Growing your own organic fruits and vegetables guarantees the freshest, best-tasting nutrient-rich food. Tending your organic garden also offers a very personal and spiritual experience.
One of the best ways to stay healthy year-round is to eat in the season thereof. This simply means that when certain foods are in season, you eat as much of them as you can and preserve the excess by canning, dehydrating and freezing.
Have you ever noticed that you crave seasonal fruits and vegetables? That is because our bodies need the nutrients we get from the different foods that are grown in those seasons.
If you don’t grow a garden, you can shop the local farmers markets and purchase the organic foods you find there. This is the best way to avoid sprays, chemicals, pesticides, additives and preservatives; and you will save money on your food bill each month. Locally grown produce is better for you because it hasn’t been picked while still green and shipped thousands of miles to get to your local supermarket.
Even if you live in the city, you can take advantage of farmers markets and other venues for organic produce when it is in season. Most farmers sell off their abundant harvest at bulk rates. You can bottle or put up the excess food. This will ensure that you will have seasonal foods year-round. This is much more nutritious, and it will keep you out of the grocery store and help you avoid impulse buying.
During World War II, the concept of the victory garden was introduced to the nation. Individual backyard gardeners and farmers produced the same amount of food as did the entire commercial-farming industry. More than 20 million Americans planted victory gardens, providing food for their families and neighbors. The effort was a great success.
The economic crisis of 2011 is demanding the return of the backyard gardens as a way to ensure each and every family is self-sufficient in hard economic times. Saving your own seeds from your personal harvest is a way to lower your cost of living. Eating the food you have grown provides the best nutrition that you can get. (Source: Heirloom-organics.com, Victory Gardens of WW II)
Getting Started Growing A Garden
- Prepare a plot of flat ground that gets full sun during the day. Figure out how much growing space you have. Turn over the soil with a shovel and add compost or other organic material. Till it with a hand or motorized tiller to mix it up. Rake it to level it out.
- Plan out the garden plots and plant accordingly. A garden planned in advance will save you a lot of headaches in the future. Lettuce can be grown in tight quarters, but tomatoes need to be spaced about 2 feet apart. Growing and spacing requirements are provided on seed packets, in catalogs and on nursery tags.
- You can grow vegetables in containers or in pots on a patio or porch. Lettuce is a great pot plant. Certain varieties of tomatoes will grow well in a hanging basket. Plants that climb and have vines, such as cucumbers and pole beans, can be trained up a metal fence, chain link or a trellis to take up less room.
- Grow the vegetables you enjoy eating. Some examples of vegetables to plant are beans, peas, tomatoes, sweet corn, onions, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, zucchini squash, cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, spinach, melons and strawberries.
- If you are a beginner, you can purchase books on growing vegetables and gardening. Don’t be afraid to try growing something.
- Herbs such as parsley, thyme, basil, chives and oregano — and any other herbs you like to cook with — can be planted between flower beds.
- There are two planting seasons: cool weather, in the spring, and hot weather, in the summer and early fall. The most common cool season crops include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach and turnips. Warm season crops include beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, pumpkins, zucchini and other squash and tomatoes.
- Starting your own seedlings in the spring and transplanting them in the summer is the least expensive way to get plants. However, you can purchase seedlings that are already started at any nursery.
- If you are going to purchase plants from a nursery, these are the best ones to get: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. These plants tend to do better when started in a greenhouse and transplanted in the garden later.
- Seeds that are best started right in the ground include beans, beets, carrots, chard, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, peas, pumpkins, zucchini and other squash and turnips.
- Squash and cucumbers are two vegetables you can plant as either seeds or seedlings. I have had better results with them by planting the seeds right in the ground. It seems that the plants go into shock and take as long to grow as the seeds do.
- Seed packets have a limited shelf life. Look for the seeds that have been packed for the current year.
- Purchase seedlings when your soil is ready to plant. Keep them watered, and don’t let them sit around for more than a few days. Buy healthy-looking seedlings with green leaves. They should stand up straight and be stocky. They should not have yellow leaves or any bug damage.
Choose The Best Garden Seeds
Non-hybrid seeds: The best seeds to purchase are heirloom open-pollinated seeds, or non-hybrid. Saving seeds is possible only with open-pollinated seeds. These seeds are also called heritage seeds. These are the best kind of seeds to buy. You can save the seeds from year to year and dry them out, then plant them the next season and they will grow the exact same fruit, vegetable or grain. Open-pollinated varieties display certain horticultural traits, such as: fruit color, leaf shape, flower color, etc. This means they are stable within the variety, and seeds saved from these plants will be the same as the parent plant in subsequent plantings. The variety will not be cross-pollinated with any other plants of species.
Hybrid seeds: These seeds have been genetically modified to produce only one crop that is true to form. The following generations of plants cannot be counted on to produce the same variety. The hybrid is definitely cross-pollinated with another similar species that might have a different trait. The offspring will be genetically different than the parent plant. The scientists who cross-pollinate these plants are trying to come up with a better, more hardy plant. However, the seeds can be used only once, and that can create a shortage of seeds. If you save the seed and plant them the next season, you might get some strange fruit you don’t recognize. Most seeds purchased from a nursery or store are the hybrid type. If you are stocking up on these seeds, you will need to purchase them every year.
The Advantages Of Stockpiling Non-Hybrid Garden Seeds
Better Nutrition: Seed varieties are bred for resistance to diseases and pests, appearance, transportability and other commercial reasons. Nutritional content is not one of the considerations, but profit is. When you grow open-pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties, you are growing original strains with much higher nutritional content than varieties that have been bred for color, storability, portability, etc. Growing your own garden ensures the food you produce is much more nutritious than commercially grown produce. When food is grown in Mexico or other countries, we have no control over how it is grown, what chemicals are used or what fertilizers and minerals are or are not in the soil. We also cannot control whether or how much radiation is used to kill the bacteria. The food is picked before it has ripened and it is shipped hundreds, even thousands, of miles before we purchase it. The plants are sprayed to keep them from ripening too fast in transit, then sprayed again to get them to ripen. Have you ever noticed that the vegetables in the grocery store taste blander rather than rich in flavor like their homegrown cousins?
Variety: We can participate in saving many original varieties of seeds. Once the food supply has been genetically altered to the point that there are no more original strains of vegetables left, we will be at the mercy of the genetically altered seed companies like Monsanto. This won’t happen with non-hybrid seeds because we can save many varieties of our own seeds from year to year, and we will be in control of these seeds.
Self-sufficiency: In hard times, recessions and depressions, food is security. You will be able to take care of your family and even friends if you have the skills to grow food. You will have better health because you will be ensured the highest nutrition available. You can save foods like potatoes, carrots, onions, apples and squash in a cool, dry garage. They will keep all winter, as long as it doesn’t freeze.
Shortages of food: If the food supply is jeopardized and food cannot be transported for thousands of miles, home gardening is a way to ensure your family members will have the food to sustain them in a crisis. Look at it as food insurance. The economic crisis facing the United States and the world right now is causing the price of fresh produce to go up. When an economic downturn drives inflation up, the cost of real goods, like groceries, skyrockets. It becomes unmanageable very quickly, with items like loaves of bread costing 10 times more than normal. It sounds unbelievable, but this has actually happened many times throughout history.
Trade or barter: For a self-sufficient person to be truly prepared, he must have plenty of non-hybrid seeds available for personal use, storage and bartering. Seeds are an excellent alternative investment to paper money, as well as gold and silver. You can’t eat money or precious metals, which means food is the best investment. Growing your own food is an invaluable skill. Organic open-pollinated seeds must be in the hands of the organic backyard farmers. There is a huge movement sweeping the country right now. The small organic farmers are banding together to collect, save, sell or trade their seeds. It is called seed exchange. This movement is preserving the hundreds of heirloom seeds so they are not genetically altered or cross-pollinated and lost.
Peggy Layton is the author of seven books on the subject of food storage and preparedness. She and her husband grow a backyard garden every year and live off the land during the growing season.
Peggy bottles and dehydrates excess produce. Peggy and her husband keep winter vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, squash, onions and apples in a root cellar they built. During the winter, when produce is less plentiful, they grow food in their greenhouse, and they gather fresh eggs daily from their chickens. Provident living is a way of life in their home.
To purchase a variety of heirloom garden seeds that can be grown from year-to-year with seeds that can be saved, go to my website, www.peggylayton.com, and click on the “Garden Seeds Non-Hybrid” link on the left sidebar.
I have been testing out emergency food storage meals that have a 15-year shelf life. These meals are packaged in Mylar® pouches, serve four people and are ready to just add water and cook. I find them delicious, convenient and easy. For more information or to order go to www.peggylayton.efoodsglobal.com.