Agri-business News garden_sprouts

Published on March 21st, 2009 | by Megan Prusynski

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Growing Your Own Food: Green, Cheap, and Delicious

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The beginnings of this year's garden.

“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.”  ~Hanna Rion

There is no doubt that human beings have become far removed from the natural world. It could be that this separation from nature is a root cause of many of society’s problems. When we deny ourselves access to the natural world, we lose a part of ourselves, our culture, and our sanity. Want to get it back? One of the simplest ways to reconnect with nature is to dig right in and grow something.

Gardening, on whatever scale you can, is a rewarding activity in many ways: not only will you get some sunshine and exercise, you can save a bundle on your grocery bill, and be in complete control of how your food is grown, from seed to plate. In a time when most of our food comes from halfway across the world, growing your own food right in your own backyard is a bold, but simple, step to reducing your carbon footprint and eating more sustainably.

With the economy in dire straits, more and more people are turning to gardening to save money on food and simplify their lives. Growing your own fruits and veggies is a great way to save on your food budget, and has become so popular during the recession that even the Obama family is gardening—right on the White House lawn! So whether you have a sunny windowsill or a few acres, now is a great time to start a garden. What follows are some tips on getting started in growing your own organic produce

I got bit by the gardening bug as soon as I had my own place to grow one. That first tiny backyard garden yielded a lot more than tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs, it taught me a lot about the ways of nature, self-reliance, time management, and the value of hard work. When I moved to the coast of Northern California, where it’s possible to grow at least some things year-round and organic gardening abounds, my love of working the earth was renewed and I have moved on to a full-on gardening obsession. In January I moved into a place I’ve been dreaming about for years: a cottage in the redwoods with a huge fenced garden that has been organic for several years. There’s plenty of sun, good soil, and all the space I need to grow a good chunk of the produce we eat.

In the coming months, I will write about the process I am going through in turning our garden from a neglected field of grass and weeds into a bounty of organic food.

Before starting a garden, you first need to take stock of the space and resources you have. Anyone can garden, no matter what your circumstances, with a little creativity and work. For an apartment dweller, a garden may be a balcony, roof, or sunny windosill full of veggies and herbs in containers. For anyone without much garden space of their own, community gardening is a wonderful option, or you can grow indoors under lights. If you are blessed with your own yard, you may have to sacrifice some of the lawn for a garden (don’t worry, you won’t miss that water-hogging, rather unsustainable lawn).

Once you’ve figured out where you’ll grow, the next step is figuring out what to grow. This is the fun part! Begin by thinking of the produce that you buy and eat most often. Make a list of your favorite fruits and veggies, and then begin researching what it takes to grow them. The most important consideration in your research should be whether the plant can survive in your climate: sorry, but unless you live in a tropical climate, you most likely won’t be able to grow bananas and mangos. First, look up your Hardiness Zone. Most seeds and plants are rated for hardiness zones based on what climates and temperatures they can withstand. Narrow down your list to those plants that grow best in your area and find out where to get seeds or starts of those plants.

The next step is planning your garden: aquiring necessary tools, scheduling your planting times, and allotting the space you have to the plants you want to grow. Some great resources for gardening are gardening books such as the Sunset Western Garden Book, How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons, or The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food. If you can find books written for your specific area, those will be very helpful. It also helps to get to know other gardeners in your area: ask at farmer’s markets, garden stores, look online, or just walk around your neighborhood. One online resource I’ve found invaluable for garden organizing and planning, not to mention connecting with other gardeners, is Folia.

Absorb as much gardening know-how as you can before you start out, but don’t let a lack of knowledge or experience stop you from trying gardening. Like most things in life, you’ll learn as you go along!

I’ll discuss more garden planning, where and how to get seeds or starts, starting seeds, preparing the soil, and much more in upcoming articles. Check back weekly to get your gardening fix!

Photo taken by myself: my first batch of seedlings this spring get some sun on my back porch.



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About the Author

I grew up camping and hiking in the woods of Idaho, leading to a connection with and deep respect for nature. I recently moved to the Mendocino coast in Northern California, where I was happy to find not only beautiful redwoods and beaches, but a high level of green consciousness. I am a graphic and web designer who focuses on making the world a better place through sustainable design and communication. I specialize in green design solutions for small businesses, non-profits, and activist organizations. When I'm not designing, I'm hiking, camping, traveling, taking pictures, blogging, and spending time with my boyfriend and our "fur-kids." You can find out more about me on my sites and blogs: my personal site, volksvegan.org, or unplug magazine.



  • Uncle B

    In the oncoming great republican depression(GRD), as the multi-national food factory farms can’t realize a decent ROI, (they will move on to greener pastures, possibly the exploding Chinese economy,) and close down in the U.S. Food in the U.S. will become scarce, just at a time when large urban populations face terrible unemployment and are cash strapped. Gardens, on lawns, in parks, on highway dividers, anywhere arable, will spring up. Unfortunately the rising cost of fertilizers, tied to rising price of oil, will make even this effort to feed everyone very difficult. Websites like this one, giving basic information on “How-To” will become invaluable and highly sought after. Even the rudimentary basics of gardening escape most Urbanites, and must be explained in child-like simplicity. The ramp-up is going to be very painful, and may involve tremendous weight losses, and even starvation for some, the end result after the “culling” will be a healthier happier population of good workers. Mother nature is tending her American Garden, and when she is done, all will be beautiful again!

  • http://allfreerecipes.net Uncle B

    In the oncoming great republican depression(GRD), as the multi-national food factory farms can’t realize a decent ROI, (they will move on to greener pastures, possibly the exploding Chinese economy,) and close down in the U.S. Food in the U.S. will become scarce, just at a time when large urban populations face terrible unemployment and are cash strapped. Gardens, on lawns, in parks, on highway dividers, anywhere arable, will spring up. Unfortunately the rising cost of fertilizers, tied to rising price of oil, will make even this effort to feed everyone very difficult. Websites like this one, giving basic information on “How-To” will become invaluable and highly sought after. Even the rudimentary basics of gardening escape most Urbanites, and must be explained in child-like simplicity. The ramp-up is going to be very painful, and may involve tremendous weight losses, and even starvation for some, the end result after the “culling” will be a healthier happier population of good workers. Mother nature is tending her American Garden, and when she is done, all will be beautiful again!
    P.S. – Sorry, forgot to tell you great post!

  • Pingback: Compost 101: Don’t Start a Garden Without It! : Eat. Drink. Better.

  • Pingback: Cabin Fever? Start Planning the Garden! : Eat. Drink. Better.

  • Pingback: Water Wise Gardening : Eat. Drink. Better.

  • http://www.gro-organic.com Jennifer DeWitt

    Bringing Organic Gardens to You

    New health, environmental and safety issues have made many of us ask, “What is in the food we are consuming?”
    Most of us want to know exactly what we are eating, but we just don’t have the time to install and maintain our own gardens to produce organic fruits and vegetables. So we rely on our local supermarket. Unhealthy chemicals and salmonella outbreaks make us wonder….what are we feeding our families and ourselves?
    A new innovative company has decided to bring organic home to you. The idea is to install and maintain home organic gardens in backyards all over Southern California. This service will help those of us who want to rid our families of the chemicals that are being put on and in our produce. In addition to the health benefits, there are environmental benefits, financial benefits, educational opportunities, disaster preparedness, and social aspects of this service that affect our communities positively.
    “groOrganic provides organic home gardening services to the public. We will install and maintain an organic garden in your own backyard,” states founder, Karen Cancilla. “Our goal is to get the message out to our community that there IS a cost-efficient, healthy way to eat organically, and we can provide that to you and your family. Communities can come together in many ways through our programs. We strive to educate our clients regarding living a healthy lifestyle in addition to giving them a convenient, healthy and emergency food source. Whether you live in a house or apartment, you can enjoy the advantages of organic produce.”
    HEALTH BENEFITS
    The foods that you and your family are eating directly affect your health. A fruit and vegetable home garden provides assurance that your food has been grown and handled without toxic chemicals. When you grow your own organic fruits and vegetables, you’ll be making a positive change that can include reducing your risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
    Most foods that we have been eating for much of our lives come from super farms that are designed to yield a high amount of fruits and vegetables in a short amount of time. The produce is sprayed with chemicals to prevent damage by insects and the soil is enriched with additives that will increase the speed of the growth cycle.
    The problem with ingesting these chemicals is that there are health-conscious consequences. Over time, the repeated consumption of produce treated in this manner causes toxicity in the bloodstream. This toxicity can result in a variety of chronic diseases including but not limited to cancer.
    Food that is grown in an organic environment is free of all chemicals. You never have to worry about the impact of these foods on your health. Many EPA-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. When you switch to a diet that is rich in organic foods, you are dramatically reducing your risk of these cancer-causing agents.
    Children, the elderly, and those who have already been touched by disease, can make a positive change by switching to an organic diet.
    ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS
    Growing an organic fruit and vegetable garden is one way to help limit chemicals from getting into the air, earth, and water. Conventional farming uses more petroleum than any other single industry, consuming 12 percent of the country’s total energy supply. More energy is used to produce synthetic fertilizers than to till, cultivate, and harvest all the crops in the US. By growing your own garden you are not only improving your family’s health, but helping the environment also.
    Organic produce in a grocery store is often 14 days old and has, on average traveled 1500 miles, while losing nutrition and flavor along the way. The selection is also often very limited and freshness is always an issue when shopping at corporate stores. A properly maintained home organic garden is convenient, fresh, and nutritious.
    SELF SUFFICENCY AND COST SAVING
    Home gardens were an important part of the war effort during World War II. Homeowners were encouraged to grow their own food to save the canned food for the troops. Americans planted more than 20 million gardens at homes, schools, and in parks that reportedly produced more than 8 million tons of food. In today’s economy we need to save money and food whenever possible, and becoming self sufficient is a necessity. Stop relying on your local grocery store and stop paying high produce costs. A groOrganic Garden can help you grow your way to lower food costs while eating more healthy home grown vegetables. You’ll be amazed at how good food from your own backyard will taste! groOrganic Gardens can be installed in backyards, health care facilities, senior housing, parks, apartment complexes, public or private schools, condo complexes, housing tracts, and can be customized to fit any yard, courtyard, or even on a small apartment balcony. During these harsh economic times we all look for ways to save. High cost is a factor that often deters us from purchasing organic foods. A home garden can be cost efficient, fun, benefits our environment, and can be used as an emergency food source. And if your garden produces more food than you can consume, you can make a tax deductible donation to the Food Bank. Creating a healthy lifestyle has never been easier.
    EARTHQUAKE PREPAREDNESS
    We know, but don’t like to admit, that the “Big One” is coming. The San Andreas Fault has not ruptured in (150) years, and on average, an earthquake larger than a (7.0) hits this area every (150) years. With your own food source, supplies, and a solid plan for your family, this catastrophic event will have less of a damaging effect on your family’s lives.
    The price of food could skyrocket. Water supply to our farms could possibly reduce California’s crops, and produce trucked in from other states could be slow due to damaged interstates. Having your own produce growing at your home will better prepare you for an emergency.

    THE ASSOCIATION OF CERTIFIED groOrganic GARDENERS
    The Mission of the Association is to impact the community in such a way as to affect the health, community participation, and knowledge of its members. The Association often donates gardens (at least four per year to Health Care Facilities) and hosts various activities throughout the year including community picnics where home grown produce can be shared among members. Education is the key to success, so much of the community work is spent teaching children and adults about growing their own food, and taking care of the Earth.
    A Certified Horticultural Therapist is on staff offering Horticultural Therapy Programs for those with special needs, seniors, children, and adults.
    groOrganic GARDEN THERAPY PROGRAMS FOR SENIORS
    groOrganic Gardens can be installed at public and private senior health care facilities. They can also be installed at a senior’s own home. Gardens at health care facilities, as well as gardens at homes, can promote activity among residents and home owners. Gardening can be therapeutic for any participant, but especially seems to have a positive effect on seniors.
    groOrganic GARDEN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN
    The participants of our educational programs visit senior care facilities and garden with the seniors. A class schedule is available at http://www.gro-organic.com/association.html The programs run with the intention to reduce the generation gap between the young and old, therefore teaching the children and adults that even within our “throwaway society” we all must take care of our aged.
    groOrganic HORTICUTURAL THERAPY
    groOrganic Horticultural Therapy (HT) can be enjoyed by seniors and special needs children and adults. Some of the uses of HT are; to provide a positive and non-threatening environment, educational experiences, develop/maintain social skills, behavioral skills, cognition and perception as well as the physical exercise/gross and fine motor skill development involved in gardening. Positive mood changes and development from being outside and engaged with the natural world is an additional advantage. The program directors are Certified Horticultural Therapists and are staff members of groOrganic.

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