Going Green: Start a Garden, Support Local Farmers and/or Join a Community Garden

Welcome to the third installment of Going Green!

Previous Going Green posts include:

Tiny lettuce on FlickrNow, just in time for Spring, we’re talking about some literal greens—in gardens.

By growing your own food, supporting local farmers, and/or joining a community garden, you’ll not only be getting the freshest, healthiest, and most delicious food available, you’ll also help save the planet from some nasty carbon emissions.

What carbon emissions, you ask?

Did you know that in America, grocery store produce often covers around 1,500 miles before landing on the dinner table?And that’s only the stuff actually produced in America–imagine how much traveling imported fruits and veggies do!

All that transportation adds up to a whole bunch of extra *blech* in the air—completely unnecessary as you can grow your own food, participate in a community garden, or simply buy from local farmers’ markets.

Popularity of Home Gardens in America

Home gardens are increasingly popular, not only for the fresh fruits and vegetables but also because they are a great way to save money. The National Gardening Association estimates that about 20% more American households than last year will plant gardens, and many are doing so to pinch pennies.

Hey, even the President Obama and First Lady Michelle are gardening these days! It’s the coolest!

Home Gardens on the Homefront, i.e., Calabria, Italy

Vegetables at the mercatino on FlickrHere in rural Calabria, it’s rather common for people to keep an “orto” full of fruits, vegetables, and herbs. You may remember my mentioning our “giardino” here on the blog in the past, but unfortunately as it doesn’t get much sun, we could never plant much; we had peppers, parsley, basil, and that’s about it.

But, through a great stroke of luck since Pasqualina came to stay with us, P and I have secured a plot of land very close to the house we’re slowly moving into as it’s remodeled…and it’s gardening time!

Basil ready for planting on FlickrThis piece of land gets sun all the live long day, which is perfect for all kinds of fruits and veggies. The “orto” already had lemon, orange, fig, and peach trees, and (after spending *many* hours cleaning up the essentially abandoned land) we have added onions, garlic, lettuce, artichokes, basil, and parsley.

Soon we’ll also plant eggplants, peppers, and, of course, tomatoes! Whee!

Now, some resources to get you started on becoming more green:

How to start a garden:

All about community gardens:

Find local farmers to support:

If you know of more helpful sites on gardening, etc., (especially international ones), please share in the comments!

Are you gardening this year? Do you normally garden?

Buon weekend!

P.S. For those wondering what has happened to Cherrye’s My Bella Vita, there are some technical details that she’s working furiously on–don’t worry, she’ll be back as soon as possible!

17 Beans of Wisdom to “Going Green: Start a Garden, Support Local Farmers and/or Join a Community Garden”
  1. Gil

    Do you dress like the First Lady when you garden? I think that she is the first gardener that I ever saw wearing designer clothes! I think that we will try to have a small garden this year for the deer to enjoy.

    Hah, we have to fence ours off from a certain adorable kid 😉 As for the clothes, yeah, you would think designers make casual stuff too, no? I mean, I wouldn’t *know* but I’d imagine….

  2. joanne at frutto della passione

    I can’t have a proper orto (3rd floor of a condominio) but I am planning on starting some herbs on our balcony, basil, parsley, stuff like that. However, it should be known that I am notoriously bad at keeping plants alive 🙁

    joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..BBC Documentary from 1957

    Best of luck, Joanne! Overwatering is apparently the biggest problem so go light 😉

  3. 04.03.2009

    I dunno about Michelle, but I only wear designer rags in the orto if newspaper photographers or TV crews are showing up. That said, I am faced with 1) cut down a 100s years old walnut tree or 2) get vegetables.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Good to Eat! (even for dieters)

    If I had designer rags, I’d probably throw them on for a TV crew…but in the garden? Hmm….

  4. 04.03.2009

    We have a small vegetable garden that the hubby takes care of. Even if I descend from a long line of farmers and green thumbs, I am a certified plant killer. But I give advice and tell him what I’d like to grow. For example, this year I’d love some cilantro. I adore flowers too and the gardener just planted some jasmine and photinia. I also bought myself a rhododendron even if I have no idea how to take care of it!

    milanese masala’s last blog post..Here come the sons!

    I’m with you! I want to plant some flowers too but I’m not sure we have room (where the kid won’t get to them)…but I’m definitely pushing for them 🙂

  5. Scicchi

    Good luck with the garden, Michelle! My youngest and I just tilled the garden yesterday. Unfortunately it is so small, we did it by hand, but it’s a good producer for us. We still are using stuff from last year(although our supply is unnervingly low). Plus, we are in the middle of town so no rabbits or much else to worry about. Maybe a “kid” or two though 😉

    Sounds great! I think sometimes people underestimate just how much even a small garden can produce…you really don’t need a lot of room to end up with a good bit of food for the family 🙂

  6. 04.03.2009

    Lucky you to have all those fruit trees – and Pasqualina too. My little tomato seedlings are sprouting – some from seeds I bought in Italy, some fruit heirloom tomatoes I ate last year. There’s nothing like stepping outside your door to pick fresh garden tomatoes.

    Ciaochowlinda’s last blog post..Fillet of Sole Stuffed With Shrimp

    I can’t wait until we have some tomatoes! Since the land had been essentially abandoned for years, all of our fruit trees need a lot of love before they’ll be really productive, but lucky them–we can provide that 🙂

  7. 04.03.2009

    Ciao Michelle,
    although I sadly do not have a patch of green to grow my own vegetables in, I’m curious if in your infinite knowledge, you could steer me towards a Community Supported Agriculture network here in Rome, where I live and love. I know the purchase associations are called GAS (Gruppi di Acquisto Solidale), but the web only provides very few contacts… Why don’t you dig into that?
    Ciao and Buona Pasqua!

    Lola’s last blog post..Carciofi alla Romana

    Thanks for commenting, Lola; I’m kind of buried (hah!) right now in work, but the only way I’d know to find info on this is to use good old Google 🙂

  8. 04.03.2009

    Each year we get our usual herbs going – basil, rosemary, mint, etc. I would LOVE to get a bigger garden going and hopefully we can get it in gear before the baby arrives. The weather has not been ideal for starting this project though, so pray for a good weekend to start planning and planting!

    Lisa’s last blog post..Sofia and Nonno Mario

    Seems to always rain on the weekends, doesn’t it?! Best of luck 🙂

  9. 04.03.2009

    La famiglia have a wonderful garden, ands we are often given fruits and veggies from it. But it is a rather long steep walk to get there, halfway down a mountain. I dream of beehives, chickens, roses and a dog….one day if I’m lucky!

    charlie’s last blog post..

    We’re *very* lucky to have found this place so close to the house…so many people do that walk you’re describing….

  10. 04.03.2009

    I swear it’s as if you’re reading my mind (hehe, or my blog) I was just saying yesterday that I’m going to learn to garden!! I can’t wait to get started!!! I’m going tomorrow to a local organic farmer’s market to ask questions about the Sicilian soil, the sun and how to get started. Hopefully my spoken italian doesn’t fail me 😀 I always understand them but they never understand me!!

    Thanks for the post 😀 Meagan

    Hah, I’m sure you’ll do great, Meagan! And best of luck with that garden!

  11. What a terrific post this is, Michelle! It’s so chock full of great information and inspiration!

    Susan from Food Blogga’s last blog post..It’s a Food Blogga Give-Away for a Trader Joe’s Cookbook!

    Thanks Susan, and thanks so much for coming by 🙂

  12. 04.04.2009


    I recommend two websites, Baker Creek Heritage Seeds (http://rareseeds.com) and the New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. His website is squarefootgardening.com. Can’t wait to see how your new garden grows! Good luck!

    Excellent! Thanks for sharing those links 🙂

  13. 04.04.2009

    What an amazing post filled with awesome resources and ideas! Love this, Michelle. I’m gradually adding to my garden. So far, I have rhubarb, beets, mustard greens, spinach, potatoes, and some other stuff I can’t think of right now! LOL I’ll also be adding more soon. Love, love, love fresh, homegrown veggies!!


    Michele’s last blog post..Dried Food Preparation for a Healthy Living

    Sounds great, Michele! What a summer you’re going to have 🙂

  14. 04.04.2009

    Too wet here to till the ground to get the tomatoes and peppers planted.gggrrrrr. Can’t wait though!

    Same here…oh the anticipation!

  15. 04.06.2009

    Great post… I have heard a lot about the open land used for gardening in Italy. I have relatives in Trieste who use the land there. I wish I could plant more. Just like you there is not enough sun to grow much. I usually just plant a small herb garden. Plus, I have groundhogs here that eat everything I plant… (The nerve!) hehe 🙂

    annie’s last blog post..Lightened-Up Warm Antipasto Pasta Salad

    Nasty groundhogs 🙁 Herb gardens are fun too, though!

  16. 07.22.2009

    I live in an apartment complex so I can’t really garden but I do like to keep potted herbs around. I really need to get to the Mercadillo this Friday to buy more as some of my herbs are way past their prime….

    Herbs are definitely good to have around! Hope you find some nice ones 🙂

    .-= Murasaki Shikibu´s last blog ..Sesame Sourdough Bread =-.

  1. [...] mentioned recently that P and I have a new garden spot. When we took it over about a month and a half ag... bleedingespresso.com/2009/04/love-thursday-how-to-leave-your-teethmark-on-the-world.html
Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake