How Does Your (Organic) Garden Grow?

Organic GardenI’ve been writing about my organic garden, and organic gardening in general, for a while now. I’m far from being a gardening expert, but each year I learn a little and try to make some changes to reflect what I’ve learned. Like many green things, choosing organic gardening can be a little more difficult in the beginning. The temptation is there to kill weeds “quickly & easily” with toxic sprays and to cover plants in Miracle Gro to get the largest, though chemical-filled, tomatoes we’ve ever seen.

When you’re first starting out, it’s important to remember that your early efforts in setting up your organic garden do pay off. You’ll end up with better soil that’s more resistant to disease and when you prepare the soil beds properly, you eventually have fewer weeds to deal with.

Green living (and organic gardening) is all about looking ahead — making choices now that will create better, healthier results down the road. Much of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into is because of here and now thinking & acting. It’s so easy for us to tell our children that they need to consider the consequences of their actions. The truth is, so do we.

So back to organic gardening. If you’ve taken the plunge and decided to grow some things either for the first time, or if you’re gardening again this year — please let us know how it’s going. Do you have questions? What are you growing? Why is organic gardening important to you?

Vegetable Gardening With Your Kids

This is a guest post from Mike Lieberman who blogs at Urban Organic Gardener.
One of the excuses that I often hear from parents about not growing their own food is that they have kids and don’t have the time.

Why not include the kids and make it a family bonding experience? That’s what families have done for thousands of years. It’s not until recently that this trend has changed.

Lately, families and society have shifted the responsibility of food to others. We can go to the grocery store whenever we want to buy whatever we want. There is no sense of where it came from or what’s happened to it. It’s just there.

Food should be communal from the planting, growing, harvesting, preparing, sharing and eating. All of which bring a deeper appreciation for everything that’s involved in getting it to our plates. We have skipped straight to the eating part and most people even do that on the run as if it’s a chore.

There are a bunch of fun projects that you can do as a family to keep everyone involved, and keeping costs at a minimum, all while spending some quality family time together.

Now let’s get into how to start.

Deciding what to grow. Make this a family decision. Let everyone voice their opinions and come to a conclusion as a family.

Potting soil. Go to your local nursery or health food store and buy some organic potting soil to get started.

Starting seeds. There are many ways (and expensive supplies to buy) that you can start your seeds, but there is no reason for any of them. All you will need it some toilet paper rolls, potting soil and your seeds. Here’s a video of how to use toilet paper rolls as a seed starter pot.

After your seeds are planted, you’ll want to keep them in a nice sunny area and keep them moist. After a week or so, you’ll start to see sprouts develop and peek their way through the soil.

Containers. If you don’t have access to land, which is often the case, but have a porch, patio, fire escape or balcony, you can still grow your own food. You’ll just have to grow it in containers.

I’ve found that self-watering containers work great. There are four different ways that you can make a self-watering container.

You can get your kid involved by having them paint and decorate the container.

Caring for. You can divide up the chores of watering, checking for bugs and taking care of the plant amongst the family. Keep a journal and pictures of weekly progress to chart growth to show how the plant has grown.

Harvesting and preparing. You’ll have to harvest and pick the plant to get it ready for your meal. Then, you’ll have to decide how you want to prepare it. Come to this decision as a family.

Sharing. This is where it all comes together. If you made a salad for your dinner and the only ingredient that was homegrown in the salad was some parsley, you are certainly going to brag about that.

It’s that sense of accomplishment and pride that will shine through. You’ll tell everyone that you grew this parsley from seed. I’m certain that you kids will be bragging as well.

You don’t have to have a huge garden. All it takes is growing that one plant to make a difference. It will bring your family closer together and make you appreciate your food that much more.

What are you going to start growing?

Bio:Mike Lieberman, started to grow his own food on the fire escape of his New York City apartment in May 2009. He had no gardening experience and read about a half of a book on gardening when he started. In April of 2010, Lieberman moved to LA where he started a balcony garden and has continued to grow even more food.

Lieberman thinks that people have lost their connection with and appreciation for food. He encourages and inspires people to grow their own. His belief is that by growing just one plant, it will bring people closer to their food source and renew their appreciation for what goes into getting food to our plates.

You can follow his blog Urban Organic Gardener.

More Garden Progress: The Arbor & Fence

My husband has been hard at work; the arbor and fence around the new garden annex are finished. He’s decided to leave the posts long on the new section for now. We may need to tie a barrier around them if the corn gets too tall and the deer become too persistent. I’m not an expert on organic garden design, but bit by bit, I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.

I thought I’d show you some before and after pictures:


2010: Those are blueberry bushes on either side of the arbor & a raspberry bush between the blueberries and roses.

More photos from this year . . .

I guess I’d better get to weeding . . .

The potatoes in the white boxes are growing like crazy. I keep covering the green with dirt and it keeps shooting upward. We’ve gotten a load of rain lately, so things are a bit muddy right now. I plan to work on cleaning up this area over the Memorial Day weekend.

Please let me know how your gardens are coming along and how you’ve chosen to design your garden space.

Garden Progress

It’s time for another garden update. I promise I’ll write about something else soon, but the garden is something I’m really enjoying and I find I want to share it. I’m especially pleased at the progress we’re making on the garden annex (my name for the expanded area of the garden we started this year). My husband has begun building a fence around this area to match the fence around the raised beds. The deer eat everything here, so all of our hard work, along with all of the plants, will be lost without a fence. Here are some pictures of the latest developments:

The corn has sprouted . . .

Teepees! We have teepees! For the pole beans, of course. . .

The kindest garden fence builder. . .

The radishes and carrots are up in the raised beds. . .

Garden Helper #1

Garden Helper #2

This garden isn’t perfect and neither is this life, for anyone. But if I slow down for just a moment and watch the plants sprouting from small seeds, and listen to my children giggling as they stomp and run and swing outside, and watch my husband haul yet another piece of lumber from the garage to the garden as he builds a fence for me, for us, without ever uttering a word of complaint, I think I can almost smell the sweet scent of perfection.

I’ll take these moments and be grateful that I was able to recognize them. Because soon enough, it will be time to make dinner, to fold laundry, to unload and reload the dishwasher, again and again and again. . .

In the Garden

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately:

Planting radishes and carrots. . .

planting potatoes in boxes, an idea I got from Chiot’s Run. . .

watching the strawberry plant bloom. . .

getting the garden annex ready and planting corn.

Have you been in your garden?