Edible Columbia Tour
COLUMBIA - Autumn is a time for football, apple picking and hayrides. Columbia's Center for Urban Agriculture said it's also the perfect time to start a garden.
"Starting a garden in the fall is a really good time because the soil is dry," Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture's co-founder Adam Saunders said. "You want to till when the soil is dry."
Even with cooler weather looming on the horizon, the time is right for anyone to plant crops. According to Saunders, the dry soil is better to till because it will be less compact and easier to sow seeds in.
"This time of year you need to be thinking about fall crops and prepping for winter," Saunders said. "It's kind of late in the planting season so you want to focus on leafy greens that have a relatively short time to mature."
People can plant, grow and harvest a fully matured head of lettuce, spinach or radishes before the first frosts hit in a month.
Gardeners can also prepare their gardens for the spring 2013 by planting root crops such as carrots, turnips and beets. If planted now, the root crops will go dormant during the winter, but will be lush come warm weather. Saunders said it's just a matter of knowing when to pick them.
"The key with doing root crops over the winter is that when they start to flower and or bolt, you need to pull them all because the flavor won't be as good as when they're flowered." Saunders said.
Growing food doesn't have to take up your time and space though. For beginners, Saunders said garlic is more than manageable.
"Garlic is a really good crop to plant for your first garden... Buy a bulb of garlic, break it open into the individual cloves, then put that cloves down in the soil pointy side up."
From there, a little irrigation and patience is all that's needed to have full cloves of garlic.
Saunders encyclopedic knowledge from maize to mulch and chickens to compost made him the ideal candidate to lead the Edible Columbia tour. Sunday's three-hour tour gave 35 participants a look at different kinds of gardens, techniques and methods of preserving crops. The tour was designed to raise awareness about the benefits of sustainable living, particularly growing food locally.
"When you relocalize food, you produce it closer to where it's being consumed," tour organizer Mark Haim said. "That saves enormous amounts of energy in part because it's smaller scale production, which doesn't involve as much mechanized agriculture."
Investing in local agriculture also reduces the need for fossil fuels used to power agricultural machinery and trucks that transport the produce across the country.
For Saunders, growing local means more meals: hundreds of them. The demonstration garden he works on, which is the size of a small parking lot, produces 1,000 pounds of food a year or for him, several hundred meals.
So whether you need some garlic for your pasta or want fresh food year round, there's ground waiting to be broken.