We know choosing organic foods for our self and our family ensures we are saved the toxic chemicals, synthetic hormones, antibiotics and GMOs, we get more nutrients and better taste, we contribute to reducing pollution and conserving our ecosystem while also secure a safe future for our kids. Yet, when we go to buy organic vegetables in the market, the price tags dampen the spirits.
Don’t lose spirit. There are ways to grow your own organic vegetable garden, all you need is to roll up your sleeves and get ready to get soiled!
The things you need:
A soil test kit, trowel set, clippers, garden gloves, watering can and a compost bin.
preparing the soil
Soil is food for your crop, so it needs to be nourishing. Test the soil or send it for testing to know pH content and nutrient information. It is best to test in fall and apply any deficient nutrients before winter. Even if you don’t test the soil, it is important to have adequate hummus in the soil—for which you need to mix in organic manure, grass clippings and compost.
choosing the plants
Ensure that plants you choose adjust well to your garden conditions—light, moisture, drainage, soil. Best to go to a local farmers market to find native seeds.
planting the crop
Group the plants tightly in beds to prevent walking over them. Raised beds work well. Grouping reduces weeding and water waste and helps you target compost and nutrients. Ample space between rows helps promote air circulation, which repels fungal attacks.
It is best to water in mornings. Water the roots, not leaves. Typically, 1” of water every week is adequate. Water should be air temperature, best to collect rain water.
Plucking out weeds can be quite a task but is a must to sustain your crop. You can add a pinch of mulch and burlap to reduce weeding. Straw also helps, but not as effectively.
In case of pest attack, ensure other things are in place. That is, light, nutrients and moisture is adequate. Next it might be a good idea to foster natural predators like frogs, toads, lizards, birds, and even bats. Beneficial insects like ladybugs also help. Leave a small source of water out to attract friendly predators.
Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacteria, disrupts the digestion of caterpillars and other leaf-eaters and can be put to use. You can also use horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, garlic, or hot pepper sprays.
The more you harvest, the more your plants will produce for you. It is best to check your garden daily during harvest season. If you use the herbs fresh, pick them right before you need them. But if you’ll be drying and storing them, it’s best to wait until just before they flower, since they’ll have the most flavour. Gather all herbs except basil in mid-morning, shortly after dew has dried. Harvest basil in the late afternoon, since it will last longer after some time in the sun.
When harvesting leafy greens, pick sporadically from the entire crop, a little from each plant. For broccoli, wait until the central head is as large as it will get, before sending off buds for flowering. Cut it off right above the leaf node, and you’ll likely get better production from the rest of the plant. In general, it’s best to cut produce off with a sharp knife or scissors versus ripping with your fingers, which can cause more damage to plant tissue.
If you get too much bounty, you can also freeze, store some types of produce in a root cellar, or can them.
In case of sick plants, pull up the entire organism, check underneath for diseases leaves and parts. Put all infected material deep in the woods, in the ground at least a foot deep, or on the bonfire.
Most healthy or expired plants can actually be left in place over winter. It will provide habitat to birds and animals and also protect your soil from eroding. It’s better to chop off annuals rather than pulling them out to keep the soil intact and prevent weeding.
The Constant Gardener
You can make your own compost as well.
It is an excellent way to recycle kitchen and garden waste. For this
• Identify a minimum of three square feet space, you may even use a compost bin.
• Add alternating layers of carbon (leaves and garden trimmings) and nitrogen (kitchen scraps and manure), with a thin layer of soil in between.
• Place four to six inches of soil at the top. Turn the pile as new layers are added and water to keep it barely moist. You will get good compost in two months.
A properly maintained compost pile doesn’t smell. If it does, add more dry carbon layer and turn frequently.