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How to Prepare: Home Gardening

An upgrade to the grocery store for more quality and local production is your local Farmer’s Market. They are popular now and available most likely on weekends in YOUR hometown. Foods are usually locally grown and most of the gardeners are willing to tell you how they grew them – pesticide-free; compost, organic or commercial fertilizers; watering sources; chemicals used to enhance production; did they produce the plants from heirloom, hybrid, or commercial GMO seeds; or did they purchase the seedlings from commercial sources and determine how they grew them?

Obviously, you get the best of exactly what you want if you do it all from seed selection from heirloom sources, and make all the production decisions exactly as you want them yourself. I am a strong advocate of do-it-yourself home gardening. If I’m going to eat it, I want to know how it was produced and what was used in the growth process.

If you’ve never gardened before, you can start by just removing ground cover grasses, shoveling the soil, adding some compost or other organic material to enrich the soil, putting your seeds in the soil according to the directions on the seed packets, provide regular water, and remove weeds to keep only what you want growing there. There’s an exhilarating joy in watching your plants grow, flower, put on vegetables and picking and eating from your own handiwork. Start small with just a few of your favorite vegetables, and add to the beds each year as you become more confident.

Through the years, I’ve used many techniques. Each has its advantages. As a kid, I watched my dad use the tractor to dig up the ground each year to produce virtually all the vegetables we needed for our family of seven. But it was a most pleasurable experience to watch my oldest daughter, shortly after her marriage, put just a few vegetables in her suburban flower beds and pick a few of her favorite “tasties” and serve them to her family. My sister lives in a small apartment – she does “container gardening” (which we will cover in more detail next month!). The size of your garden is limited only by the size of the beds you have available, how much time you have to work those beds, and how much you want, or need, to produce.

And there are many new developments in the home gardening arena. We’ll look at just a few of them that I have personally tried. Outside of the “normal” gardening I’d done all my life, I tried “Plasti-culture”. Introduced to the US more than a decade ago, and used in Israel very extensively for decades now, it is a great way to conserve water, limit weeds, and focus your production. I applied and met the criteria for an Oklahoma Agriculture Department, a three-year state-subsidized test of the method. Special machines, in one pass, cultivate the beds, mound the soil, lay down drip irrigation, cover the mounded rows with plastic sheeting, and cover the edges of the plastic to keep it in place. The drip lines are connected to a watering source and you can even attach a timer to turn the water on and off according to weather conditions and the need for water of the plants you choose. Then you just poke holes in the plastic and place your seedlings. The plastic conserves the moisture, warms the soil, and prevents weeds from growing. The only negative I saw was the cost of the initial bed preparation and the need for adequate room for the machines to operate.

Next, I tried “chip gardening”. The idea here is that each year you add two inches of wood chips after poking holes in previous years rotted/composted organic material and inserting your plants. The chips do help cut down on weeding, and the composted soil adds vital nutrients to the ground virtually illuminating the need for commercial fertilizers. You can order (or purchase from our store) a DVD of the film “Back To Eden” which guides you through the entire process. Here in central Oklahoma chips are readily available for free, and as the film states, the process is a “simple sustainable solution.”

This year we’re trying a technique we’re learning from the Neversink Farm (videos on YouTube) using techniques that do not disturb the underground bio culture. They boast the highest crop production per square foot of garden space in their state.

I hope to be able to combine chip gardening with the Neversink techniques to see if we can get the most from our Oklahoma garden. Grow your own food and never be without – wishing you health for your family!

– Randy Lee, BSE, MS, ND, is Owner of The Health Patch, 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, MWC, 73130. Call us at (405) 736-1030, and visit our website at www.thehealthpatch.com.

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