Posted on March 26 2012
As residents of beautiful Southern California, we are lucky our weather allows us to enjoy the freshest produce all year long. While our friends on the East Coast may suffer through actual seasons, the consistent sunshine enables us to prepare our dishes with local flavors even if the temperature dips below 70 degrees. Despite the wide variety available at Orange County grocery and farmer's markets, it is difficult to replace the satisfaction you feel from picking a vegetable directly from its vine. Before you decide to find out what shade of green your thumb is, do you have enough room in your beautiful suburban home? Whether you live in an apartment, condominium or spacious home, everyone has room for a container garden! As long as you have a small space that gets six hours of sunlight each day (or less depending on your "crops"), you are ready to take a bite out of your carbon footprint. What are your favorite vegetables or herbs to season dishes with? Plants do not just produce one zucchini a week; when you make your seed selections keep this in mind and do not pick a vegetable you are not the biggest fan of or an herb you never serve. You can pick seeds in the local garden section of your home improvement store, at grocery stores like Sprouts or Whole Foods or, if you're feeling inspired, order a catalog from the Seed Savers Exchange, which is dedicated to saving and sharing heirloom seeds. Now is the perfect season to start your seedlings, but what sort of containers should you use? Experience has shown that terra cotta or unglazed clay pots are more likely to dry out and require more watering. Plastic pots can deteriorate easily, as can wooden containers. The key to container gardens is ensuring your new plants have adequate drainage. Glazed clay pots work well and are slightly more appealing to the eye or you can get creative with a few of these suggestions via apartmenttherapy.com. (Warning, the large mason jars seem like a great idea, but beware of the drainage and algae problem - we tried it.) Another important factor to consider what kind of surface you will be leaving your plants on. If you do not own your home, be extra sure to invest in a matching saucers or drainage dishes to catch the water to avoid staining the surface or the ground. If you decide to go with a hanging garden, line the bottoms of your pots or baskets with moss to absorb any excess water. Make sure to read the recommendations for water needs of your plants, usually located on the back of your seed packet or easily searched for online. Purchase plant food or consider Orange County's own Authentic Haven Brand Natural Brew manure tea - we promise it doesn't smell. Good luck! Photo credit: Flickr user thomas pix. Used with permission through Creative Commons.