The food we eat should be tasty, nutritious, and healthy. The way it is grown should help, not harm our environment. But can we really be confident that the fruit and vegetables bought from a supermarket meet these two simple criteria?
Are we sure the levels of pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides our food has been treated with will do us no harm?
Organically grown foods are not sprayed with these chemicals. They may not look as colorful and well presented as shop produce, but they are nutritious and full of taste.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is easy. You just need to learn some general principles, familiarize yourself with the plants you intend to grow, and get started. Nature does most of the work for you.
First, you need to think ahead. Plan which crops to grow, where to grow them, and the type of fertilizer to use.
Rotating the crop grown in an area is good for the soil.
Not rotating means toxins can build up and may harm the crop if it is grown in the same plot for successive years. One crop can even prepare the soil for another.
For example, legumes replace some of the nitrogen that other crops can remove. If you intend to use more than one plot a simple rotation can be set up by keeping the families or types of vegetables in separate areas and moving them in rotation to a new plot each year.
For example, you could grow the cabbage family in one plot, legumes (peas and beans) in another area, and root crops (carrots, potatoes, etc.)in a third plot.
In organic gardening pest control does not rely on a highly toxic chemical but on a series of strategies. For example, pest’s natural predators like lacewings and wasps are encouraged into the garden by planting suitable flowers. The insects are attracted by the nectar and pollen.
Weeds are another challenge to the organic gardener. Do not use chemical remedies. Organic mulches like manure, sawdust, and bark chips are one solution. Another is black plastic, but make sure there is enough moisture in the soil before you cover it up.
A good fertilizer will provide nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium for the soil. Well-rotted animal manure is recommended. Once rotted it does not smell and is a rich, brown, crumbly texture.
Cow and pig manures tend to decompose slowly and so are long-lasting. If you can collect manure from a farm let it rot for about eight weeks in a covered container. You can add chicken manure to increase the nitrogen content of the fertilizer.
Compost can be made using vegetable waste. You can also add tea leaves, coffee grounds, eggshells, and banana skins. Do not add kitchen scraps as they can attract vermin, and do not use the citrus peel, as it is too acidic for worms.
Growing your own fruit and vegetables is a great way of getting closer to nature. It is also an effective way of teaching our children about the food on their plates and how to look after the world around us.
The independence and satisfaction that can come from growing your own food are as rewarding as the peace of mind you have when you know exactly how the food was grown.