Grow Your Own Food with Ready-Made Gardens
It seems that with all the talk of knowing where your food comes from, the rising concern about obesity and a move toward healthier eating, more people are flirting with the idea of growing their own fruits and veggies. But for people who know nothing about gardening and who are not confident that they can keep plants healthy and alive, this can be a scary prospect.
Since South Florida is getting ready for its prime growing season, Short Order talked to three local organizations that can help you get started with ready-to-grow edible gardens. They'll help with choosing the right location for the bed in your backyard, building the bed, filling it with the right soil and planting the herbs and vegetables.Miami Kitchen Gardens
Dennis Finneman, a retired investment banker, started Miami Kitchen Gardens as a hobby and a way to connect with his son, who is an organic grower in Arizona.
Finneman offers beds in four sizes built from Southern Pine treated with an organic wood preservative. The beds are filled with a mixture of organic compost and the customer's selection of herbs and vegetable starters. Prices start at $194.
On when to start growing, Finneman says: "This is our spring. So you'll want to have everything ready to go and everything planted, and if you get going now you can get two crops. The heat of the summer is at a level where it's comfortable and a lot of crops can do well. You can plant a full variety of what you want."
Finneman encourages anyone to try gardening and he says he's there to help people regardless of whether they buy the garden from him or not.
"People have been growing food for years with varying degrees of success. The only way to do it is to do it. Give it a try."
If you ever visited the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market, chances are you caught a glimpse of Dylan Terry and his ready-to-grow beds.
Terry has been gardening for 10 years (since he was in high school) and he used to manage the raised beds sold by The Market Company. Now on his own, Terry offers beds in three types of wood starting at $150. There are about 20 sizes to choose from and he also makes custom beds.
There's never a bad time to start.
"People don't do it during summer because there's less variety," says Terry, but he explains there are tropical fruits and vegetables that grow well during the summer that people are slowly becoming familiar with.
Terry will also maintain the garden if people don't have time for it and to make it even easier, he is working on eventually offering drip irrigation with his beds.
Urban Oasis Project
Melissa Contreras founded the volunteer-run Urban Oasis Project to "turn urban and suburban yards into food-producing spaces" and to eradicate urban food deserts - areas where you can find lots of convenience stores and fast food joints but little to none fresh fruits and vegetables.
While the group's mission is to plant gardens in these food deserts, people can buy raised bed gardens from them for their homes. A four-by-eight garden costs $400, but for each bed purchased the group will plant an edible garden in a food desert.
On when to start growing, Contreras says: "In South Florida, October is prime time for starting a cool season garden, with all those veggies like we see at farmer's markets, but can still be done successfully through February. With our year 'round growing season, you can start a garden anytime, as long as you are willing to plant crops appropriate to the season."
Urban Oasis will install the garden with seeds or starter plants. "We ask the recipients what they like to eat," says Contreras. "There's no use growing radishes, which are easy to grow, if you don't like them and won't eat them!"