Ask Eartha: What’s the best way to grow your own food? | SummitDaily.com

Ask Eartha: What’s the best way to grow your own food?

Eartha Steward
Ask Eartha

Dear Eartha,

I want to grow my own food this summer, but I'm not sure where to start. Is it as hard as everyone thinks it is?

— Alan, Silverthorne

Alan, growing your own food is as simple as joining a community garden. In these spaces, experienced and beginner gardeners alike band together and take their food into their own hands, literally, for a variety of reasons. They do it to boycott the industrial food system, to learn a thing or two about self-sufficiency, to get back to our agricultural roots or to keep busy in the long summer afternoons.

By donating excess food, you prevent it from decomposing in the landfill and producing methane emissions.

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Whatever the reason, there are many benefits to gardening. Cultivating your own garden can give you assurance that you and your family are eating locally grown, healthy food. It can also be a great educational experience for the family, and it's a way to reconnect with the soils that sustain us. In Summit County, we have five community gardens open for members each summer.

• Silvana's Community Garden on Rainbow Drive in Silverthorne

• DVE Community Garden at the elementary school in Dillon Valley

• Breck Community Gardens at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge

• Nancy's Community Garden at the Community Center in Frisco and The Living Classroom at the Frisco Peninsula (relocated in 2017 from 518 E. Main St.) in Frisco

In your first season gardening, I'd recommend starting with easier crops known to do well at our elevation and climate — hearty greens, carrots, radishes, beets, onions, snow peas and turnips. Leafy greens and root vegetables offer endless varieties to help get your garden going and give you the confidence you need to progress your gardening skills.

Don't forget to ask your gardening neighbors about their experience. Sometimes there's nothing better than hearing first-hand what worked and didn't work in the past.

If it is the warm weather-loving plants that you desire, season extenders might be an option depending on the location of your garden. Props like water walls, milk jugs and plastic coverings are readily available and act like mini greenhouses, insulating plants that would not otherwise thrive in Summit County's relatively cool conditions.

If you're especially successful and end up with a bounty of any particular crop, you can donate food through the Grow to Share program benefiting the Summit County Women, Infants and Children program, as well as the Family and Intercultural Resource Center. Grow to Share accepts fresh produce throughout the growing season.

By donating excess food, you prevent it from decomposing in the landfill and producing methane emissions. What a win-win for our community.

The local food movement is all about getting back to our roots by reminding ourselves where food comes from — the soil and not a store. By reducing the distance our food travels, engaging in local efforts to reduce food waste and learning about healthy food choices, you contribute to greater community sustainability.

Go to HighCountryConservation.org/community-gardens to learn more about joining a community garden. Applications will be available April 1.

If you are interested in learning more about high-altitude gardening, stop by any of the local libraries or the High Country Conservation Center, 176 Lake Dillon Drive. We're always looking to support our budding local foodies. Also, you might consider attending the free seed-starting workshop at 5:30 p.m., April 12, in the Breckenridge library.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at info@highcountryconservation.org.