Organic Gardening For Life

ORGANIC GARDENING

My dad grew up on a farm and learned the trade as a means of necessity. What they grew on their farm were mostly what they ate. He always had a green thumb where everything he planted grew and flourished. My siblings and I were pretty lucky growing up in my parents house and our backyard was always abundant with fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables. As I grew older I got to appreciate the scrumptious bounty and I told myself that once I have my own house, I would indeed need to grow my own garden.

Now, as a volunteer at my son’s school I was given the opportunity to run a garden club at his school. With only a handful of experience based on what I learned from my parents, I built an organic garden for the students at his school.  And what a delight it has been learning and teaching at the same time, watching the kids run excitedly to the garden center during the meetings and enjoying the harvest at peak picking times. Just as much as the kids love to pluck off a sweet fresh strawberry, I too love tending to these plants, nurturing them and helping them flourish into something delicious and rewarding.

Gardening doesn’t have to be intimidating or time-consuming. In fact, it can be one of the most relaxing ways of spending time with yourself or with your kids. Teaching your children the wonderful benefits of gardening can help them flourish and learn to appreciate nature and a healthy lifestyle. With the idea of Farm to Table, we can teach our kids that what we grow is what we eat. Similar theory applies to grocery shopping in stores but when you grow your own produce, it is much healthier and the flavor indeed better than the store bought versions!

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Start with an organic garden where it’s healthier for you and for the environment. Organic means not using any type of toxic pesticides or herbicides in your plants and ensuring that the soil is organic as well.

Here are some easy and basic tips to help you start your own organic garden:

Step One:

Decide where you are going to have your organic garden. If you’re a novice, start small whether it’s in a raised garden bed or a few larger-sized planters. Use only organic soil and have proper drainage such as hole on the bottom of the planters and soil that’s a good blend of nutrients. Go to your local nursery and pick up a few bags of organic soil and mix them in the planters thoroughly. If you’re planting directly into the ground, be sure to test your soil as original soil may not have enough nutrients or the proper amount. Amend the soil if necessary.

Step Two:

Choose your plants by deciding first what you want to grow and the purpose of growing them. Do you want an abundant garden of fresh vegetables? Or fresh herbs? Or a mixture of herbs and vegetables? Do you want to grow easy fruits such as strawberries and citrus? Write down what you think you would like to eat on a regular basis and visit the local nursery for seasonal ideas. Make sure that what you grow is actually right for your region. If you’re buying seedling plants from the store, they are most likely ready for your region. If growing from seeds, read the packet to determine if the plants are appropriate for your region and the season. Oftentimes stores will have year-round seeds as it’s most cost effective for them, but can be a headache for the consumer who doesn’t understand the exact growing season. And when buying seedlings or seeds, make sure they are organic.

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Step Three:

Proper fertilization is necessary for a healthy bounty of fresh plants. You can either buy the necessary compost at your local nursery or make your own. For homemade compost, check out this article: https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home. Organic compost, the most popular type of fertilizer, enriches the soil, retains moisture and suppresses pests and diseases.

Step Four:

Pest control is probably the most time-consuming process of growing and maintaining a healthy garden. At first when we grew lettuce and cabbage at my son’s garden center, we saw aphids and ants practically taking over the plants. I was so frustrated as I didn’t devote enough time during growing season to properly prevent and get rid of these pesky plant eaters. Later I learned that not only do natural pest controllers such as ladybugs can benefit the garden, but that planting certain types of “companion planting” and “ally planting” can help prevent or reduce pests. Companion planting is planting certain vegetables next to each other. The plants enhance each other’s flavor and growth, and healthy plants are less susceptible to pests. Conversely, there are certain plants that should never be grouped together. For instance if you’re growing beans,  good companions are cucumber, celery, carrot and radish, but never plant beans near garlic or onion or you’ll stunt the beans’ growth.

Ally planting is planting specific herbs or flowers near vegetables to repel or confuse insects. Plant summer savory near your beans to discourage bean beetles. Chives deter aphids on peas, and basil repels flies and mosquitoes on tomatoes, while also improving growth and flavor. Marigolds deter beetles on cucumbers, and mint and sage deter cabbage moth.

Step Five:

Controlling weeds are a necessity in maintaining a good garden. Weeds are a hassle for any type of gardening but you don’t have to let them run your life or your garden’s life. To stop weeds before they start, you can cover the garden’s surface with an organic mulch; not only will it reduce weed-seed germination and suppress weeds trying to emerge, the right mulch can also retain moisture and act as an insulator, keeping the soil cooler in warm weather and warmer in cool weather. Popular organic mulches include hardwood and softwood barks, crushed corncobs, spent hops from local breweries, peat moss and pine needles. You can also pull weeds with your hands but make sure you pull out the entire root.

Step Six:

Now it’s time to enjoy your harvest! Pick your plants at the peak of their ripeness so that you’re getting the freshest, sweetest, and juiciest plants. Once the plants are past their peak, plants can be tougher and drier on the inside. You can still eat them but they won’t taste as fresh. If you’ve grown too much to eat, try giving them to your neighbors or freezing them, canning, or fermenting.

For more info and helpful tips on growing your own organic garden, please visit the Delicious Living website: http://deliciousliving.com/green-living/how-start-your-own-organic-vegetable-garden?cid=nhbc.

Organic Consumers Association: https://www.organicconsumers.org/, Organic Trade Association: https://www.ota.com/

HAPPY GARDENING!

Editor’s note: Parts of this post were taken with permission from Delicious Living magazine. Sources are directly from Delicious Living magazine.

Disclaimer: The product(s)were sent to the author for review by the manufacturer/PR. All reviews on “Happymomblogger” remain unbiased and unpaid and are the sole decision of the author. The opinions of these product(s) were not influenced in any way, shape, or form. As always, please read the ingredients carefully when trying new products.

Please read the labels and ingredients carefully and follow all manufacturer’s instructions (if any). The products selected for the giveaway were generously donated by the companies/PR to help readers learn more about their products. The winner’s choice in using/consuming these products are entirely up to the winner and will not hold the author and her family liable nor the companies/PR liable. These products are made with non-toxic ingredients but always be safe with what you use and consume.

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The Wonders of Gardening – Teaching your kids to enjoy it.

Gardening should be enjoyed by everyone. It’s a lot of fun, you get to be creative, and you’re outside enjoying the fresh air. Children specifically should learn at an early age about gardening as it will teach them about life, creativity, and give them much needed Vitamin D from the beautiful sun. Any one of any age can garden as long as you have a love for something unique, beautiful, and exquisite. Young children can develop a love of gardening as early as they can crawl. When my son was an infant, I used to have him sit outside with me in his little infant chair while I tended my garden. Although he probably didn’t know exactly what I was doing, I’m sure the experience of sitting outside in a relaxed environment with the fragrant flowers surrounding him evoked some kind of calming sensation. And that’s exactly what a garden should do – help you relax, feel calm, and recharge.

Gardening can also help the environment if you use eco-friendly products including pest control. I try to limit my use of pest-control on my plants regardless of it’s non-toxic ingredients by simply being diligent around my plants. I pluck the dried leaves and keep an eye on pests regularly. Being diligent around your garden can prevent many unwanted garden insects and help keep your hard-earned plants beautiful and thriving. Being an eco-friendly gardner can also teach your children about our precious ecosystem and help them learn to be more environmentally responsible in the future when they have their own gardens to take care. A good way to start is by using organic soil (for both potted and ground plants), buying plants that are insect and mold resistant, and using natural, non-toxic pest control when necessary. A good company that makes non-toxic pest control is EcoSMART (http://www.ecosmart.com/). I have a gardening friend who also once suggested making my own non-toxic pest control formulas. She suggested natural, non-toxic dishwashing detergent diluted with water as an option as well as garlic spray and lavender blends. I also read that planting certain plants around your more pest-susceptible flowers such as marigolds and garlic can prevent pests from going near that designated area. But regardless of what you do to maintain your garden, keep one rule in mind: if you use toxic pest control on the plants you eat, then skip that step and use something non-toxic. And remember that children are endlessly curious – keep them safe around any toxic pest control and toxic plants as well.

If you do plan on teaching your kids all about gardening,  then organic gardening is really the best way to garden. It helps the plants live longer and healthier, it’s healthier for the planet, and it’s more humane to the pestering insects. You can also try making your own compost: http://ext.homedepot.com/community/blog/sustainable-gardening-composting-made-easy/ which is more time-consuming, but you have greater control and satisfaction. Organic gardening is also less worrisome should your ever curious kids and pets wander into the garden without your knowledge. Ofcourse you don’t have to use organic soil for your plants, but it wouldn’t hurt either way.

Just the other day, my son and I were at Home Depot looking at their latest plants for the season. Although they don’t have as great a bounty as say, nurseries, Home Depot does keep a good supply of your regular, easy-to-plant varieties and their prices are a lot better. We picked up a few plants including marigolds, freesias, verbenas, and it was delightful to have my son ask me what that plant was or what this plant is as we walked around. His curiosity and desire to learn and grow plants just made it even more fun for us when we took our newly purchased flower plants home. Now, as our little garden is starting to fill up with flowers and herbs, he takes great joy and pride in watering them every day and tending to them; carefully plucking the dried leaves and buds and talking to them. Where he learned to talk to his plants, I’m not sure of – probably from watching TV, but it’s cute, nevertheless.

Some great plants for kids to grow and start learning about are herbs such as thyme, basil, mint, and so forth. Flowers such as calendula, roses, and lavender are also great choices but just be wary of the thorns on roses. And vegetables of any kind would be perfect as your children can watch them grow from seeds to seedlings, to blooming plants! So no matter which plants you choose to begin your gardening, just remember to choose seasonly when starting and let your children pick out some of their own too. And even better, if your child is old enough, designate a special section in the garden for his/her plants only and allow them to take care of it the proper way. The result will be bountiful for both your children and you!

Happy Mother’s Day!

*Photo credit to Proven Winners(www.provenwinners.com).