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In part one of Going and Growing, we talked about some of the reasons it’s important to eat organic foods. We also touched on how difficult it is to go organic on a tight budget. My best tip (the one my aunt and I use) is to grow your own food. As an FFA alumni and hobby horticulturist, I’ve studied tons of information about food gardens, so I’m going to give you my top 5 and I’ll be watching the comments for any tips, comments or questions from you!

Number 1: Choosing your location – What you grow (and how much) is dependent on how much space you can allot to the garden. You need a spot that’s fairly easy to access (for watering and harvesting), gets plenty of sun and a little shade, and isn’t going to be trampled by your kids, pets or visitors. If you only have a small space, remember you can maximize it with a raised bed! There are several varieties, so check it out on Pinterest or Google and have fun designing a bed to meet your families needs!

raised bed *My Aunt’s raised Herb Garden. She built it from cinder blocks and lit it up with twinkle lights so it adds to the look of the yard, and it only uses a little space.*

 

Number 2: Soil – This one is super important. Most veggies and fruits like a nice thick, dark soil. (In Georgia, its practically non existent!) You’ll need to test the soil in your garden at key times like the beginning of the season and when your plants start to bear fruit, and its great to check it every couple weeks to maximize the yield of your plants. Soil testing is easy, just pick up a soil test kit at your local nursery or order one online. Test the soil for each component (Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium) BEFORE adding fertilizer.

Number 3:  Fertilizer and Pest Control – Here’s where the fun starts. To grow organic food, you have to start with organic soil, right? The good news is our friends at Miracle Grow and Home Depot have our backs. You can get organic soil by the bag (and its not too much more than regular soil). Easy.

Pest control… can’t use your garden variety pesticide (pun totally intended)! Local nurseries and Home Depots have organic bug sprays, and if you a cat there’s no issue with varmints… I mean squirrels eating the crops. Add a few earth worms, and keep clean soap on hand just in case.  If you think about cheating and hosing the perimeter in pesticide, remember that when water hits, the chemicals get leeched into the soil and absorbed by the hungry roots of your crops!

Number 4: Crops – Are you growing fruits, veggies, or both? Remember that variety is your friend in the garden, since each plant processes nutrients differently. Vegetables will take and put back different nutrients than veggies, so growing both helps keep your soil balanced. My aunt currently has a large veggie bed, surrounded by blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. (Her organic herb garden is a raised bed built from cinder blocks! DIY for the win!)

Number 5: Water, H2O! – Watering your plants may seem self explanatory, but just like pesticides put harmful chemicals in your soil, tap water from the hose adds chemicals and toxins to the garden. I’ve got two ideas for you that I’ve had excellent results with: rain barrels and water filters. I’m sure you know about water filters for the sink, and they work the same way on your hose, so follow that link and check out the options! Rain barrels sounds like a ton of work, but you can get wood or metal barrels to collect your rain almost anywhere, and then you can fill the watering can from the barrels!

Alright, so you’ve got all the information you need to start your garden, and like I said last time, it’s not too late! Late summer and fall crops will still give a great yield if you plant soon, so happy gardening!

Check us out on Facebook and I’ll see you next time for tips on harvesting, cooking and saving the yummy produce coming from your organic gardens!

 

 

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