Growing your own food is not only incredibly satisfying (what's more fun than sinking your teeth into a delicious tomato, warm off the vine, that you yourself nurtured from a tiny seed?), –It's also amazingly economical compared to buying fresh produce from grocery stores or farmers' markets.  

One of my favorite things about summer is the availability of incredibly beautiful & amazingly delicious heirloom tomatoes.  These are not the mealy flavorless excuses for tomatoes I grew up with.  These babies stand on their own!  Just top with a slice of mozzarella, a sliver of basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and a dash of salt, and you've got just about the most perfect salad you can possibly imagine.  Insalata Caprese.  Yum.

The thing about these heirloom beauties however, is they don't come cheap.  

Even at the height of tomato season, and even at your local farmers' market, these tomatoes can run anywhere from $3 to $6 per pound.  

Just to put it into perspective… say you were making that Insalata Caprese for some dinner guests, a group of 8.  You'd have to buy about 4 pounds of tomatoes which could run you as much as $24!  For not much more money than that, you could grow more heirloom tomatoes than you'll know what to do with. 

And talk about sustainability!  There's no packaging, no transportation costs, and no large scale applications of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Growing your own food is the uber-essence of the local organic movement that has everybody so excited these days.

And it's not as hard as you think.  Anyone can do it, even if you don't have a yard.

All it takes is a bit of time on your part – setting up, tending, and ultimately harvesting your crop – the best part!

I'm going to be writing a series of posts in the coming weeks about anything and everything you need to know to grow your own food in Oakland… on the cheap.

Here's my basic plan for upcoming posts:

  • Starting your seeds – starting from seeds is a great way to save money, especially if you can share seed packets with friends since each often contains enough seeds for dozens if not hundreds of plants
  • Selecting your spot – whether you have a yard, a small strip of land, or a patch of concrete, we'll discuss a variety of strategies for setting up your future garden
  • Transplanting your babies – this is a critical stage, moving the seedlings you've raised in protective quarters to the wild wild west of the great outdoors
  • Watering strategies – watering is likely what you'll spend most of your time doing once these babies get established.  There are various methods and I'll be discussing some easy ways to water effectively and efficiently
  • Soil strategies – vegetables require quite a bit of nutrient material and organic fertilizers can be fairly expensive to buy, but fortunately it's relatively easy to make if you have a little patience.  I'll talk about setting up your compost pile and/or worm bin (which works even if you don't have  a yard)
  • Pest Management – there are lots of little critters that will scramble to invade our delicious garden, but there are some easy ways to manage them without resorting to harsh chemicals
  • Harvesting your bounty – some crops will continue to produce if you tend them correctly (lettuces for example), while some are a one time shot.
  • Setting up the next round – I'll talk about harvesting seeds and rotating crops for your fall/winter garden

Now that spring has sprung, it's a fine time to start thinking about getting those summer vegetable gardens going. 

 

Folks: What are you planning to plant this summer? What have you had good luck growing from seeds? Any cost-saving tips? Post in comments or email editor@oaklandlocal.com, please.