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Cold weather gardening
The California "salad train" was an intriguing discovery when I drove cross country from North Carolina to California several years ago. The trains and 18-wheelers carried a steady stream of California produce to points beyond. That was early spring. Since that time I've had numerous discussions with a truck driver who hauls Arkansas chicken to California...and California chicken to Texas. He hauls lettuce, carrots and an veritable cornucopia of green luscious vegetables all year long -- both to and from California, Florida, Texas and Louisiana.
Sustainability concepts tell us that growing and buying locally saves our oil supplies. By gardening and shopping at local farmers markets, etc., we can make a difference not only in the quality and freshness of our food supply, but in our overall environmental common sense.
Many people would like to know how to grow their own fresh vegetables during cool weather seasons. Late fall. Winter. Early spring -- they all can be growing seasons if you select the right plants, the right growing conditions, and the right care.
Cool weather crops include many lettuces and other leafy salad greens, such as mizuna and the mix known as mesclun. Their maturation time is so short you can start harvesting salads a month after planting.
If you live in a climate without hard freezes, you can sow seeds directly outdoors. In colder environments, it is helpful to use a cold frame or a greenhouse, conservatory or indoor growing space with grow lights. Sunny environments where the temperature don't dip below 45 degrees (F) are best for starting seeds. During short winter days, it is helpful to provide several hours of artifical light with fluorescent fixtures mounted four to six inches avove the leaf surface.
Leafy letttuces, spinach, etc. will give you an abundant crop of green leaves to harvest in about a month's time. And you can reseed your indoor garden every three weeks to provide an ongoing supply of vitamin rich greens throughout the winter season.
ENJOYThe crisp, fresh, sweet tastes of locally grown salad fixins are a joy that can't be matched by any amount of highly processed food. Yum!
LEARNWhich of the produce in your grocery store or favorite restaurant is grown locally? It's worth asking. Your concern and interest will help create a buzz that local is good! And you'll learn a lot about your community.
MAKE A CHOICEChoosing to garden or to support local farmers is a simple act that affects the complex world of agriculture. Your choice makes a difference not only to your own health and wellbeing, but to the strength of your local community's economy.
MAKE A CHANGEWhat WILL you do today to move toward your goal? Even one small action today makes a difference. And you can add a little tomorrow and the next day... Together we will restore our environment in our community and around the world.
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