Lettuces, credit

Lettuces, credit

In Telluride, it’s still snowy (hurrah!), but here in Washington, DC, it’s starting to feel like spring. The witch hazel is flowering, with its invigorating, refreshing smell, and crocuses and daffodils are starting to brighten the ground with brilliant yellows and purples. Seeing life start to pop from the earth is a reminder that it’s time to start planting spring gardens.

I’m not an accomplished gardener – you can learn much more on the subject from other contributors here on Telluride Inside… and Out. (For example, read about agricultural opportunities on the Western Slope at and about worm composting at

I do try to plant at least a few herbs and vegetables every year, though. It’s great to be able to go out on my deck and pick a few sprigs of thyme when I’m making roasted potatoes, for example, or to make fresh mint tea with a few sprigs of just-cut mint. But home gardens provide more than just culinary benefits. They can provide environmental benefits too.

First, if we’re looking at the food system, growing at home means less transport, both of the product to its point of sale, and then from the point of sale to your kitchen. If you save your own seeds from year to year, you won’t even have to transport those (though seeds tend to be quite small and light). If you have room to compost, even better and the EPA has some good composting information here.

Balcony garden, credit

Balcony garden, credit

Then any waste, trimmings, or non-edible plant parts can go right back into creating soil for your garden. If not, some cities compost, some start-ups let you deliver compostable materials directly to them. See my earlier post on the Compost Cab in DC at And you may have friends who compost. Also, by gardening organically, you are not transporting or using pesticides, herbicides, and petroleum-based fertilizers.

Second, when you grow at home, you know exactly what is – and isn’t – going on your plants.

Third, gardens can help reduce runoff (but make sure you don’t add to nitrogen loading by adding manure or compost right before a big rainstorm).

Fourth, growing your own food also grows your understanding of and connection to what you eat.

Clearly, you’re not going to grow everything you eat in a home garden (unless you do a Barbara Kingsolver and move your home to a farm (see, but growing some of your food gives you an appreciation of what it takes to produce what you eat. Talk to some of your local farmers’ market farmers to find out more. Making connections with the ground and those who work with it for a living is well worth it.

Fifth, it tastes good, smells good, and it’s fun.

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