My First Organic Garden and Some of the Things I Have Learned

When I decided to eat Raw Foods, I knew it was time to plant my first garden.  I wanted to grow my own food to assure that I was eating healthy, raw and living foods.

I bought the books All New Square Foot Gardening and Lasagna Gardening and went to play (work). I found planting my first garden to be very exciting.

After building thirteen raised bed planter boxes, I bought compost by the dump truck load and spent many days mixing soil with azomite, peat moss and vermiculite and then hauling the magnificent soil to my boxes.

I spent the entire month of March building and filling my planter boxes while living on green smoothies.

In April I bought young organic plants from a local nursery.  Some vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers are easier to grow from small plants rather than seeds (although you can start them indoors or in a greenhouse).

The weather during the summer is hot in Utah so my day starts when the sun comes up and I do my best to nap during those very hot afternoons.

When I first sowed my chosen vegetable seeds directly into the ground, I carefully followed the directions on the back of the seed packet.  Doing so, I found that I planted many more seeds than necessary, and then had a hard time thinning my seedlings to the proper spacing recommended on the seed packet.

Consequently, I had to learn about adequate spacing when planting my garden, in order to assure that each plant has enough room to grow and flourish.  It is easy to underestimate how much space the plants will need once they begin growing, so you need to have a sense of how big a full size plant is.

marigolds_in_the_gardenI love seeing my first little seedlings push up out of the ground, and then grow bigger and bigger into these beautiful gifts of bounty.

Companion gardening (planting certain plants together) is important and I will cover this topic at another time.

I do my best to keep my garden free of weeds, as not only will it look better, but it will be easier for my vegetables to thrive when they aren’t competing with weeds for sunshine, water, and nutrients in the soil.

I put a black mesh covered with straw or old carpet down between my boxes.

Even so, weeds still have an amazing way of appearing overnight, but they are very easy to pull up and discard in the garbage when using this method.  I discard the weeds rather than composting them, because I do not take a chance of the seed from the weeds ending up in my compost.

Another way to control the growth of weeds is by putting newspaper over the ground where I have weeded, as weeds can only grow when there is adequate sunlight. The newspapers will break down over time, and will become part of your compost.

Try adding some mulch on top of the newspaper to keep newspapers in place and make the garden more attractive.

I plant a few marigolds in my garden to add a splash of color, and to deter insect pests that don’t like marigolds! Find out which insects and diseases, if any, are problematic in your area and decide on an organic method of pest control to use if necessary (I will talk more about these options in future blogs).

Healthy soil and seedlings will also help prevent disease.

Vegetable and fruit plants, like people, are made up of mostly water. It is essential that they receive an adequate amount of water.  Most plants need at least one to two inches of water a week while they are actively growing (small seedlings are most sensitive to over- or under-watering).

Sufficient water is especially important during the active flowering and fruiting stages of growth. Frequent shallow watering encourages shallow rooted plants that are susceptible to drought.

To prevent this from happening when starting a vegetable garden, water deeply and less frequently. Don’t worry, you will get the hang of it in no time.  The plants will let you know if they are being under-watered by wilting and looking forlorn!

When starting a vegetable garden, the time of day you choose to water is as important as how much. Try to avoid wetting the foliage in the evening, in order to help prevent plant diseases such as mildew from occurring (I learned this lesson the hard way!).  Watering the garden in the heat of the day can burn the plants, so it is best to avoid this if at all possible. Early morning or early evening watering is best.

A year after starting my garden I learned about hoop houses. Hoop houses are simple to build and extend the growing season by three months or so.

  • I put either 4 or 6 four foot pieces of rebar two feet into the ground in the corners of each garden box (depending on the length of the box) and I then slid pvc pipe over the rebar to form a half-hoop.
  • Agribond fabric was then draped over the pvc frame, along with a layer of thick clear plastic.

This process turns each garden box into a mini greenhouse.

When creating a compost pile, use green plants and dried plant materials in equal parts.  Green plants consist of spent flowers, veggie/fruit waste, leaves, weeds, and grass clippings. Sawdust, straw, cardboard, paper and wood pulp are all examples of dried plant material.

Never put meat scraps, grease, or fecal waste (from pets or elsewhere) into your compost.These can attract flies or can harbor diseases that may not be killed by the composting process.

​Another thing I have learned is to keep all my GardenToolstools together so I don’t waste time hunting for needed tools.

I have a small canvas bag for clippers and different sprinklers heads and other tools that are used with my drip irrigation system (another topic that I will blog more about in the future).

Always clean and put tools away immediately when you are done with them and store them in the same place every time.

This will keep them from rusting or being damaged or lost.

While there are many benefits to growing my own food and I would never want to go back to purchasing supermarket produce, it isn’t easy to grow all of my own food.

After paying the increased water bill and spending money on organic plants and seeds, I have probably not saved any money, yet there is nothing like the taste of delicious produce right out of the garden.

All through the growing season, it is so easy to graze right out of the garden; from early spring with snow peas and incredible lettuce, to the fresh green beans, strawberries, spiralized beetroot, baby carrots, and radishes of early summer.

I love putting together vegetable dishes from my garden, and my friends and family appreciate when I share my harvest with them.

I have also learned to dehydrate or freeze and store crops, and I enjoy finding recipes like bacon made from eggplant or kale made into cheesy chips that can be dried and stored in an airtight containers in the cupboard for a few months.

I have found this last tip to be the most important for beginners, so pay close attention; do not forget to have some fun when starting a vegetable garden!

There is no time for stress or worrying while vegetable gardening. Enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and your interaction with Mother Nature while waiting for your organic garden to bloom.

Just enjoy every details of the process and your hard work will surely pay off.

Love,
Linda

Gardening in the backyard