Where Do Your Garden Plants Come From?

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By Amy Miller

Did you know that our plants are grown right near here, my local greenhouse guy asks me. No I did not, I say. And?

And, apparently it’s time to get on board with locally grown plants.

I already know it’s good to buy from independent, local shopkeepers. I am well versed in how I should shop with the local grocer who keeps his money in the community bank and buys my son’s blackberries.

I even know it is a high cause to be a locavore, eating strawberries in June from the farm down the street and apples in autumn from trees in a nearby orchard. This saves on gas to transport the food, helps local farmers, protects the environment and nourishes your family with food that has a known provenance.

But I never really considered the origin of my basil, bulbs or bee balm.

This must be a hot new trend, though, because locally evolved, locally grown, and locally distributed plants already have an acronym of their own – LEG’D.  (Anyone know how you pronounce this?) And the benefits are many.

Flowers grown far away, in South America for instance, might be sprayed with chemical preservatives and refrigerated so they can be shipped thousands of miles. But the shipping and the refrigeration use significant energy. And the chemicals to make sure the flowers last also must be manufactured and shipped. Local flowers aren’t likely to need refrigeration or chemicals to get to us fresh.

The flowers from my local greenhouse also fuel the economy of my community. These purchases create jobs and since they involve fewer middlemen, they are either less expensive or at least the profits are staying nearby.

Some people say that LEG’D flowers and plants are naturally fresher. Some groups advocate having all decorative plants be locally evolved, grown and distributed.

Indigenous plants are more likely to tolerate the soil and weather in New England, where lows can range from 0 in Connecticut to -50 in parts of Maine, putting New England in Planting Zones 3 to 6. Native species have also evolved for other location conditions and are less likely to attract new exotic insects or diseases. Finally, native species often need less water or fertilizer.

The down side may be that deer or other animals eat local plants. A farm store can tell you what to do about that. I just had my dog mark the territory around the plants. But just in case, we built a double fence around the vegetables.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, eight chickens, dusky conure, chicken-eating dog and a great community.

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