Whether due to the economy, concern for the environment, or the sheer pleasure of growing your own fresh produce—or a combination of these reasons—more people are planting fruit and vegetable gardens. In our subtropical environment, we are especially fortunate to enjoy a long growing season and many varieties of fruits and vegetables year-round.
Whether you cultivate a large backyard plot, a few citrus trees, or a container garden on your patio or apartment balcony, you have likely enjoyed the pleasures of picking the oranges for your breakfast glass of juice, the tomatoes and basil adorning your salad, or the hot peppers spicing your salsa.
Growing some of your own produce is a boon not only for your taste buds and wallet, but for the environment as well. People are often surprised to learn that mass food production and transportation are major contributors to carbon gas emissions. But if you think for a moment about where your food comes from, the enormous fuel costs of food make total sense. True, you might personally only drive as far as the local market to pick up your groceries, but the products in your (hopefully reusable) bag may come from well across the country or even across the globe.
Why does this matter? Think of the fuel burned to transport that California navel orange into your local grocery store. By some estimates, transporting a single calorie of a perishable fresh fruit from California to New York burns some 87 calories of fuel. It is easy to imagine the fuel savings achieved when you grow some of your own food or purchase it from local farmers. The fuel savings is also a major reason why fresh, locally grown foods in season are both a good value and more environmentally sustainable.
Are you interested in growing your own produce, but aren’t sure how to start? Pinellas County Extension Service can help get you going. Some upcoming classes include:
--Starting Your Spring Vegetable Garden, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Jan. 26, St. Petersburg Library, 3745 9th Ave N: Learn how to set up a veggie garden in this presentation by Pinellas County Extension Master Gardeners.
--From Garden to Table, 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 4 at the Brooker Creek Preserve Environmental Education Center, 3940 Keystone Road, Tarpon Springs: Introduction to veggie gardening, composting, and preparing fresh garden vegetables for eating.
--Organic Gardening, 2 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Feb. 9 at the Palm Harbor Library, 2330 Nebraska Ave. Master gardener Jim Kovaleski will talk about using permacuture principals and practices.
--Citrus 101, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at St. Petersburg Library, 3745 9th Ave N: Learn to grow citrus successfully in a home landscape.
For more information and to sign up for these and other workshops, visit www.pinellascountyextension.org and click the registration page for easy-to-follow prompts to the calendar of events and classes offered by Pinellas County Extension Service.