Getting your daily dose of healthy fruits and veggies from your own backyard may seem a little daunting at first, but consider the potential benefits of organic gardening:
- Nutrient Value – Commercially grown vegetables can lose some nutrients in transport and storage. Also, research suggests commercial farming practices have depleted the soil to the extent that fruits and vegetables don’t contain the level of nutrients they once did. Growing and eating your own freshly picked produce can maximize nutrient content.
- Flavor – Many commercially grown fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe to extend shelf life. When you eat your first home-grown tomato, you’ll taste the difference that comes from harvesting and eating produce at the peak of ripeness.
- Chemical Free - No pesticides or other harmful chemicals.
- Exercise – depending on the size of your garden and choice of tools (human vs. gas or electric powered) you can burn as many as 200-300 calories an hour gardening.
- Cost Savings – One tomato plant purchased for a couple of dollars can yield over 10 to 15 pounds per year. You can extend the harvest by canning or using a dehydrator to make nutritious dried fruit or veggie snacks.
- Science lesson – Your children can learn about horticulture and important life skills such as responsibility. Taking care of a plant is a good precursor to owning a pet.
[more] Here are some tips to get started:
- Location – An ideal location should provide: at least six to eight hours of full sun, protection from the wind provided by structures such as a building or fence, and access to water.
- Size -- If you are new to gardening, you might want to start small with a few plants in small beds or containers. If you want to dive-in, a general rule of thumb is to allow for an 8 x 10 foot plot per person. For example, a good size garden to feed a family of four would be 16 x 20.
- Crop choice – while you will want to choose fruits and vegetables you actually like to eat, you might also want to consider those that are easy to grow if you are new to gardening. Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, lettuce, radishes, squash and carrots are good choices for beginners. Or consult your local garden center or agriculture extension service for a list of fruits and vegetables that do well in your region.
- Soil preparation – If you are putting in a bed, clear the area of rocks, twigs, and weeds and then turn over the soil at least 4-6 inches deep with a tiller or shovel.
- Soil composition -- While there is some variation in what each type of plant prefers, in general good garden soil contains a balance of about 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay. You can make adjustments for specific plants from this baseline. To check your soil composition, take a fist full of soil and squeeze it in a ball; if it doesn’t hold its shape and falls apart, there’s too much sand. If the soil will not break apart readily, then there’s too much clay. Soil that is either too sandy or contains too much clay can be improved with organic matter such as compost and/or peat moss. If the soil is very poor and you’re looking for a quick fix, you can remove the poor soil and replace it was commercially bagged “garden soil”. Bagged soil is also great for container plants.
For additional tips and resources, visit: www.organicgardening.com.
Phipps, Nikki. “Vegetable Gardening For Beginners.” Gardening Know How. Web 22 April 2011
Garden Web. “Preparing a New Garden” Web. 22 April 2011
The Universtity of Texas. “Study suggests nutrient decline in garden crops over past 50 years.” 1 Dec. 2004. Web. 22 April 2011