Vegetable Garden and Florals

BITES

FOCUS

Do You Enjoy Fresh Produce and Flowers?  Attend your favorite Farmers Market, join a CSA, or simply roll up your sleeves and plant a Home Garden!

Written by Anne Valgoi

Photo credit @ldsgram

     Summer is the time to enjoy, relax, and get healthy.  And what better way to attempt “healthy” than to shop at the fabulous farmers markets in your area.  Here in Atlanta, we have dozens of farmers markets to choose from:  the Peachtree Road Farmers Market, The Green Market at Piedmont Park, Morningside Farmers Market, Grant Park Farmers Market and Sandy Springs Farmers Market.  There are several others too numerous to list.  In order to get the largest selection of fruits, veggies, flowers, preserves and treats, it is best to go early morning on Saturdays.

Photo credit Wendy Walker)

     My favorite is the Peachtree Road Farmers Market on 2744 Peachtree Road (Atlanta).  The market is only open on Saturdays from 8:30a to 12 noon, March through December (rain or shine).  It is one of the largest producer-only farmers market in the state and the farms are certified naturally grown or certified organic and happens to be only one mile from our home!  They host more than 50 weekly vendors which include the region’s best farmers, artists, and prepared food merchants.  This farmers market is known for its “farm fresh produce, grass-fed eggs, beef, pork, chicken, freshly baked bread, cow’s, and sheep’s milk cheeses (my personal favorite), jams, pickles, charcuterie, breakfast, lunch and dinner options and homegrown flowers.

Photo credit @ldsgram

     Another special farmer’s market is “The Green Market” located in Piedmont Park in the center of Atlanta.  It is also open every Saturday from 9am to 1pm from March to December.  In addition to fresh produce, meats, eggs and dairy, the market is home to many artisans.  “The Eastside Beltline trail makes it easy for walkers and bikers of all skills to access this local farmer’s market without parking a car.  The trail connects neighborhoods such as Inman Park, Old Fourth Ward, Cabbagetown, and Reynoldstown to Piedmont Park.  Biking or walking from the Highlands, Morningside, Ansley and other intown neighborhoods is a great eco-friendly way to get your groceries.”

Photo credit Wendy Walker

     One more interesting option to obtain fresh produce is to become a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) member.  This allows you to buy local, seasonal produce directly from a participating farm/farmer.  The CSA members get the “first and best fruits of the harvest” and your investment in the farm helps offset operating costs of growing the food.  Please know that when joining a CSA program, you are making a commitment to local agriculture by sharing the risks and rewards of the farming season.

Photo credit Wendy Walker

     Each week a prepared box of seasonal produce is organized by the farm and usually includes a cooking green, salad green, onion, garlic, and herbs.  Additionally, cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes are plentiful in the summer.  In the fall and winter, root vegetables are prevalent and include sweet potatoes, beets, parsnips, carrots, and celery root.

Photo credit Michael Oberti

     If you join the Collegetown Farm CSA in Atlanta, you have 3 share sizes to choose from.   A Full Share -costs $400 and feeds 4 plus people and includes 7-10 seasonal vegetables and fruits.  Whereas a Half Share CSA size is available for $250 which feeds 1-3 people and includes 4-6 seasonal veggies and fruits.  Additionally, a nice Senior Share is discounted at $195, and feeds 1-2 people aged 62 years and up.  It includes 3-5 seasonal vegetables and fruits.

     All share sizes receive 12 pickups at pre-scheduled dates and times and need to be used over a 4-month span.  This specific CSA provides an assortment of seasonal produce 52 weeks of the year!

Photo credit Wendy Walker

     Although CSAs have many benefits which include fresh healthy foods, support to a specific farm or farms and personally getting to know your local farmer, please know that CSAs are NOT for everyone.  You are limited to that farm even if you do not care for their offerings that year (ie) a tomato blight perhaps.  Additionally, “there are no refunds for missed pickup weeks at most CSAs, so if your schedule is unpredictable, you could lose out.”  “Joining a CSA is also a commitment to cook and if you eat out a lot and want to continue to, a CSA may not be for you.”  My sister-in-law, who by the way is a fabulous cook, has had wonderful experiences with CSAs and absolutely loved it.  Even my mom and Aunt joined one for a few years and looked forward to enjoying the weekly selections and a chance to chat with the friendly staff!

Photo credit Wendy Walker

How about growing your OWN veggies and flowers?  It can be very satisfying “digging in the dirt” and you can control what you plant and harvest.  Autumn in the South is the second spring.  “Georgia gardeners are blessed with a longer growing season, making vegetable gardens, fall flowers and even fall sod not just a dream, but a reality.”  We have two major planting periods in Georgia: March to May and mid-July to September.  A significant advantage of gardening in the fall are the cooler (more enjoyable) temperatures!

Photo credit Wendy Walker

     Delicious vegetables that can be planted from seed during this season include beets, onions, carrots, collards, kale, lettuce, mustard, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnips.  Other veggies such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower are best transplanted as small plants (verses started from seed) in the fall since they take longer to mature.

      Who doesn’t like flowers year-round?   “Fall is the best time to plant spring flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocuses and more.  It is suggested to pair them with perennials like Shadowland hostas and Cat’s Meow catmint so the bulbs’ foliage will be hidden by the time it goes dormant.”

     Asters (daisy like flowers) are late summer-fall bloomers and are easy to grow.  They attract tons of pollinators with their bright colors and are disease and deer resistant.  Sunflowers always bring a smile to my face.  They range in size and the seeds should be planted in spring for late summer and fall color!

Photo credit pexel

     Here in the Atlanta area, fall is a great time to plant eye-catching blossoms such as Violas.  They are like pansies in appearance but with smaller flowers, so they are less likely to droop after it rains.

     Pansies are also one of the most popular fall flowers in Georgia.  For optimal planting, pansy beds should be about 25% compost and 75% local soil.  Snap dragons are another favorite of mine as they add winter color to your garden as well as some needed height.  Dusty miller is a nice filler and offers texture.  It is quite frost tolerant as well.  Lastly, consider some decorative cabbage and kale to your gardens and planter boxes.  I love to garden with my little grandson, Nolan and I adore teaching him about flowers and nature.

     Let’s remember to savor the last few months of late summer and early fall with incredible fresh produce and colorful garden flowers.   Sweet friends and followers, keep it positive and peaceful this season and enjoy every minute.  In closing, I would like to share a meaningful quote from Aristotle: “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous”.    

     

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