Chow Line: Grow your own produce year-round in Ohio

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused me to rethink how I access food, including a push to grow my own food, kind of like a victory garden. Where can I find tips and information on how to grow my own food in Ohio, even in the winter?

You aren’t alone in your desire to take more control over your food this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many people to express a desire to grow their own food. In fact, more consumers nationwide are expected to plant gardens this year. For example, online searches for “growing vegetables from scraps” increased 4,650% in March compared the same time last year, according to Google Trends.

The good thing about Ohio is that the Buckeye state is a four-season growing environment, said Tim McDermott, an educator with Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

McDermott, who runs the Growing Franklin food-producing blog, says it’s possible to grow a fresh, healthy harvest of vegetables all 12 months of the year in Ohio. In addition to offering growing tips on the blog, he’s also recorded a virtual class on how to grow during winter as well as produced an informative article with a step-by-step video of how to do so.

“Growing over winter is a great way to utilize all four seasons for food production in Ohio,” McDermott said. “We’re experiencing a tremendous drive and resurgence of folks that want to provide for their own personal and family food security. Additionally, growing outside is a wonderful activity that provides for health and wellness yet maintains social distance.

“Making the right choice for cold-tolerant plantings as well as the use of season extension will allow the backyard grower, community gardener, teacher-educator, and urban farmer to harvest all 12 months of the year.”

The virtual class focuses on how to use season extension techniques to grow in colder temperatures, including using low tunnels, row covers, and frost blankets.

Other resources for consumers to grow food in Ohio can be found through the new Ohio Victory Gardens program, a joint effort by CFAES and the Ohio Department of Agriculture aimed at boosting interest in gardening, helping Ohioans grow their own fresh food, and lifting people’s spirits in a trying time.

The program, which can be found at u.osu.edu/ohiovictorygardens, offers free, how-to advice and resources. Some of the topics covered at the website include what and where to plant, how to manage pests, and how to cook and can your bounty.

Chow Line is a service of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line writer Tracy Turner, 364 W. Lane Ave., Suite B120, Columbus, OH 43201, or turner.490@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Tim McDermott, educator, OSU Extension.

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