Supporters of organic living are the influencers, oftentimes responsible for making mainstream consumers aware of things like additives, over processing and genetically modified foods and ingredients. Unfortunately for the average person, it can take a major health issue to really start taking an informed inventory of their lifestyle and the quality of food they're consuming.
Dietary hyper vigilance can be a lot of work to maintain. Looking for the informed consumer in the grocery store is easy because they are the people actually reading the labels.
Most people reading this know that when shopping for produce there are 3 options. Conventional, genetically modified and wonderful organically gown produce. Did you know that there's a 4th? You got it, home gown produce. Time to talk some dirt.
The Skills and Set Up
Whether you are fortunate to have a back yard or not, setting up your home garden to start growing some of your own food is pretty easy. Some of my fondest childhood memories occurred in my family garden. Picking and eating fresh carrots still warm from the ground, collecting peas and eating them while watching Bugz Bunny with my dad. Wants your kids to love veggies? Get growing. They'll love getting their hands dirty, seeing the plants grow and veggies flourish. It's also an opportunity to teach them the principals and values of caring for a garden. Not only will it give you a great excuse to unplug and get some fresh air, but it'll directly impact your health and quality of live because fresh veggies are delicious!
If you are creating a traditional vegetable garden, consider the location before you begin. For plants to produce vegetables they need an area that receives full sun for most of the day. Choose an area to develop that is away from shady trees, and also ideally near your water source. It doesn't have to be expensive to start your own garden if you are resourceful.
Steps to get you started:
- Mark off the area you want with wood stakes and string. Stand back and evaluate the space prior to lifting the lawn. Is it big enough for the type of plants you want to harvest?Don't forget to account for space to allow you to walk between your rows of plants, water and weed.
- Double digging is a lot of extra work but it has a huge pay off. Rather than digging the traditional six inches in depth, double it to a foot and back fill it. By aerating the soil and making it softer, you will encourage your vegetable roots to go deeper. Healthier plants create a more bountiful yield. Use a rotor tiller to start, and get in deep with your shovel.
- Take a sample of your soil to your local garden center. They will be able to advise you on the appropriate compost and organic fertilizer to add to your soil for best results.
- Invest in a good quality composter (if you don't have one already) and turn your plant trimmings into valuable topsoil in your own yard.
- Planting a balcony garden? Choose larger planters that will sustain deep roots. Go vertical with your space and utilize hanging baskets for things like cherry tomatoes and even chili peppers or strawberries. Recycle a 2L and "Make Your Own Pop Bottle Drip Irrigation System"
What to Grow?
The next part is trying to figure out what to plant and make sure the seeds you buy are certified organic. You'll find many types of interesting heirloom vegetables you'll want to try. Google "˜organic seeds', enjoy.
First, start by thinking about what you want to eat. Are you a family that enjoys eating a lot of lettuce? Varieties like loose leaf lettuce are very easy to grow in a garden or in an over sized planter. Green leafy vegetables such as Swiss Chard are packed full of vitamins and will continue growing after cutting for the duration of the season.
Carrots are fun to grow, but take up a bit of space. Tomatoes (including beefsteak and cherry) are ideal for home gardens, as are cucumbers, green onions and some types of squash. Beets are fantastic and easy to grow, simply plant and water them, then wait for harvesting. Turnips can be waxed and stored for months in a cold place. Think like your Grandparents and choose vegetables that can be stored, canned or frozen for the winter and utilize your surplus. Blanch hard vegetables like carrots and freeze for healthful eating all winter long without going to the grocery store for subpar and over sprayed alternatives.
Don't limit yourself to just the garden. If you love fruit, why not plant an apple tree? In as little as four years you can be harvesting your own apples for snacks, baking as well as making organic apple sauce. Cherry trees thrive in most climates and give a good yield in the early summer. Accept that you will also be feeding some of the local wildlife with your bounty, and that's a good thing too.
Helping the Environment
There are so many benefits to your health and to the environment when you start to grow your own food. Even if you aren't able to garden year round (depending on the climate) even diverting a small portion of your food bill from the grocery store will make a difference in your budget and ecologically.
- No pesticides in your own vegetable garden.
- Plants filter the air improving air quality.
- Using water reclamation saves fresh water and prevents waste.
- Lower the emissions by buying less foreign sourced fruits and vegetables.
- Use natural herbs as pest deterrents, and incorporate them into your garden. You will also enjoy harvesting them and using the fresh herbs for your cooking.
Having your own vegetable garden is a lot of work, with a lot of reward. If you have friends who garden as well, arrange a cooperative effort to share excess produce and trade your tomatoes for their extra green peppers. If you find you have a lot of excess vegetables, don't let them go to waste! Most food banks and shelters will accept donations of vegetables and you'll be helping the environment and your community with your new green thumb. Remember what starts in your backyard can change the world.