Do you grow your own?

In the past few years, Recycla has heard more and more people say that they want to start growing their own food.  In fact, it is because so many Eco Women readers have mentioned their desire to garden that that Enviro Girl and Recycla have been posting so much info on gardening in recent weeks and plan to post more in the next few months.

Some people are gardening out of economic necessity and others are doing so in order to have more control over the foods they eat.  Whatever a person’s reason, gardening is a great thing to do.  EVERYONE can garden — whether you put pots of herbs in your window sill, containers of tomatoes on your patio, or you go larger scale, gardening is generally quite easy. If you live in an apartment with only a few north-facing windows, but you’re still antsy to start digging, check around your neighborhood for a shared community garden.

There are a few gardeners among the Eco Women and here are their tips to get you started:

Plan to be organic. You DO NOT need to use toxins in your garden, nor do you need chemical fertilizers.  Organic gardening is the way our ancestors raised their food for centuries and if they survived, so can you.  For more information about being an organic gardener, read Organic Gardening magazine or go to their website.  You’ll find lots of practical tips and suggestions for all gardeners, from novice to experienced.

Choose a good location. Vegetables and herbs need sun — lots of it — so choose a spot that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct light every day.  Make sure your garden is convenient — to a water source so that you can keep your plants hydrated and also to your home so that you can dash out at dinner time for a last-minute harvest.

Choose how you’re going to garden — in containers, in a raised garden bed, or directly in the ground itself.

  • If you’re gardening in containers, opt for larger ones, as they h0ld more plants.  Make sure there are a some small holes in the bottom for drainage.  Put gravel, small rocks, or broken bits of planters in the bottom, then fill with dirt.  Do not use dirt from your backyard — buy a bagged mix.  For more information, check out this website.
  • If you’re building a raised bed, consider your materials carefully.  Railroad ties, while convenient, contain toxins that you definitely DO NOT want near your edibles.  In fact, if you’re using lumber of any kind, research it carefully and find out what chemicals were used at the mill.  In general, cedar is a good wood to use because it’s usually not treated, but double-check, just to make sure. Other options include plastic lumber, bricks, and stone.  Click here for more information how to build a raised garden bed.
  • If you’re putting your garden right in the ground, the easiest way to do it is by lasagna gardening.  Lasagna gardening eliminates the back-breaking labor of removing sod.  Instead, you put down a thick layer of newspapers or corrugated cardboard on the place where you want your garden, which will kill the grass for you.  On top of that, you layer fallen leaves, peat moss, dirt, compost, etc.  Water well and you’re done!  The layers of organic material break down and create the most amazing soil you can imagine.  You can plant immediately, but it’s even better if you let things settle for several weeks.  A terrific book on this topic is Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza.

Choose what you’re going to plant — herbs, vegetables, fruits, flowers, or a combination of everything.  Some plants are easier to grow from seed than others, so if you are a complete novice, go ahead and buy plants this year.  They should pay for themselves pretty quickly.  Putting herbs and flowers in among your veggies will help repel pests in your garden. Consider companion planting — some plants do particularly well when planted together, such as tomatoes, basil, and marigolds.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. It’s easy to get excited about gardening and make huge plans, but then lose momentum in June or July.  If this is your first foray into gardening, start off small.  Try a couple of herbs and one or two tomato plants.  If things go well, branch out next year.

Do your research.  Read about gardening.  Buy magazines, check out books from the library, and surf the Web.  Talk to people you know who garden and ask for their advice.  Also, feel free to leave your questions here in the comments.  The Eco Women probably have answers for you!

Tell the Eco Women: Do you garden? If so, where — your windowsill, containers on the patio, in a shared community garden, your back yard? What kinds of things do you grow?

Photo credits: Yahoo Images.

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7 thoughts on “Do you grow your own?

  1. I have a notoriously black thumb. I don’t “get” plants and have never been naturally good at keeping them alive. Therefore, it’s very, very exciting for me that this year, for the first time ever, I have some little herblets that I’ve grown from seed in our condo! They’re in a super-cute pot that my mom got me for Christmas, and I was skeptical about how I’d do with them. Still, I gave it a try, and they just keep growing and getting bigger somehow. They haven’t gotten big enough to harvest anything yet, and I’m a little concerned that the anise is going to bite it, but I think the parsley, basil, sage and oregano are going to grow up and be big and healthy!

  2. Awesome post. I had issues with pests last year – they destroyed all my Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, Cauliflower, etc only weeks before they were ready to harvest 😦 I definitely will follow your advice and that in the Seeds of Change article, and mix it up with herbs and flowers this year.
    I guess this weekend I’d better get to starting my seeds and prepping the garden!

  3. Starting small is the way to go–even with a few vegetable plants on your patio you’ll eat healthier and safer food!

  4. I am so excited to start this year. My first step is that I need to spend a weekend day tracking the sun so I know what to plant where. I am hoping to plant some flowers and herbs at the front of the house and some vegetable sand herbs on the side.

  5. I have had two years with my backyard garden. My strategy is to grow items that I cannot get cheaply at the grocery store or that good-quality versions are not available.

    Hence, I grow tomatoes, tomatoes, and tomatoes, and a variety of lettuces. I also grow basil because I like being the kind of person who grows her own basil. I grow chard because it is so yummy and never gets cheap here, even in the summer. I am not going to plant squash any more because it takes up too much space and is easily available. I grow sweet peas just because I like to stand in the garden and eat them off the vine.

    I learned how to can fruits and veg two years ago just so I could do something with all the extra tomatoes and with the dozens of pounds of pears we get from the old pear tree in our yard.

  6. Oh, Spring Fever. The pile of snow on my garden is a little smaller now – maybe 8 inches rather than the two feet we had before this warm stretch. Maybe I can put together that small greenhouse I bought. Spring Fever — I want to garden! Now!

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