We are into April. Warmer regions are ready to wind down for the heat of summer, and cooler, temperate regions are gearing up. If you are in the latter group, I hope you are as excited as I am!
I am a local food advocate, as you all know. Now that the Monsanto Protection Act has been passed, it is more important than ever to know the source of your food!
If you buy locally at a farmer’s market, food store or restaurant, talk to the grower of your food. Find out who it is, and ask questions – is it organic, is meat humanely raised and slaughtered, what is the source of seed, how is food handled after harvest and how fresh is it? Find local farms and markets at Local Harvest.
The best way to know what you are fueling and growing your body with, though, is to grow your own. I’ve talked about this before, but it seems especially important in light of this new legislation. If you are a new gardener with no clue how to grow even a weed, here are the easiest vegetables to grow.
Green Beans and Dry Beans
I worked on a farm years ago, and the owner said, ‘If you want to feel like a farmer, grow beans.’ Beans have a high germination rate, so you lose less seed. They are vigorous and need little care. You can eat them raw or cooked. They are open-pollinated, and it is easy to save the seed for the following year. If you are short on space, you can grow pole beans on a trellis.
There are so many varieties of lettuce, it’s impossible to get bored with salad! They all germinate quickly, again making you feel like an experienced grower. You get the most food for your dollar with lettuce mix, since you cut it small, and it keeps on growing for many more harvests. Lettuce grows so quickly, you can harvest heads and replant for a second picking. Make your own salad dressings for a unique salad every night!
Like beans, peas germinate quickly and grow with little care. They need to be trellised for easy picking. Poles spaced along each row with a few rows of twine strung down the length make a simple, inexpensive trellis. You could also put up a wall of chicken wire for pea tendrils to grab on to. Peas are an early crop, and once they have been harvested, you can plant something else in its place.
Radishes and Salad Turnips
These are early crops that germinate fast and are ready for harvest in 30 days. Again, you can replant those rows once you have harvested them.
If you ever wondered why your friends are desperately giving away zucchini in late summer, it’s because it’s easy to grow and very prolific. Seed germinates quickly for almost instant gratification, and plants are ready to go in the ground in only four weeks. Once they start flowering, you will have zucchini to give away or put up for winter. You will surely be proclaiming, ‘I am a Farmer!’ during your daily harvest!
I have accidentally grown potatoes from kitchen scraps in my compost pile. They are that easy. You don’t need much space, since each plant will produce quite a bit. You can also grow them in large containers, like a whiskey barrel (that is about the size of my compost pile).
So if you want to ‘feel like a farmer’, start with these vegetables. And start small! It is easy to get excited and overplant, but then you get overwhelmed and give up. Get Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. This will be your bible. Now, more than ever, it’s time to grow our own food as a way to fight back.