Even Foodies Can Grow Green

financial-edHey Tower fam, Financial Ed here, ready to dish about all things financial. You may know my aunt, Financial Franny, from TowerLine. Unless the powers that be throw shade on my Baby Boomers overlord comment (sorry not sorry), you’ll be hearing from me here again from time to time.

It’s official. We’re not our parents. Not a big surprise, really. I hear it all the time, how we’re a completely different species than our Baby Boomer overlords. But this time, it’s personal. This time, it has to do with something we constantly talk about, post about, pin about, obsess about. This time, it’s about food.

And, more specifically, where we get it. A recent Wall Street Journal study found that we are saying Bye, Felicia! to a cultural mainstay of our parents’ generation—shopping trips to the grocery store. With our busy schedules and so many dining and shopping options, we are eating out more at restaurants and bars, ordering food on our phones, and buying our groceries at Target or Walmart.

Getting back to basics
And it’s not just about where we’re eating, but what we’re eating. For us, clean-eating is what’s up. We want fresh, unprocessed, organic food that’s healthy for our bodies, and gentle on the environment. But we also don’t want to spend our entire paycheck. And, we’ve come to realize that health can’t be found on a store shelf, so we’re getting our hands dirty and starting to grow our food.

In fact, a National Gardening Association report showed that we are the fastest growing group of food gardeners, nearly doubling our spending on food gardening in the past few years. The appeal of growing our own food is simple: we can save money and know we’re not ingesting harsh chemicals or pesticides, and not polluting ourselves with crazy growth hormones or weird GMOs.

It’s not actually easy being green
Growing up my aunt had a garden, and I was at her house all the time, so I’m familiar with the basics. But, even if you have no clue about gardening, growing your own food may be easier than you think. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way to help get you started growing your own secret garden.

Keep it real. Cukes may be easy to grow, but if they gross you out then they’re a waste of time. Maybe you’re more of a strawberry fan. Think about what fruits and veggies you eat most, and focus your efforts there. Also, know your limits. You may love pomegranates, but unless you live in Cali it’s not likely you can grow these successfully. Google what foods can thrive where you live, keeping in mind the weather, soil, and how much sunshine your corner of the world gets.

Choose plants that feed your bank account. Once you figure out what you like to eat and what you can grow, focus on the plants that will save you the most scratch. Some best bets are lettuce, arugula, cilantro, dill, tomatoes, beets, broccoli, potatoes, chives and strawberries.

Pick a sweet spot. Vegetables and fruit generally need six hours of sunshine a day, so keep that in mind when picking a spot for your garden. Also think ahead: Conditions can vary by season, like how much shade is cast by buildings and trees at different times of the year.

Don’t sweat not having a yard. If you live in a condo or apartment, don’t be discouraged. A balcony, patio or even fire escape can be an ideal space for a container garden. And there are plenty of indoor gardening ideas and options out there designed for small spaces.

Select your seeds. Swing by your local plant nursery and pick up organic and heirloom varieties of seeds for the best quality. Ask about the best time to sow your vegetables and fruits, as seasons differ depending on the local climate. And buy different types of seeds. As is true in most of life diversity is good, and actually one of the keys to a healthy garden.

Feed the beast. Your garden needs nutrients to thrive, so add organic materials like home-grown compost or cow manure. Wood chip mulch is also a great addition, as it keeps pesky weeds away, provides fertilizer and keeps the soil moist.

Show some love. Check your garden regularly. Look for signs of bugs or disease and apply natural home-made remedies and pest control. Try this recipe for an all-purpose organic pesticide.

Listen to people who know stuff. Don’t try to do it all on your own. Check out some of my favorite sites that can help make your garden snap-worthy: National Gardening Association; My Square Foot Garden; Homesteading.com; and even the crusty but tried and true Old Farmer’s Almanac.

Happy growing! More importantly, happy eating!

#later

References: The Atlantic, Business Insider, Consumer Reports, Garden.org, Homesteading.com; Money Talks News