Despite the trends of recent years, most of us still don’t have the connection to our food that we had just a few generations ago. Large scale commercial farming produces more food per acre, but at a higher cost to the environment, our nutrition, and ultimately our health. You can improve your health and live longer by growing your own organic garden.
The Garden Site
First you’ll need to find the best area on your property for a garden. Walk your property at different times of the day to see which area gets the most sunshine throughout the day. Poor drainage is easier to fix than poor sunlight, and most fruits and vegetables need at least eight hours of full sun per day.
If you live in the suburbs, you may be surprised to learn that many developers use construction waste in the fill dirt when building up the elevation of a property. For this reason alone it is a good idea to start with a raised bed garden. This will give you more control over the health of your soil. Most garden supply stores now sell organic soil and compost. This costs more than using the dirt that you already have available, but it is a one-time expense that will improve your health and the health of your garden. I planted my first “organic” garden when I was sixteen and living in Port Neches, TX. Port Neches was part of the petrochemical complex in southeast Texas, and the soil and groundwater was so polluted that at one time my little town had the highest per capita childhood leukemia rate in the United States! I probably ingested more toxins that year than if I had just bought chemically fertilized vegetables from the grocery store. Soil health equals plant health equals your health.
Keep it Natural
Use natural materials to construct the sides of your raised bed organic garden. Pressure treated lumber and railroad ties will leach toxic material into your soil and your plants. Cedar is a good wood to use, but can be expensive. Sometimes you’ll be able to find a good deal on cedar fencing, it tends to be cheaper (and thinner) than cedar planks. Cinder blocks and bricks will work fine if you don’t have access to natural stone.
Rainwater Collection Barrels
Rain barrels, or rainwater collection barrels, are another one-time expense that will help you in the long run. Many cities and counties will impose watering restrictions during a severe drought. Having rainwater as a standby will keep your efforts at growing an organic garden from being a casualty of the weather.
County Extension Agents
If you are new to gardening, check with your county extension agent to find out which fruits and vegetables do well in your area. They will have a list of specific varieties well suited to the part of the country you live in. Many county extension agents will even help you plan your garden free of charge. Most cities have gardening clubs and enthusiasts; a “Master Gardener” will have a wealth of knowledge they will be willing to share.
There are so many reasons to have a garden and so few reasons not to:
- Mass produced fruits and vegetables are bred to have thick skins so that they can withstand being shipped across the country, and in more and more cases, across the world. Heirloom varieties tend to be tastier and a lot more tender than the store-bought kind.
- There is an indescribable pleasure in sitting down to a meal that you have nurtured from seed.
- Gardening is good exercise and a great stress-buster.
- It is cheaper to grow your own food than it is to purchase it. You can cut your grocery bill by as much as 50% by growing your own fruits and vegetables.