Spring is almost here and we have been aching to get outside again; how about making a project of starting an organic garden in your yard, balcony, rooftop, or office? Enjoy these tips and have fun growing your own healthy, fresh, pesticide- and GMO-free food. There is nothing like a meal made from ingredients freshly harvested from your own garden! Here are a few ways to get going now to have organic food soon:
- Cultivate the soil. Starting with healthy soil is crucial to the life cycle of your fruits, vegetables, herbs and other plants. All the vitamins and minerals the plants utilize come from the soil. To prepare it, wait until the ground is not too dry or wet, and then remove the rocks and other debris, including any weeds. Be sure to get their roots! Use a tiller to turn the soil, and then add nutritional amendments, preferably organic compost. Work for a soil texture that is loose and easily crumbled. For more info on soil cultivation, check out the articles by Mother Earth News at: http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening.
- Size doesn’t really matter. A well-maintained 4’ x 4’ garden will feed one person easily with a variety of vegetables. Window boxes and ½ wine barrels are great small gardens. Spread a few containers around your deck and porch! You might also want to rethink your lawn as a space for a garden; lawns require a lot of water and don’t produce any food!
- Invite worms, birds and insects into your garden. When in balance, your garden will contain a mixture of beneficial and troublesome insects. (By troublesome, we mean that they want to eat your plants before you get to.) Learn about the insects and bugs in your area and what likes to eat the plants you’ll be growing. Pair plants they like with those that will attract bees and other pollinators. Investigate ways of pairing plants so they can offer shade, water and food to the birds, worms and beneficial bugs you want to attract. Here’s a good resource: http://permaculturenews.org/2014/10/04/plants-attract-beneficial-insects/
- Choose the right plants. Answering a few simple questions will help you get the most out of your garden. For example, what vegetables, herbs, or other plants you’re interested in will work best in your climate and specific growing location? What diseases are your garden plants susceptible to? Get friendly with your local organic garden supply store and check out local farmer’s markets for vegetable starts. Or how about using this great guide from the Farmer’s Almanac: http://www.almanac.com/content/growing-guide-herbs
- Water wisely. Many organic farmers say that overhead watering is wasteful and can cultivate plant diseases. Check the soil with your finger; the top 2-3 inches should be dry and under that to be moist. Water in the morning so the plants have a chance to absorb the moisture it evaporates in the sun or is whisked away by wind. While young plants need more frequent watering, more established plants require deeper and less frequent watering. If the leaves of your plants start to turn brown at the edges and fall off, you may be overwatering.