’ll inspire you to give it a try. In the meantime, most of what we’ll be growing can be procured at a local farmer’s market. If you live in the Lehigh Valley, check out some of your options.

Since we’re new to gardening, we “hired” (i.e., fed organic, grass-fed steak to) gardening experts Stan and Joanie Gertner to come down for a quick consult. The Gertners plant their own, fairly large garden every year and Stan was a farmer for a bit in Minnesota. They gave us a crash course in gardening and boy, did they ever get here in time. Apparently, we’re facing a few deadlines. What we learned (in the simplest of terms), is there are two general types of plants: cold weather and warm weather, defined by when the plants are ready for harvest.

We’re under the gun with the cold weather variety, which need to be in the ground by April 15. While you’re at it, file your taxes, too. Warm weather plants have a little bit of a cushion; they don’t have to be planted until May 15 or so.

Feaston has a few cold weather plants in mind, such as broccoli, garlic and onions. We’re going to buy the broccoli and onion plants as starters from a local nursery, but not the garlic. That’s a cool plant. All you do is swing by the grocery store and pick up a bulb in the produce section. Then pick the cloves apart and drop them in the ground, about six inches apart. Nice, eh?

For the next week or so, this is going to be what we are concentrating on. We have a good-sized plot that hosted last year’s herb garden, which will do nicely for the garlic. Since we recently decided to spread everything out a little, it’s time to get our hardhats out and do some construction.

That’s right, we’re building raised beds. We’re going to try a no-till method that uses compost and reduces weeding. We’ve staked out two plots, a large warm weather one, and a smaller, cold weather one. Home Depot is calling.

Here’s what we know at this point in the season:

* If you’re going a traditional route, till your garden beds. If you’re trying no-till gardening, Oprah Winfrey has a good explainatioon on the so-called lasagna method: http://www.oprah.com/home/Lasagna-Gardening-101/1
* Definitely start thinking about how your garden is going to look, i.e., where how much of each plant is going to go. Take the time to plot it out now, so you’re not pulling your hair and weeds out at the same time later.
* Greenhouses in the area say their transplants will be available in the next week or so. This is the route we’re going. At this point, it’s too late for seeds. Get set for a shopping trip.

Photo by Michael Buck

Note from laini: If, like me, you’re of the non-gardening persuasion due to urban living or lack of a green thumb, you may want to check out the Buy Fresh. Buy Local. website for locally-grown food. I know I’m looking for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to join.

 

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One Response

04.08.10

Love gardening! Been gardening since I was a wee one. Good write up Michelle and Michael!

Laini, I remember at one point a community garden was taking place at Lower Hackett Park. Also, please check out http://www.AmpleHarvest.org

I remember hearing about the urban garden push that occurred during the war/depression era. Urban gardens need a comback. Schools in the area should make a veggie garden.

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