At this stage in history, we face many issues when it comes to securing unadulterated, nutritious foods for ourselves and our families. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find healthy food at the grocery store, as the practices of commercial farming are now producing pseudo foods that are often tasteless, stripped of nutrients, and poisoned with toxic chemicals and genetic mutations. One of the best ways to overcome these challenges is to grow your own organic fruits and vegetables. This can be done whether you live in the city, suburbs, or in a rural area.
What Are the Advantages of Organic Gardening?
First let’s start with a definition: What is organic gardening? In a nutshell, organic gardening is the growing of fruit, vegetables, and other plants using only fertilizers, pest control techniques, and other organisms and materials that are exclusively found naturally in the environment. In other words, no artificial chemicals or toxins are used in the production of organic crops.
Organic gardening is the right choice for many reasons. The most obvious one is that growing your own organic food is the most effective way to eat fresh, nutritious fruits and veggies that will provide the maximum amount of vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive phytonutrients. In addition, you will not be exposing yourself to toxins that are used in the growth process (pesticides, insecticides) and those applied to crops after harvest (dyes, waxes, etc.). You also know the sources of your food, and will most likely be eating food that is “in season.”
Another great reason to take up organic gardening is to save money. It is much more economical to grow your own produce than to purchase organic from someone else, especially when you can get the maximum freshness and nutritional benefits from your own garden. Also, you can pick and use only what you need for that day, thus minimizing waste.
Finally, one of my favorite things about organic gardening is that you can create a tradition with your children and grandchildren, and pass on a love of gardening and healthy food to them as well. The harvest is sweet when you can pick and eat the fruits (and veggies) of your own labor.
Some Pointers on Organic Gardening
It is possible to grow enough organic produce for your family no matter where you live. You can make a plot in your yard, or if you live in an apartment in the city, you can take up container gardening on a porch or patio. It is beyond the scope of this article to cover all the details, but there are a lot of great resources available on all phases of organic gardening. Determine how much space you will need for the amount of crops you desire. One of my favorite books is Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. You can preview this book at http://books.google.com/books?id=9_spjPVMnCUC
Organic gardening begins with your water. Yet most gardeners don’t think about the importance of using clean, pure water on their organic garden. Highly chlorinated water can kill microorganisms in the soil that are there to protect the plant and its food source. Chlorine is designed to kill living organisms such as fungi and bacteria that can contaminate your water source. It does such a great job of killing these organisms, that it can be harmful to your plants, because your plants rely on some of the fungi and bacteria to survive. Every plant’s survival is based on the nutrients it receives from its water and soil. A healthy soil is made up of beneficial bacteria, molds, and various forms of fungi (the very things that chlorine was designed to kill). Organic farmers and gardeners have known for years that the safest way to protect their plants and the environment from insects, disease, and pests is through the use of beneficial bacteria. Highly chlorinated water can kill microorganisms in the soil that are there to protect the plant and its food source. As a rule, commercial farmers and horticulturists do not use chlorinated municipal city water to irrigate their crops.(1)
How safe is your garden hose? Ever wonder about that? Most PVC garden hoses contain lead. The good news is lead-free garden hoses are available. They are constructed from materials approved by the FDA, and the fittings are often nickel plated, because brass fittings can also leach lead. They are labeled “drink-safe” or “safe for potable water.” However, with any hose, even one labeled “drink-safe,” always let the water run before you water your garden. You can also purchase garden hose filters which will eliminate chlorine and many chemicals. Type “garden hose filter” into Google and you will be able to pick the type that best fits your needs and pocketbook.
Natural Pesticide Control
There are about as many home remedies for pest control as there are gardeners, but one of the most popular and effective ones is to introduce friendly insects that will prey on harmful pests. Your choices will vary depending on where you live, but some favorites include ladybugs, beetles, spiders, and praying mantises. Some gardeners also spray plants with organic soap diluted with water.
One of the key factors is the seeds you choose. These days, all seeds are not created equal. It is vital that you use what are known as heirloom seeds. This means they have not been genetically tampered with, and it also means that you can save seeds from your own crops and use them next season. Many seed producers now alter seeds so that they cannot be used again. Heirloom seeds will also provide you produce with maximum nutritional value.
Composting is an excellent way to provide cost-effective, natural fertilizer and mulch for your garden. Basically, you want a combination of brown material (which provides carbon) and green material (a source of nitrogen.) Some suggested browns include: corn stalks, straw, dried leaves, and shredded newspaper. Beneficial greens include: coffee grounds, vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, green leaves, and tea bags. A few items to avoid in your compost pile include: meat or dairy products, bones, treated lumber or sawdust, glossy paper, and diseased plants.
For larger critters, tips include fencing and surrounding your garden with items that have a human scent such as hair or even urine.
Once most people give organic gardening a try, they become hooked. Don’t be intimidated if you are a rookie. Embrace the idea, and get started. You will learn as you go, and like any other hobby, your skills and knowledge will grow over time. You will soon discover that growing and eating your own organic produce is one of the great pleasures of life.
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