Gardens, CSA’s, & Farmer’s Markets…Do You Use Them?

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Some of you might remember last May when we bought a CSA share from Plan B organic farms. It was our first time ever buying a CSA share and we were excited for local and organic food each week.

Well to clarify, it was mostly ME who was excited…but excitement is contagious and I think Eric secretly enjoyed it too.

…I think it was all the cooking I did!

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We quickly learned that there were things we loved about the CSA share and things that we didn’t love.

CSA PROS:

1) Value for dollar

At just $20 something dollars a week, we were given a huge box of organic produce. It would have cost much more had we purchased this at the grocery store. Even so, we wouldn’t have been able to find everything organic at the grocery store and I can bet it wouldn’t have been local either.

2) Support local organic farmers

3) Fresh & Crisp produce, better quality than what we find at grocery store

4) Our veggie consumption went way up and we felt amazing.

5) We tried so many new vegetables. Even scary ones!

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CSA CONS:

1) Lots of Repetition

By August/September we were getting tons and tons of potatoes and squash (among other things) and we got so sick of the repetition. I’m sure if we lived in a tropical climate, there would be a better selection of produce each week, but around here I think we are more limited.

2) No choice in what produce you get

We often found ourselves longing for some items that were in season and they never came                 (e.g., tomatoes).

3) Picking up the box each week

We opted not to get a delivery to save money. We found out only after we purchased the share that the pick-up location was a 25 minute drive from our house and it wasn’t overly convenient for us. Plan B does not disclose the pick-up location until your make the purchase. Obviously, this was a con for our particular circumstance, but pick-up location is still something to consider before buying.

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Our 2011 Produce Plan

This year, we decided that we are going to change things up and do things a bit differently!

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Our plan for the 2011 season is to:

1) Possibly plant a garden this Spring, time willing! 

2) Buy produce from the Milton Farmer’s Market. We aren’t working at the Oakville market this summer so we hope to attend the Milton Market (as customers!) as much as possible this year. It opens May 14th.

3) Buy produce from local organic farm. I recently discovered that there is an organic farm not too far from us. This organic farm lets you buy produce on Wednesday evenings and they will also be selling at the Milton Farmer’s Market on Saturdays.

(If we plant a garden, we won’t need to rely on the farm/market as much…but we’ll have to see!)

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If we manage to build a garden, I plan on showing the process on the blog. I really have NO CLUE how to build a veggie garden (and I don’t know a thing about vegetable gardening!), but my RMT has been teaching me a lot about it because she is a pro. :) I’m sure I can find some tutorials online too.

I hope our new plan will work out well this season. I will keep you updated on our progress!

Do you have a plan of how you will be buying your produce this Spring and Summer? Do you ever use a CSA, Farmer’s Market, local farm, or plant your own veggies? If you plant your own garden, how did you start it up?

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{ 206 comments… read them below or add one }

Sonia April 12, 2011

I love growing my own veggies but it IS a LOT of WORK. I was inspired by my Hungarian family whose veggies gardens are insanely productive, and I used to grow a garden in my parents backyard before I moved in with my husband. I grew tons of corn, squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, onions, and berries. But since I moved I couldn’t take care of it and my parents . . . well . . . they let my fig tree die so the garden died too. :(

I garden on the patio at my apartment and have tomatoes, zucchini, and loads of herbs. I want to save money and am putting myself on a tight budget for the next few months so my farmers market trips will be limited. Though I do love going there.

I suggest that if you are really considering a garden, that you start growing your seedlings now (indoors to avoid frost) OR I suppose you can wait until you have a garden space and buy seedlings from the store and put them directly in ground once the threat of frost is over. Even if you don’t get the chance to make a garden, you can always pot a lot of veggies or hang them from sturdy hooks. That’s what I am doing and they’ve grown pretty well :) Good luck!

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Ann April 12, 2011

I’ve decided to plant a small crop of veggies in containers, since I have no real garden room. I’m also planning to make trips to the local farmer’s market. I’d love to join a CSA but haven’t any luck finding one that is close enough to be convenient & inexpensive enough.

I can’t wait to see/hear about your garden plans. I would love to have the room for a proper veggie garden. Hopefully some day.

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JenATX April 12, 2011

I agree with you on the CSA pros/cons. It lead me to try beets, which I now love! BUT my roommate forgot to pick up the box one week when I was out of town & it lead to some tension since we basically threw our money down the drain for produce that week :-/ I actually would do it again this summer, but its too much produce for just one person & my roommate isn’t interested in sharing again after last summer. Oh well! I’ll probably just continue to go to the farmers market :)
cant wait to see garden pics!

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Morgan @ Life After Bagels April 12, 2011

I pretty much have a pros and cons list similar to yours about our CSA – except because we didn’t have a car we did opt or delivery and it cost $5 a delivery. We only had it over the winter but I swear if I see one more cabbage … I’m going to skip it for the summer and hit farmers markets

BUT – I am going to look into the meat share they have since Brad eats meat and it kills me to buy it from the grocery store for him

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bree marsh @ deliciously dense April 12, 2011

I LOVE OUR FARMERS’ MARKET!!!

http://www.deliciouslydense.com/index/pics-from-produce-land-

i did a CSA last year…enjoyed it, but had to drive a long way to get to the farm every week. the market is every saturday from 8-noon and is only 5 minutes from our house! and the farm i was a member of last year has a booth, so i try to buy something from them every week. when we move, i totally plan to build a garden, but will need some serious help!!!

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Beth April 12, 2011

I also recommend Square Foot Gardening to keep things simple and easy. It is less work too.
http://www.squarefootgardening.com/

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Leslie April 12, 2011

We just built a “square foot” garden and I think it’s gonna work out good! I plan on using the farmers market a lot more this year though as well. For the garden deets, check out my blog!

http://taterandkeela.blogspot.com/2011/04/square-foot-gardening.htm

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Alison (Fueling for Fitness) April 12, 2011

I have the same con list as you… minus the pick up option because I went with an organic delivery service. I did some searching around, and without a car, it would have been a huge hassle for me to pick up the box. I love the service (still do!), and you can fully customize your order (it does cost an extra $2.00 which is negligible for being able to sub everything out of your box). The biggest problem for me was repetition as well; throughout the winter I got a lot potatoes and broccoli – while I love both, eventually I started getting sick of seeing the same produce week after week.

The other thing I really missed was my trips to buy produce – I get a lot of joy and satisfaction from just browsing through farmer’s markets and grocery aisles, looking through fruit and getting inspired. Picking off a list from a website isn’t the same thing. So for now, I’m going to get my deliveries bi-weekly since my schedule doesn’t allow me the time to grocery shop as often as I’d like, and when I can, I’ll make a few trips to the grocery store here and there.

Of course, my #1 choice would be to grow my own produce, but living in an apartment doesn’t really afford the luxury of having that option…

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Andrea April 12, 2011

I’m a huge fan of the farmer’s market- I feel lucky to live in Guelph because our market is open year round! My mom and I also planted a bit of a vegetable garden last year, so we had some fresh zucchini and sugar snap peas, though the rest of the veggies didn’t work out. The zucchini was particularly prolific- we were trying to find zillions of zucchini recipes to use it all up!

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Carissa April 12, 2011

We have a garden that my husband built for us. It’s 4 raised beds. Last year we had to build it and start the planting, so I got my seeds in kind of late. This year we’re doing better with that. I like the raised beds because they make it easier to garden, but there are also a lot of garden quality reasons to use them. I think gardening is a miracle. I plant little seeds and next thing I know there are plants growing. I keep up with the weeding, but I’m still learning about pruning and rotating crops and those things. It’s not nearly as hard as I thought it would be, and also doesn’t take a huge amount of time. It would be simple to at least grow some tomatoes in pots on your new deck. Good luck!

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Amanda April 12, 2011

My entire blog is actually a product of my adventure in gardening in 2010! I started a large garden last year and jumped in full throttle. My parents’ garden, but this was a first for me. I work full time, and my fiancé works 60+ hours per week in the summer. We are very busy but we still made it work. We were fully involved in the garden daily and we canned/froze all of our excess produce. We are still eating our fresh, organic produce in April because we preserved it last summer (we live in upstate NY so there isn’t anything edible and green right now ;) ). I LOVED this adventure and this year we’ve more than doubled our garden and have committed to growing all of the decorations for our wedding this fall! If I could make one recommendation it is JUST DO IT. It’s scary at first, but then you realize that the worst thing that could happen is the plants die and you visit the farmer’s market instead. It isn’t the end of the world ;). You will never feel more proud than you do the first night you make a meal out of all the foods you grew! It is an amazing feeling. One that I don’t ever want to let go of. So this year we are embarking on Garden Version 2.0 and I can’t wait!!!! :) Good luck, I would LOVE to read about your gardening adventures! It’s a learn as you go process and it is incredibly rewarding.

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Nichole (Flirting with Food, Fitness & Fashion) April 12, 2011

I really want to plant a garden this year but I am terrified that I will kill everything. I have contemplated about the CSA but have the same doubts…

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Ally C April 12, 2011

I use the small local farmer’s market when I can/remember. Unfortunately, it’s from May-October, so I end up buying almost all of my produce from the grocery store. We have a CSA-type thing for the whole state, and it’s about $20-25 dollars a week for the smallest plan. I haven’t bought in though because I’m not sure if it’s worth it yet for how much produce you receive. I’m also a college student, and I’m not sure that fits into my budget either. I really need to look into it.

I don’t have my own garden, but I did grow mint last year on the front porch which made many a spiked mint lemonade and mojito as well as panini. :)

I love the “scary veg” face! :D

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kaila@ Healthy Helper blog! April 12, 2011

I want to plant a veggie garden soooo bad! But I just don’t have the room or climate for it I don’t think. The only thing that I’ve been able to grow are cherry tomatoes and some herbs. But I would love to plant fruit and veggie plants! I hate relying on over priced grocery stores for fresh produce.

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Marta April 12, 2011

good luck with the garden Angela! I have been enjoing my amateur (weed) garden for 4 years or so. lemme tell ya, tomatoes grow no matter how not-so-green your thumb is :) I also have lots of luck with herbs and zucchini.

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Ann April 12, 2011

A work colleague and I are splitting a CSA share this summer. will cost me $7.50/week…so even if it’s not very good, I ALWAYS spend AT LEAST twice that much at the farmer’s market every week anyway. We do have to go and pick the produce up, but it’s only a 10 minute drive, so shouldn’t be too horrible. I also have one small raised bed with (so far) snow peas, mixed lettuce, spinach, and swiss chard. A bit later I’ll be planting tomatoes (cherry and slicing) and peppers and maybe some beets.

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Nicole @ Fresh & Fit April 12, 2011

I can’t wait for the farm’s markets to start up again, it is within walking distance to my house. Every Saturday I try to take a walk over. ! I’m going to try and buy most of my fruits and veggies there this year!

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Andrea B. @ Vegvacious April 12, 2011

Over the winter, I have used a home delivery service that delivers a box of organic produce every week. The veggies are really good considering the time of year and they do as much local as is possible in the Winter. I like that you can do substitutions so you can always get rid of an item if you don’t like it. I LOVE farmer’s markets in the Spring/Summer/Fall! That is where I am planning to buy most of my produce this year — I’m also going to do some looking around to see if I can find a local organic farm. I am so happy it’s that time of year when we can start getting local, fresh produce :-)

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Meg April 12, 2011

Have you ever gone to the Big Carrot in Toronto?? Apparently its an all organic food co op. This beautiful boy I adore works there.. I am going to check it out on Thursday..

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Zestful Lou April 12, 2011

I had a CSA for a few months, but I just cancelled it because I moved. I also found there was a lot of repetition (swiss chard, namely), and I felt that I wasn’t really getting $25 dollars worth of produce. I know that I can go to the local farmer’s market and buy the same amount of produce for much cheaper. Granted, it’s not being delivered to my doorstep, but there is something I LOVE about shopping the local farmer’s markets on saturday and sunday mornings. So for this summer, I will be back to the sunny farmer’s markets to get my fruit and veggie fix!!

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Lisa Fine [lisasfoods] April 12, 2011

Oh wow, you have a lot of comments on this one! :)

My boyfriend and I started out first garden last year. I had worked on several farms in the past, and he grew up in a family that had a garden, so we just read some books and websites, and made some guesses. The main problem we had was knowing what to plant when, so I’m spending a day later this week to determine what can go in the ground now, and what needs to wait until after our first frost.

Besides our garden produce (and we have amazing berry bushes in our yard), I stick to the farmers’ markets and some farm stands. I like the idea of a CSA, but we live in a really rural area (with no CSAs nearby), and think it’d be too difficult with the driving. Plus, I like choice.

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Jillted April 12, 2011

I joined a CSA for the first time last year and loved it for all the reasons you mentioned. We too got a little tired of some of the veggies (e.g., turnips!), but we got way more variety than what I would have purchased at the store. I love learning about new vegetables and trying out new recipes with them. Our CSA is only a couple miles from our house, so it is an easy bike ride to pick up the box. Plus, we live in a condo, so having a garden is not a practical idea. I’m already counting down the weeks until our first veggie box arrives!

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Lana April 12, 2011

I can’t believe you drove 25 miles each week! I would love to have a garden and can’t wait til I graduate and get a house to start one. Until then, I try to go by local farmers markets as much as possible. They are tons of fun!

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Jess April 12, 2011

We do a CSA, but the pickup is super close to our house so it’s no big deal for us. And I kind of like not knowing what we’re getting :)

I do however agree with some of the other “issues” you commented on…we got so.much.squash last year. We at one point got one that was larger than our cat!

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Teresa April 12, 2011

I would love to have a larger garden this year! But we have to change some things in our yard to make room for a larger patch if its going to happen. I do however grow basil, thyme and tomatoes (I also grow cherry tomatoes at my neightbors house, its vacant and they are letting me use their small garden area). I REALLY wanted to sign up for the CSA this year but not sure I’ll have the funds on time. But I DO plan to get a meat and egg share (local pasture raised eggs and beef!! I know that’s not your thing ;)). Nonetheless I WILL be visiting the farmer’s market every week and our local pick your own farm. My son (who’s 3) loved going to the farmer;s market last summer. And when we walk downtown past the place that they set up he asks when we get to start going again! Its so nice to meet the local farmers and have them start looking forward to you coming every week.

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Melissa @ Be Not Simply Good April 12, 2011

Yes, yes and yes! We are starting our third CSA season in about a month. I think I reacted to fennel about how you did, Angela! Ha ha! Some weird stuff sometimes. :)

We occasionally pick things up at the local farmers’ market. As you can imagine, we don’t need to get a whole lot since we already have the CSA share. I like to get things that we don’t get in our share, like extra tomatoes or cucumbers. I never get enough cucumbers for my liking.

We had a small herb garden the last two summers, and we are considering planting more things this year. If we are successful, I think we will be sharing a lot of veggies! And perhaps doing more preserving. I am a total novice when it comes to canning, but I have done just a little bit and would be willing to try to do more. I’m sure these things will come up on my blog too as the summer starts and progresses.

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Amanda April 12, 2011

Canning is so much fun! There are so many different ways to preserve, it’s always an adventure!

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Amanda M. April 12, 2011

We’re on year 3 of gardening and it has progressively grown bigger every year. We rent a house in town that has a large lot size. We built 5 raised beds that are 12 inches tall by 2 ft wide by 12 ft long and three 4ftX4ft boxes. Growing your own produce is amazing and fun. Also the farmers’ market is not even a half mile from our house just in case we need something that we’re not growing.

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Erin @ The Grass Skirt April 12, 2011

This post was so helpful! I’ve been thinking of doing a CSA for awhile, but after reading your cons, I think I’ll stick with the farmer’s market. I love going there anyway. I am also planting an herb garden and some tomatoes. With any luck, I can pick from my own backyard. :)

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LauraJayne April 12, 2011

I’m totally lucky to have a mother with an amazing garden (and gardening know-how!). She keeps us stocked in produce year round (she freezes some things and others, like potatoes, onions, and squash, last a while). I keep telling her that she needs to start a blog about all of her gardening experience!

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Sharon April 12, 2011

I’ve been thinking about a vegetable garden… maybe I’ll take the leap with you! A friend of mine bought a CSA share and I paid for a few weeks when she wasn’t going to be around – I really really enjoyed it. That being said, the amount of produce I got was soooo much and I was really overwhelmed. I don’t know if I could handle that for a large part of the year. Someday when I have a big family I will definitely buy my own share :)

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Beth@naturallyyoursbeth April 12, 2011

I’m moving in June to a bigger city and one of the things that I’m most excited about (not counting my new rooftop pool) is the farmers market only three blocks away from my apartment!!I see so many fresh fruit and tomatoes in my near future this summer :) and can’t wait for squash this fall!!

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Ellie@fitforthesoul April 12, 2011

it’s a grand task yet pretty exciting thinking about building your own garden! I hope someday I can do that too. :) I usually go to regular grocery stores or farmer’s markets once in a while. I’ve been hearing about CSA more and more lately though. Thank you for the pros and cons! that helps to know.

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Claudia April 12, 2011

I have planted and grown a little veggie and herb garden for about 3 years. Last year was my first in Ottawa, and it always takes a bit to sort out what grows best in your location (geographically), and also where you plant in your yard (ie with amounts of sunlight etc). My most successful has always been tomatoes, and in Waterloo lettuce grew really well. Beans and spinach are easy to grow too. I would say for your first year try a bunch of things, and see what happens! It’s really fun to watch it grow. Oh, and watch out for bunnies too – if you live near woods, you might have to put up a little fence or something to make sure they don’t eat all your greens!
I supplement my garden with stuff from farmers markets – but would love to be part of a food box type program for other stuff that I can’t grow, and that would let me get good quality stuff throughout the year.
All the best with your garden, if you get around to it! It’s really satisfying!

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Leanne @ Healthful Pursuit April 12, 2011

We just moved into a new house so we have a dirt pit for a backyard. I’ve been begging my boyfriend to agree to build me a garden, but he’s reluctant because he doesn’t think I’ll use it and/or my veggies will all die. He’s probably right. I suck at taking care of things + I’m soo busy! Thankfully we have a farmers market every Wednesday evening during the summer, so I plan to do that. Plus our local grocery store stocks a lot of organic + local produce, so I think it’ll all work out!

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Erin April 12, 2011

I’m planning to join a local Co-op in Peterborough, http://www.bythebushel.ca to try it out. A friend of mine is one of the producers in the co=op. I’m luck to have access to organic beef from my parent’s hobby farm plus all the venison and waterfowl hubby brings home. I would be really interested in finding a source of organic poultry though!
Re: repetition – I’m planning to chop and freeze whatever extras I have if possible. We end up throwing away a lot of produce I purchase at the grocery store. It’s super frustrating to pay such high prices for conventionally grown produce with no taste that has been shipped from who-knows-where and been on a truck for a significant period of time. I like to know where my food comes from! Support Canadian Farmers :)

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Angel7 April 12, 2011

I buy our vegetables at the grocery store. However, being that there are many farms where we live, I would like to support local farmers and buy produce from them.

Since our daughter is almost 3 years-old, I would like to plant a garden with her. It is something fun, and she can see the fruits of her labor.

http://faithfulsolutions.blogspot.com/

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Brenda Fisher April 12, 2011

I keep adding to my garden every year, its wonderful to have fresh veggies. As others have said, raised beds are the way to go. I put down rock all along the outside of the boxes and paths to keep the weeds away. It really helps. We also have a lot of deer, so a 6 foot fence was a must. I get the plants when they are about 4 inches and plant after May 15th (except for cucumber and squash, you just need to toss some seed down and they grow). I am looking forward to seeing your pics of the process. Good luck!

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Stacy April 12, 2011

I’ve been using a CSA since August 2010 and I love it for the most part. I will definitely agree that certain items get old when you receive them in your box week after week. Luckily for us there is a pickup location less than a mile from my work, which makes it very convenient. My favorite part is not having to shop for as much produce but still getting so many healthy vegetables in my diet.

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Kate April 12, 2011

I have never joined a CSA, although I am somewhat interested to. But I have the same concerns that you had about repetition and actually getting things I like to eat. I don’t want to spend the money for a CSA and then go to the store to buy tomatoes or something I am not getting.

I just started a garden this spring. It is really awesome and I highly recommend it. It is so rewarding to actually GROW your own produce. I bought seeds online from Seeds of Change and they are doing really well. I advise you to stray away from buying plants from big home improvement stores because they often sell diseased plants. Also, there are a lot of seed companies out there who source their seeds from Monsanto (even organic). I don’t know if that is an issue for you or not, but I recommend doing research online about it.

And just start small. I fenced in a bit of space in my backyard and tilled the whole thing. Pulling out weeds and tilling will probably take you the longest, then I put some newspaper down (organic & biodegradable), peat moss, cedar mulch, manure, and planting soil. My plants are growing in their own containers and soon I will plant them in a few weeks when they grow a bit more.

I love Farmer’s Markets because I can actually talk to the farmers and get fresh products. Going to farms is great too, but they are too far for me to travel to all the time. I feel incredibly lucky to live in a state (Texas) that has a lot of farmers though!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) April 13, 2011

Wow! I never would have thought to check out the source of the seeds…that is a bit scary! Thanks for the advice :)

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Destressedtozest April 12, 2011

Living in NYC I’m lucky to have amazing Green Markets all the time in the summer!!! I get excited going to them : )

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