Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow? (from e magazine's newsletter Eco-Logical)

Organic Gardening is Great for You, Your Family and the Planet

Spring is definitely in the air. That means warm breezes, longer days and thawing ground. It’s also the start of gardening season in most parts of North America. Gardening is often described as the world's most popular leisure activity, and it's not hard to see why. There’s the ease of entry; the educational, psychological and physical benefits; the rich history; the family friendliness; and the generally low cost (despite that book about the $64 tomato). In fact, a number of observers have speculated that gardening actually grows in popularity during economic downturns, since people are likely to spend more time closer to home.

Naturally, gardening can produce beautiful blooms and delicious fresh produce for you, your family and your neighbors to enjoy. By growing your own, you can control exactly what goes in your food, so there is no question about the food or flowers’ organic status. Conventional flowers, for instance, are raised with tremendous amounts of pesticides (since they aren't consumed), but it's easy to get great results at home, even if you only have room for a couple of containers on a deck or balcony.

And don't forget that every plant you nurture takes a breath of carbon dioxide out of the air, helping to fight global warming. Greenery also helps naturally cool your outdoor space, reversing the heat island effect. It can shield your home from noise and prying eyes, and absorbs air and waterborne pollutants. Gardens also provide valuable habitat for wildlife, from bees to birds to larger creatures.

Some tips to help you fight frustration, and green that thumb:

1. Pull weeds instead of spraying chemicals. Conventional herbicides are usually poisonous, so you don't want your pets or kids wallowing in the residue or tracking it inside. Weeding is great exercise.
2. Cultivate good soil and compost. The soil is your foundation, so take care of it. There are entire books about how to get the richest compost, no matter where you live or how much room you have, but all you really need is a place to keep clippings and table scraps moist.
3. Water often, and in the morning if possible. You'll cut waste to evaporation and promote healthy plants.
4. Choose native and heirloom plants. You're likely to get great results with natives, and support the most wildlife. Heirlooms can be tricky because they often are susceptible to disease, so research the variety first. You may have to get creative to prop up their defenses, such as planting complementary crops or sterilizing your soil first with the sun.
5. Try organic treatments. Going organic doesn't mean leaving your garden to fend for itself. There are a number of plant-derived sprays showing up, even in conventional nurseries, to control wilts, insect pests and nutrient deficiencies. Get a book on organic gardening and start experimenting!

Gardening can be extremely rewarding. Don't get discouraged when you hit a bump. Some years you'll seem to get nary a tomato, but then the next you'll be blessed with so many of the sweetest, most glorious beefsteaks that you won't be able to give them all away.

I know my garden is growing just great down at Burlington's Intervale. We just planted the tomatoes, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, peppers, basil, potatoes, watermelons and the following seeds: carrots, beets, peas, beans, and turnips... and I'm sure I'm forgetting something. I'm so excited for the whole gardening process!

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