Purchasing organic produce for your family can really add up at the grocery store and even at your local farmers’ market, so consider creating your own organic, Roundup-free garden. Gardening can be exciting and rewarding as you watch the miracle of nature take place right in your own backyard. It’s a good idea to start small, expect some trial and error, and take detailed notes so that each year you can build on what you’ve learned. Here are some other tips to help you get started.
Prepare the Garden Area
Doing your research up front will save you time, money, and will hopefully get you on the right path toward your first harvest. First, choose a nice sunny spot that will get enough water with proper soil. If you have the time and budget, either buy a testing kit for your soil or for a small fee have it tested and get recommendations to condition it before you begin (you can send a sample to your local agricultural extension office for a small fee.) If you want to skip this step, make sure that you till the ground well, add humus (compost, leaf clippings, and manure that’s been composted), and remove any rocks or weeds. You may want to consider a raised bed or you can create beds or rows in the soil, but make sure you have plenty of room to work in between the plants. You can add landscaping fabric in between your rows to keep weeds and other plants from growing there without spraying harsh chemicals. Next, you should solarize the soil to naturally kill any bacteria, fungus, weed seeds, or pests that have been stirred up by the soil preparation. You can do this by tacking down heavy black plastic and letting it sit (a few weeks at least is best.)
Choosing Your Plants
You live in a unique micro-climate where specific produce grows well. If you go to your local nursery, they can help you to determine what will grow well in your area. You can also check the USDA’s Hardiness Zones map to help you assess your area. You can buy seedlings at your local farmers market, or if you prefer to grow from seed, there are dozens of websites that offer organic, non GMO choices. Do a little shopping to find your best deals (some great sites are GrowOrganic.com or SeedsNow.com).
Different vegetables need to be planted during various times of the year. You can refer to sites like Urban Farmer for a planting guide or Sunset Magazine, which gives very specific conditions for commonly grown vegetables. It’s a good idea to grow a diverse population of plants to help eliminate harmful pests and to discover what grows well in your area.
Dealing with Pests
You have several choices when it comes to dealing with little critters in your garden organically. If you’re having a pest problem, first make sure that your garden is getting the correct amount of water, light, and nutrients and try to attract good predators such as ladybugs, frogs, and lizards. You can also use nets and homemade recipes that include oils, garlic, or pepper sprays.
It’s an investment of time, money, and work to start your own organic garden, but the quality (and hopefully the quantity!) of vegetables that you will grow will be worth it. Additionally, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that you’re protecting your family from the harmful chemicals that are found in non-organic produce.