Various scientific studies have started finding that beginning your own organic gardening is beneficial for all areas of life — plants, soil, insects, air quality, water, animals, and even your own physical and mental health, the Organic Consumer Association informs us. Certain traditional farming practices have resulted in an increase of pollutants in our water, soil, air, and our own bodies. Individuals all over the country are starting to maintain their own organic food gardens.
Just like sleeping on a mattress made of organic latex, there are numerous benefits of growing your own organic garden. In general, not only does this practice help to improve the environment and reduce the risk of accelerated disease, when you grow your own organic garden, it can also provide you with:
- Long-term money savings
- Physical and mental benefits
- Increased nutrient content in your soil
- And more
Specific Benefits of Growing Your Own Organic Garden
Growing an organic garden is beneficial to both you and the environment in the following ways.
1. Good Health
Organic gardens are free of toxic chemicals, meaning your produce will also be free of them as well. Your vegetables and fruits won't have any chemical residue on them, which could enter your body if not washed off completely. Chemical herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers have been associated with:
- Birth defects
- Breast cancer
- Damaged brain function
- Prostate cancer
- Childhood leukemia
Therefore, possibly one of the biggest health-related benefits of growing an organic garden is simply being able to skip these types of risks.
Organic produce also has higher nutrient content than produce grown with the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and herbicides. When you plant your own organic garden, you're assuring yourself as well as your family the best fruits and veggies possible. Not to mention, you're adding exercise from working in your garden, which could help work off excess calories, and tone up your body.
2. Know What's in your Food
With your own organic garden, you'll know exactly how that tomato transferred from seed to your plate. You can control what you put in the soil, and what your plants are provided with other than sunshine and rain.
3. You’ll Save Money
While you could spend a few extra bucks for organic greens or tomatoes at your local grocery market, nothing beats being able to pick your fresh veggies for free from your own backyard.
4. Your Produce is Fresh
An organic garden provides you with provides you with fresh-picked flavor just minutes before you meal. This you'll never doubt again after tasting a fresh sugar snap pea or asparagus spear you picked from your own garden. With an organic home garden, your vegetables and fruits won't need to be transferred across the country on a truck to your local grocery store where they'll begin losing freshness, flavor, and nutrition along the way.
For the Environment
If you're contemplating whether or not to start your own organic garden, you should take the environmental impact into consideration of conventional gardening. With an organic home garden, you experience these benefits:
1. No Groundwater Toxicity
A study has been conducted about the combination of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, reports the University of Wisconsin—Madison. The study shows serious hormonal, immune, or neurological impacts of our groundwater's present toxicity levels, and its impact on the health of humans and animals in terms of neurological health, endocrine, and immune systems.
2. Long-Term Sustainability
Many environmental changes observed are long-term, and occur gradually over time. Organic agriculture takes the long-term agricultural interventions' effect on our agro-ecosystem into consideration. It works towards producing food, while establishing and maintaining an ecological balance to avoid pest and fertility problems. It takes proactive action rather than simply treating problems after they occur.
3. No Harm to Beneficial Insects
Pesticides not only kill unwanted insects that can harm your vegetables, they also kill the beneficial ones (like bees) as well, reports Pesticide Action Network. Harsh chemicals are believed to be a potential reason for the collapse of bee colonies, and can impact other pollinators needed for growing food.
4. Good Soil
Soil building practices central to organic practices are:
- Symbiotic associations
- Crop rotations
- Cover crops
- Organic fertilizers
- Minimum tillage
These encourage soil flora and fauna, helping to improve soil formation and structure, and create more stable systems. Because of this, there's an increase in energy and nutrient cycling, and the soil's retentive abilities for water and nutrients are enhanced, which compensates for not using mineral fertilizers.
These management methods also play a significant role in the control of soil erosion. The soil's length of time being exposed to erosive forces is reduced, nutrient losses are decreased, and soil biodiversity is increased, helping to enhance and maintain soil productivity. Farm-derived renewable resources compensate for crop export of nutrients, but are in some cases necessary for supplementing organic soils with phosphate, potassium, magnesium, trace elements, and calcium from external sources.
Steps to Grow Your Own Organic Garden
Just thinking about starting an organic garden may be overwhelming. You have so many options as to what to purchase, how and when to plant, and even how to keep your garden alive. Then on top of that, throw in having to weed, harvest, and canning — where do you find the time?
However, it's not as time-consuming as you may think, and if your priority is to have access to fresh fruits and veggies with maximum nutrients, then even an indoor herb box or small-scale garden is a good start. And, you don't necessarily have to can your foods that come from your garden — you can store many of them in your freezer, or just eat them up fresh.
So, let's get started with your own organic garden. Here are the steps you need to follow.
1. Decide on What You'll Be Growing
The best choice here is to grow what you eat the most, and what would cost the most if you buy organically. While these can be helpful, you don't need to overwhelm yourself with a ton of gardening websites, books, planning, or charts. The best thing to do is to get some hands-on experience. Buy some seed packets, and read the instructions included on the back. Start with only a few types of food, and slowly build up your garden each year.
Some good seed choices for beginners are:
- Snap peas
2. Choose the Location
Choose a spot that receives a minimum of six to eight hours each day of sunlight. The location should be away from big trees and roots. If you're growing some veggies in containers, don't choose areas that often get strong winds, since they could topple over. Ensure the area is where you'll have easy access to water.
3. Start Small
To start, 100 sq. feet per individual in your household is sufficient. Even 50 sq. feet is fine. A lot of newbie gardeners start their gardens out too large, and end up quitting, so the best advice is to start small. If you plant densely, you can grow a lot of fruits and vegetables in 100 sq. feet. Instead of trying to plant 10 tomatoes, plant one or two plants, stake them up, and take good care of them. One plant could give you dozens of tomatoes if you take care of it.
4. Use Good Soil
Once you've chosen your location and sq. feet, you want to make sure you're using good soil, and if you don't, amend it. Soil testing is offered by many county extension offices at affordable prices. You can determine if you need to add anything to your soil by having it tested. You might want to prepare your soil with organic compost to provide beautiful, black soil for your veggies.
5. Understand Your Seeds vs. Transplants Needs
If you plan on growing spinach, lettuce, basil, tomatoes, and zucchini, plan on purchasing nursery starts (transplants). For other plants, buy seeds. Follow the seed packet's instructions for direct seeded plants. They'll let you know how deep you should plant the seed, and how much room you should give mature plants. You shouldn't place transplants in the soil deeper than what's in the pot. The only exception of this is tomatoes, which you need to bury the entire stem up to the leaves.
6. Water Your Crops Well
Since good growth requires moisture, plan for watering right from the beginning. Most organic gardens will need a minimum of an inch of water each week, and if hot outside, even more. To avoid having to drag a hose around or carry heaving watering cans, ensure you have easy access to rain barrels and spigots. Water immediately after you plant.
7. Feed and Weed Your Garden
Once you've planted your garden, next you're going to feed and weed it. You won't need this step right away if you've tested and prepared your soil with compost.
You will have your fair share of weeding to do with an organic garden, since you're not going to be using chemical herbicides, but there is a way to make this process simpler. Weeds can't grow if there's no light, so you can cover the garden aisles with cardboard or newspaper before they begin growing. Or you can put down a natural paper weed barrier which tills into the soil once the season's over.
8. Utilize Natural Pest Control
Pest control is important for an organic garden. Spending hours on your garden only to have caterpillars, bugs, and small animals destroy your plants is frustrating.
But, with an organic garden, you can't use most of the regular pesticides. However, you can still keep the pests away naturally. In fact, there are certain plants that have natural properties that deter pests and help other plants grow. Some include:
Get Started on Growing Your Own Organic Garden
Keep in mind you may face some failures your first year trying to grow an organic garden. It takes patience and practice. But, you grow plenty of what you plant. You can start small to begin supporting an organic lifestyle by growing a few pots of pepper and tomato plants. Or to go big, you can transform your entire back yard (or most of it) into an organic farm/garden.
Gaining the peace of mind knowing where your fruits and vegetables come from, and what's not being sprayed on them, is worth the small time and money investment as well as the trial and error phase.
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