photo courtesy of www.rareseeds.com
Ignore the rain, because it's time to think about spring.
For our area, the last frost is expected about April 20.
That means you need to get thinking about starting seeds.
Here's the deal, if you grow your own veggies, you decimate your carbon footprint because you aren't having your green beans flown in from Buenos Aries. I don't think they grow our green beans in Buenos Aires, but you're still saving the world from the carbon emissions that would even be needed to truck in the veggies to your local farmer's market.
And you slash your food budget while still getting organic, wholesome fresh veggies -- as long as you're willing to do an organic garden.
With the recession having everyone in its cold grasp, you could use some grocery savings. This is a great way.
Why start seeds? Same reasons you want a garden. If you grow them from seeds, you know what was put on the little seedlings, you know nothing but a little packet was trucked in and you save major money.
You can buy organic seeds, meaning their parents were organic, etc., but we tend to just get seeds that aren't organic and raise them organically.
We do the lazy organic garden. We don't use commercial pesticides or fertilizers, and we only add stuff if we have an actual problem. When problems arise, we research a cheap and safe alternative. Last year's buggies were driven off by ultrasafe (and cheap) neem oil, for instance. When you're not buying bags of fertilizer and bottles of pesticides, the cost of your garden really drops. (A word to the wise: Watch out for garden-center products that say they're natural or organic. Do a little research online. Since no one is certifying them as organic, they can make all sorts of claims to dupe folks who are trying to go green.)
Back to the frost. Here, we have hot summers and cold winters, so we really get one chance to do this right. You can't put your garden in before April 20 or your plants will pretty much be destroyed by the frost. And you need most of it out before the first frost Oct. 24. And keep in mind these frost dates are estimates for northern Illinois.
But you can plan now. Figuring out what you want to grow is easy. What do you want to eat? Grow that. Pick up seed packets and read the backs to find out how far apart the plants have to be. That'll help you figure out how much space you need.
Then, check the packet to see what needs to be started inside and what can be planted straight into the garden. It'll tell you. It'll also tell you how long it takes the plant to grown into maturity. Your carrots might take 70 days while your squash may take 100, for instance. Do some basic math. If you have to start your tomatoes inside, don't start them so early that they have to be planted outside before the last frost.
Check your library for guides if you need. I know Plainfield has great basic gardening books and good organic ones, too. The way libraries share, you can probably get those if yours doesn't have much to offer.
And, while you're dreaming, visit some seed sites. I got a copy of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog, and it's making me drool. They offer heirloom plants - from fruit to flowers - that aren't the generic stuff that has been bred for size and color instead of taste. If you're a beginner like I am, you might not want to tackle anything too wacky yet, but these are the veggies I aspire to grow and can. Visit www.rareseeds.com to see their offerings.