Written by: Crow Miller, Syndication, OrganicCyberGarden .
If you are interested in sustainable landscapes, organic gardens, and organic farming, Green Living Magazine is proud to feature"Its Our Garden" series by world renowned organic gardening experts Elizabeth and Crow Miller.
WHY DO YOU GARDEN ORGANICALLY, OR SHOULD ?
Although there could be as many answers to that question, as there are organic gardeners, here is our very unofficial surveythat shows some fairly similar answers, with about 7-main categories. Here is an inventory of the most popular reasons fororganic gardening as asked to the 4,357 people who visited Spring Meadow School of Organic Farming & Gardening lastseason.
WHY DO YOU GARDEN ORGANICALLY ?
Enjoyment seems to be paramount with many folks. Many people like to watch the tender new growth come to full maturityand, as a bonus, you get to eat it!
Extra Fresh Vegetables: Naturally, corn on the cob and newly picked peas are especially noticeable, but this trait extends to allvegetables you grow yourself, especially under the organic method. A phenomenon noted by most people when harvesting theirvery first vegetables from their very first garden is that everyone eats much more of a given vegetable than they would of asimilar store bought variety.
Saving Money is certainly on most people's minds today. Did you ever hold a package of say, carrot seed, in your hand and think what a great potential mass of food could come from that small packet? Desire For Organically Grown Food can be one prime mover in growing your own. Organically grown produce are, in some areas, hard to come by,and are usually more expensive even when readily available. When you do your own growing you are sure your produce isorganic. Some so-called organic farms, just say their organic so they can make more money. A real organic farm will be certified, and glad to show you certification.
Extra Income may be derived from your garden. This could be as simple as a casual offering for sale of some surplus crop oras intensive as planning and marketing crops through the whole growing season, (as we do at Spring Meadow School oforganic farming & gardening) changing vegetable varieties as the seasons change, from early peas and asparagus to pumpkins and cabbages.
Helping Our Ecology by recycling animal and vegetable wastes by means of composting, tilling directly into the soil or byburying the wastes in a trench appeals to many people. Our National waste problem is monumental and it is a terrible waste to burn leaves, straw, cotton ginn and grainary waste as is still done in too many places. Because organic growers forego the useo f toxic chemicals; both with fertilizers and poison sprays, there is that much less of those two substances to pollute ourstreams, rivers, and creeks.
Relaxation can still be an important reason for gardening, especially for people whose occupations keep them confined insideall day. Fresh air, sun and the peacefulness of a garden, your garden! can have a beneficial effect on a person who is tired,harried and sick of central air and heat. Working in the beauty of the garden can be a natural tranquilizer.
Sense of Accomplishment is no little thing. When winter is here, we can feel secure with stores of jellies, jams, plump pickles,jars of beans, corn, fruits, and a root cellar well stocked with boxes of potatoes, carrots, cabbages, onions and winter squash.
So those are some of the more prevalent reasons Why Organic Gardening is growing so fast in the United States. But for mostof us who have control of our food supply, it's not just a garden, "IT'S OUR GARDEN," and that's a vital part of our lives.
Organic Gardening For Fun And Satisfaction
The object of life is not just to survive, but to live happily and productively. People want more from their daily routine than 3-meals and a place to sleep. They are looking for opportunities to do things that will make life soar beyond the confines of anordinary existence.
Unfortunately, many people aren't realizing that dream. They are required by circumstances to work at jobs which produce rewards only in terms of money and not satisfaction. They live in cities and towns which are continually becoming less desirableplaces, because of unplanned growth, overcrowding, high taxes, pollution and many other problems that are documented almost every day in our newspapers, and T.V. news.
The failure of most people to achieve the kind of pleasant and rewarding life they dream of is especially unfortunate these days because in many ways we have opportunities now that were denied to people in past times.
Those who are succeeding in doing what they want with their lives are the people who use their leisure time productively, forhobbies, building, learning, or for planning for their future. Many times those who use leisure time well find that they have created an opportunity to make a full-time occupation out of something that they learned and enjoyed as a hobby. There is no better route to an enjoyable and satisfying life.
Gardening, which we are all interested in, offers more opportunities to put meaning and productivity into our lives than perhapsany other hobby or activity . Working with the soil and helping it to produce satisfies the basic human urge to keep in contact with the foundation of life, because it is the Earth under our feet that, more than anything, influences how we live.
Organic gardening returns to us what we put into it. If our goals are limited, our returns are small. That is true of life in general.We all know that there is the risk of overdoing our garden plan. In the coziness of our winter homes it is easy to lay out gardenrows that are too long, or to visualize an orchard that is beyond the scope of our power to manage. That is poor planning, anact executed in haste without adequate fore thought.
I think that there is a way for us to expand our horizones and to add new dimensions of satisfaction to our lives by trying to get more out of our gardens than we are now producing. The first step is to study and learn. Just because you are past the age of youth, don't feel that your time of schooling has past. There are many senior citizens attending workshops and classes here atthe Spring Meadow School of Organic Farming & Gardening every year. There is also a lot that can be learned frommagazines, news papers, seed catalogs and books "Let's Get Growing" by Elizabeth and Crow Miller. This is the ultimatebackyard guide to raising vegetables, flowers, herbs and fruits organically, a Rodale book). Leisure hours devoted to studying and reading are bound to pay off.
As you study and learn, keep in mind that one of the most basic things you are trying to do is to increase your powers of observation. Too many of us are not able to see what is around us in the world because we haven't learned how to look.
For example, a gardener who is experienced and well-educated can look at a corner of land and know the names of the plantsgrowing there. They will know the good plants from the weeds, and will know the names of the weeds.
Many of the people who are not satisfied with what they are doing in life have not developed the powers of observation toknow what there is to do that is enjoyable. Everyone is different, and has different postive qualities and weaknesses. You haveto see and experience many of the things that life has to offer before you can find what really appeals to you. That is where learning comes in. Only by gaining new knowledge can you increase your power to look at, and really see more of the things around you.
So start first, by looking around in your garden, many of the answers to our problems are there. We just have to learn to recognize them.
When You Plan Your Garden, Here's Some Things To Know
When you choose a garden site, look for one that is well drained. If the only spot available to you is one where water puddlesafter a rain, you could forget about digging up that low-lying wet spot and build raised beds right on top of it, instead. Obtainsome loose, dry topsoil and mix it with compost, leaves, aged manure and any other organic material you can find to form a24-inch high raised beds,. The organic material will form moisture-holding humus in the soil and the loose structure will permit good drainage.
Less is more may be true in our garden. The problem here seems to be that some of us lack confidence. Some, empty a wholepacket of seeds in a small space, thinking that at least some of then will grow. But all too often most of them grow, and, in theirsearch for air and light, that develop tall, weak stems that never fully recover even after we've thinned the surplus seedlings.There are some plants, like peas and parsnips, that should be seeded rather thickly, but most others are habitually overcrowded. Consult a good gardening book ("Let's Get Growing" By Crow Miller - it covers everything you need to know to bea master gardener) or read the seed catalogs to determine recommended seed spacing.
Seeds have within them everything they need to grow, except moisture and warmth. But, if you pile 4-inches of soil over them,though, they are overwhelmed. The soil is heavy and cold and often damp enough to rot off the emerging leaf bud before it canbreak the surface. Be kind to your seeds. Cover them with soil to a depth no more than 2-times their size.
Of the 50 or so garden vegetables available for planting, only a few may be planted extra early. Some, in their enthusiasm, tendto go overboard on these few because they've waited so long for a chance to plant something. So they plant several great longrows of radishes and leaf lettuce, only to find, after a little while, that they've got more than they can use and the extras aregoing to seed. A good solution to th is problem, is to plant a single row or small bed of these early vegetables, and to keepreplanting them every 2 or 3 weeks in small amounts. Thus, for the same amount of seed and space, but a continuous harvest through fall. Mulch is great, but there are two ways to misuse it. One is to mulch heat-loving plants too early in the season, before the soil warms up. Mulch smothers weeds, but it's also a good insulator. Cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, watermelons, peppers and egg plants will produce better if mulched.
Another mistake is to put down too little mulch. It looks good for a few weeks, but then weeds poke through, and they must behand pulled, for there's just enough mulch covering the ground to make hoeing impossible. Insufficient mulch gives your plantsmuch less drought protection.
How much is enough ? Well, maybe this will give you an idea: Sawdust; 2 to 3-inches / Shredded leaves; 8 to 10-inches /Straw; 5 to 7-inches / Newspaper; 4 to 7-inches / and Grass Clippings; 5-inches when you first spread them.
Watering the garden every evening after dinner can be good therapy for the gardener, but it's not good for the plants. When thesoil is often sprinkled on top but never deeply soaked, plant roots tend to remain in the damp, upper few inches of soil wherethey are vulnerable to searing mid-summer heat and drought. Vegetable plants need an average of 2-inches of water a week.Be sure to water thoroughly so the soil is soaked to a depth of 4 to 6-inches. This will encourage roots to grow deep.
Sow And Grow, Starting A Child's Garden
A successful child's garden requires adult supervision and occasional direct assistance. Don't make the too-common mistake ofjust providing tools, seeds and a spot in the yard. Youthful gardening fever can fade quickly if the actual job becomesoverwhelming. Moral support through your physical presence, with a little technical advice and an occasional assist with the spade or hoe, goes a long way in maintaining interest.
Before you dig in, give some thought to the size of the garden. It should conform to the age, capability and interest of the child.Until about the kindergarden age, children would benefit most by being helpers in your garden. After 9 or 10, they usually canhandle a garden of their own. A good garden size for such young children would be about 3 by 5 feet. It may be small, but so is the child. And since young children have short attention spans, you don't want to bore them with gardening chores. Keep thework time short and it will remain sweet. Remember, your garden, or your child's, gardening is fun, not a chore.
Pick the site for the garden with care. While you may be able to overcome soil, water or light problems, a child cannot. The best site for a child's garden would be in full sun, with adequate drainage, easy-to-work soil, near a source of water. Once pastthis hurdle, they can handle the other tasks with just your guidance.
Straight rows, properly spaced, make for an attractive garden, but young children do not have the physical and visual coordination to carry that out to perfection. It is better to broadcast the small seeds such as radish and lettuce in bands or blocks. After seeding one crop, move the markers to define the next planting area. Onion sets are large enough to be handledindividually, and can be planted about 2-inches deep.
Quick maturing crops used in a small child's garden will usually grow fast enough to be ready for harvest before weeds becomea problem. Planting the seeds in blocks also helps to crowd out the weeds. But, if weeds begin to crowd the crop plants, theywill have to be removed. That can become an undesirable chore for small children, but can be made fun if you do it togetherand name the weeds as you pull them. Many weeds are good to eat; dandelions, purslane, lamb's quarters and chickweed area few that may be eaten. Let the child begin to harvest as soon as the crops are large enpugh. As the harvest continues, be sureto let the little green-thumber know that they contributing to improve the family's nutrition and health.
Children measure their success in a garden in basically two ways: How fast they can grow something to eat, and how close they can come to meeting your expectations of them. The first isn't hard to handle. The second depends on how you involve yourselfin the venture. Be realistic. Don't set unattainable goals for the child. Insure success by guiding and occasionally helping with the work and frequently pass out compliments. Don't do their garden for them.
You, on the other hand, should measure your child's gardening success, not by what crops were grown, but by how much heor she has grown.
It's true, Children do grow in your garden.
Nurturing plants from seed to harvest inevitably leads to increased feelings of confidence, self-esteem and pride. One only seesthe beaming face of a child who has harvested their first carrot to appreciate the value of this experience. The child becomes empowered and motivated by the realization that hard work and patience produce concrete, satisfying results.
Above all, gardening is fun and is a skill that, once acquired, can be a lifelong companion. It is not a skill that must be mastered to be enjoyed, and it is extremely adaptable to diverse needs and abilities.
For some children gardening may offer merely the excitement of watching seeds grow and harvesting the bounty. For others itoffers the opportunity to develop skills they would build on as adults, leading possibly to a rewarding hobby or career.
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