Living a gluten-free lifestyle involves a lot of cooking. The more time you spend preparing food, the more likely you’ve wondered if you could grow some of this stuff yourself. The answer is yes! As spring comes closer, the time to consider breaking ground on an organic garden is now.
There are countless benefits to growing your own organic foods. For one, you’ll see increased nutrient levels. You’re also guaranteed chemical-free and cheaper produce, and you’ll have constant access to fresh, delicious food. Read on for a beginners’ guide to growing organic foods this spring.
Know Local Planting Conditions
Before you start your garden, it’s important to know your hardiness zone and first and last frost dates. Planting the right crops that will thrive in your local climate at proper times will ensure you get plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables. Nothing takes the wind out of a new gardener’s sails faster than a garden that looks stunted or sickly.
Pick a Sunny Spot
Where you plant your garden is as important as what you put in it and when. You ideally want a sunny spot or at least a location that receives six to eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Morning sun is especially crucial for veggies and herbs. You can plant fruit trees anywhere in the sun, but try not to plant them on the south side of your garden. You don’t want the trees casting a shadow across the garden beds, robbing them of vital sunlight.
Select Your Plants
This is the exciting part. Spend some time considering how much space you have and what plants will reward your efforts the most. If you have limited space, Consider growing herbs and plants that will thrive in containers. Even you’re limited to a small patio, you can still plant citrus trees and tomato plants in large pots. Climbers like cucumber and peas can be grown in small spaces provided they have something to climb onto.
Some vegetables must be grown from seed. Beans, carrots, cucumbers, peas, and squash prefer to be sown directly where they will grow to maturity. You can start some seedlings, like eggplant, peppers and tomatoes indoors. Note that it can be time-intensive– you need to start a couple of months before you transfer them outdoors.
You can order seeds online from any number of producers, but bear in mind that some seed producers use organic methods and others do not. The organic producers will be very vocal about it. You can also order seed catalogs that are great fun to browse through to get inspiration for your future gardens.
One of the easiest, fastest ways to get your garden going is to visit a garden center where you can purchase “starts. Those are seedlings in two-inch pots that you transfer into your garden bed. One of the advantages of buying starts from a nursery is that they’ve been grown under ideal circumstances and will be sold right around the time they’re ready to go in the ground.
Design Your Garden
Based on the amount and type of space you have available you may have the potential for an expansive garden with multiple beds. But don’t be discouraged if you’re limited to a container garden in window sills or a porch. Quality will always beat quantity, and when you’re beginning, the more attention you can give your garden the better it will perform.
There are many different approaches to organic gardening, so take your time and find a style that suits you. Some options to consider are bio-intensive gardening, raised-bed gardening, permaculture gardening, and of course container gardening. There is no right or wrong way to grow a garden.
Based on the dimensions of your space, take the time to sketch out where plants will go based on their mature size. Always try to interplant some herbs and flowers like marigolds amongst your vegetables to help repel insects and create biodiversity in your garden. Too many of any one type of plant is an invitation for insect infestation and disease.
Plant Your Garden
Once you’ve designed your garden space and constructed it, you can sow your seeds and transplant your starts into it. Starter plants that come from a nursery may need a few days outdoors to acclimate to their new environment.
Plant on an overcast day or very early in the morning to prevent any transplant shock. Make sure you use a bit of compost to nourish your tender little plants and keep the soil moist (but not sopping wet) until your seeds begin to sprout.
Observe, Maintain, Harvest
As your plants grow, take a moment every day to observe them to make sure they’re thriving. Watering deeply every few days is preferable to watering lightly every day, just as you would care for your lawn. It encourages deep root growth, which results in healthier plants. Fertilize lightly each month with a little compost. Treat any insect infestations you see immediately with an organic pest control like neem oil or a spray bottle full of water and a drop of dish soap. You can save yourself time and work by planting mint, basil and other herbs that repel pests.
Most herbs can be harvested continuously by trimming the tips. They’ll reward you by growing more robustly in response. Salad green mixes are also well-suited to regular harvests and will re-grow quickly. Beans must be harvested daily at their peak. Once you get into the dog days of summer, if you’ve taken care of your garden, your garden will take care of you with an endless supply of fresh, organic produce.
While the dietary benefits of growing organic food are apparent, you’ll be amazed at how much more flavor freshly-harvested fruits and vegetables have… and how satisfying it feels to eat food you grew yourself. Make this spring one to remember by growing organic foods at home, and you’ll thank yourself for years to come.
Katie Marie is a writer, avid yogi, and outdoor explorer. She spends most of her time practicing meditation and wellness using organic elements within nature.