Guest post contributed by Victoria Lim
Times have changed much in the past couple of decades; it seems like medicine and technology have made great progress, but our lives have never been more hectic. We work too much and barely have time for ourselves, we don’t get enough rest, and our diet is full of processed food and sugary drinks. It seems like the greatest treasure today is organic food, but at the same time, it has never been this expensive. Luckily, there are ways to get your hands on organic fruit and vegetables and to make sure you and your family are eating healthy.
Prepare the soil
In order for all fruit, vegetables, and herbs to grow properly, you have to make sure that the soil is properly conditioned. Just like you have to eat to stay healthy, so do the plants, and if there are enough nutrients in the soil, plants will soon grow big and strong. Test the soil in your garden to gauge its quality, all you need is a home testing kit. If you’d like a professional opinion, you can always send a sample to your local agricultural extension office. The best time to test your soil is in the fall so that you can apply organic nutrients just before winter. If you don’t have time for testing, simply use plenty of humus (the organic matter, not the food) and mix it up with compost, leaf, as well as some grass clippings and manure.
Chemical soil treatments are incredibly cheap and easy to find, unlike compost that takes some time to be prepared. On the other hand, chemicals will inevitably seep into your food the same way they seep into the soil, and your lovely vegetables and fruit will be treated with harsh chemicals. You can make your own compost right in your backyard, and for that, you will only need to know what kind of organic waste goes there (absolutely no meat, it attracts the ‘wrong’ kind of bugs). Feed your compost bin with vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags and leaves anything naturally green and/or brown is welcome: fresh grass clippings, houseplants, as well as plant trimmings from your garden.
Invite birds and insects
You might not think highly of worms and bugs, but they are all necessary for health of your plants. While snails and slugs are generally bad for plants because they use them as food, ladybugs and earthworms are great. Ladybugs eat aphids and whiteflies, ground beetles prey on slugs and caterpillars, and damsel bugs prey on cabbage worms. Learn which bugs are good for your plants and what plants attract them so you can plant them around. Also, it’s a great idea to install a bird feeder close by because birds will also eat insects and worms which might harm your plants. Not to mention that the pleasant chipper will be a joy for you every morning.
Pick the plants
When you know the kind of soil you have, take a good look at the conditions in your garden and pick the plants which will thrive there. Your micro-conditions are specific, and there are plants which enjoy plenty of sun, and also those who prefer shade. There are plants which can get adjusted to pretty much any spot (light, moisture, drainage, and soil quality). Visit your local farmers’ market and see if you can buy any plants there since they have probably been growing in similar conditions. You can also buy plants that grow from seeds such as coriander, sunflower, sweet peas, and cucumbers.
There is no point starting with this project unless you have the right tools and equipment. Rusty pruning saw, trowel, and weeder along with ancient gardening gloves won’t get you far, and you will only end up frustrated and angry. When you go out to buy what you need for your garden, always make sure you buy quality garden tools and don’t forget about clothes. Otherwise, you will have to wash your favorite sweats every now and then, and your boots will be ruined. Have an old shirt and overalls you will only use for gardening, and grab a soft knee mat so that your knees don’t hurt when you have to spend some time on them.
Growing your own food is great on more than one level: you will be able to save a lot of money if you don’t shop at the grocery store as much, you will be sure that all the food you’re eating is safe and organic, and you will learn a lot about gardening and yourself in the process. It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner gardener or an experienced grower, you will learn so much from growing your own food, and you will truly be proud of yourself for that achievement.