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Archive for Gardening

Container Gardening

So, what if you would love to have fresh foods to eat and you don’t mind the idea of growing them yourself, but you just don’t have a place to grow them.  You may live in an apartment with no yard. You may live in a community with Neighborhood Association rules that prevent your chopping up the yard. Or you just may not have the motivation to put in a full-fledged garden. Well, you can still have fresh food produced by your own hands. You can certainly use the idea of “container gardening.”

Even before we get to the “containers”, consider replacing the decorative concepts of trees and shrubs with fruit trees and berry plants that will serve the same purpose AND provide fruit and berries for your table.

Most fruit trees are also lovely to look at, bloom in season, and then produce a crop of tasty, nutritious fruit for family consumption.  And, truly, few shrubs are any lovelier than a blueberry – with dozens of varieties and even a variety of colors of foliage and fruit! Some other berry bushes – like thornless blackberries, bilberries, gooseberries, etc. – may be planted within your other flowering shrubs for contrast and fruit.

And don’t forget that there are many popular flowers that have edible parts – rose petals and rosehips make delicious tea and are rich in vitamin C; nasturtium leaves and blossoms are delicious in salads; technically broccoli, artichokes, and capers are the immature forms of these plant flowers; and one of the most expensive spices in the world is saffron, from a type of crocus flower. I did a simple search for “edible flowers on Wikipedia and found a list of about 50 edible flowers! Add some to your flowerbed and “spice up” your meals.

Last month, as an introduction to this concept, I posted “Literally, all you need is a container, some soil and some seeds.  You can grow an abundance of produce in a relatively small space.  My sister lives in an apartment and has only a 5’X6’ balcony, but it’s room for one chair and over a dozen different sizes of pretty pots.  She grows a lot.  And stuff grows in ugly pots like tin cans and soup cans as well as in the pretty ones. And when in the past I’ve done container gardening I didn’t adhere to the spacings listed on the seed pouches. The packet may have said plant one seed every 6”, but neither I nor my plants seemed to mind touching each other. I had a friend who planted everything she needed for salads in a half whiskey barrel and kept it going spring through fall.  When she picked one thing, she just put in a couple more seeds!”

An August 19, 2011 issue of the Southern Living magazine I found online presented “125 Container Gardening Ideas.” Among them were ideas for hanging baskets, indoor containers, outdoor pots, and many others. They suggested planting food crops in your containers, mixing perennial herbs with some annual veggies in the same larger planters, or substituting a large container for a traditional raised bed. You are limited only by your imagination – or your ability to “Ask Siri” for suggestions on your smartphone!

My wife and I garden, and we can/preserve each year.  Again, join me, and you too can control the quality and variety of foods you eat!  Good health and God’s blessings!

–  For more information, contact Naturopathic Doctor Randy Lee, owner of The Health Patch at 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, Midwest City, at 405-736-1030 or e-mail pawpaw@TheHealthPatch.com or visit TheHeathPatch.com.

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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Backyard Gardening

You know, I think I’ve had a backyard garden almost every year of my life. I love gardening and I love fresh vegetables. But many today did not grow up with a gardening heritage. They have always depended on the grocery store for their fresh produce, and this year they seem to be in short supply; at least that’s what many of our customers are telling us.

I order most of my seeds each year from an heirloom seed company I’ve used for a number of years and have never had trouble getting all I wanted/needed. But this year as I started to plant, I noticed that there was one favorite that I had forgotten. So, I got online and tried to order, only to find they were out of that seed. I was surprised, so I called them and asked what the problem was. They said that so many people have concerns about our food supply that they have been ordering seeds in record amounts, planning to grow their own.

We’ve had a number of customers state that they do not have either experience or know how to garden nor a place for a garden. So, I came up with four viable alternatives to share with our listeners.

  • Container gardening.  Literally, all you need is a container, some soil and some seeds.  You can grow an abundance of produce is a relatively small space.  My sister lives in an apartment and has only a 5’X6’ balcony, but it’s room for one chair and over a dozen different sizes of pretty pots.  She grows a lot.  And stuff grows in ugly pots like tin cans and soup cans as well as in the pretty ones. And when in the past I’ve done container gardening, I didn’t adhere to the spacings listed on the seed pouches. The packet may have said plant one seed every 6”, but neither I nor my plants seemed to mind touching each other. I had a friend who planted everything she needed for salads in a half whiskey barrel and kept it going spring through fall.  When she picked one thing, she just put in a couple more seeds!
  • Backyard gardening. Turn over whatever size plot of soil you want to plant, add some compost (usually available from your city – call around – at no cost if you’ll go pick it up (by the tub, or bucket, or pickup truck load), or a bag or two from the local home decor shop. Spread it on top of the area you turned over, turn it all over again to incorporate it, water it, and let it set till you’re ready to plant.
  • Raised beds.  Same as above, except start by putting in something for height (wood, concrete, stones, cinder blocks, etc.).  Fill it with soil and compost and plant. Stray bales may also be used. Either just put composted dirt on the top of them or arrange the bales in a square or a rectangle and fill the space with the composted dirt.  When the growing season is over, the bale will be partially decomposed and will add nutrients to the soil for successive plantings. You’ll be amazed with the quantity of produce you can grow in this small space!
  • Chip gardens. Companies who trim trees run them through a chipper and have to pay the city dumps for the privilege of dumping them there. There’s a tape online called “Back to Eden” that gives a fuller description, but basically you turn the soil, cover it with newspaper (or something like it) to keep the weeds from growing through, put some dirt on it, and then put some chips – free from tree trimmers – and wait for planting time. Add a couple of inches of chips each year and in no time, you’ll have a very lush garden area.

We recognize that backyard gardening is a dying art, so a buddy of mine and I are considering putting together a “beginning gardener” class in the August/September time frame to let some folks get be ready for next year’s spring gardening. Let us know if you’re interested. If we have enough interest, we’ll do it.

I garden and we can and preserve produce each year. Join me, and you too can control the quality and variety of foods you eat! Good health and God’s blessings!

  • For more information, contact Naturopathic Doctor Randy Lee, owner of The Health Patch at 1024 S. Douglas Blvd, Midwest City, at 405-736-1030 or e-mail pawpaw@TheHealthPatch.com or visit TheHeathPatch.com.