This weekend some questions were posted to me regarding gardening. Let me say, gardening is a passion and a therapy for me; I can't imagine a day without beautiful growing things. Soil and seed are as much a part of my life as my family is..and it has been for many many years. During my gardening life many trials and errors have come; my hope always is that my experiences may help another.
* First question is regarding price of gardening in comparison to price of organic produce.
** Okay, I never buy organic produce; it isn't my conviction. Even if I only consider the price of nonorganic produce, in my opinion, gardening is more cost efficient. Yet, there are some factors to consider. I have a big family, so my produce is purchased (grown) in bulk. A garden existed on my property..starting any project does require a financial commitment.
When starting to consider gardening for the first time we need to know what our goals are and what variables will enhance or limit our garden plans. Garden rows or raised beds, small plot or large fields, home owners association or rural guidelines...these are some variables that can define our choices.
I have open fields in a rural setting and use wide rows for my gardens. Having livestock on our property and a compost section, soil amendments are readily available to me.
* Next question is regarding genetically modified seeds.
** Seeds are rather expensive, in my opinion..and not all seeds grow in all areas. Years of trial and error, question and research, gave me a lesson of tough learning in the seed/region area. My seeds are purchased at our feed co-op, in bulk and specific to my region. When purchasing, I seek out heirloom open-pollinated seeds unless they are not compatible for the intense heat and drought of my region. Two seed companies also meet my seed needs (only if I cannot find them at the co-op) Territorial Seed and Southern Seed Exchange.
* Next questions is pesticides.
** Less is best. I try to companion plant plenty of herbs and flowers amongst my veggies to keep helpful predators attracted and damaging pests away. When this doesn't work I try to keep as natural as possible using dietanatious earth, weak solutions of castille soap/water, or neem oil. Then there is the 'pick-n-squish' option.
*Finally, keeping costs low.
** When starting a garden, seeking out free manures/composts from local barns or 4H families, seed sharing with other gardeners are super helpful. As time goes on, starting your own compost area, saving seeds from your own crops save a dime here and there. Local extension offices are a huge help as are fellow gardeners from your neighborhood, church or home school group.
If you are starting a garden for the first time, start small and keep it simple. One strip of soil three feet by fifteen can grow enough food for a small family. Seed start simple crops (leafy greens, radish, peas or green beans) and purchase tomatoes, peppers, cukes and squash to get your first garden experience off to a great start.
Start a small garden plot (square foot gardening is great for starters) and a second to 'rest over' for next season. I use a broad fork to turn the soil 2 feet down, add a layer of compost or manure, top with mulch (I use leaves or pine shavings) to get the rows ready.
I hope this helps my dear friends and family who are considering gardening. Please feel free to leave additional advice and experience in the comment section - or questions, if I can help further. Let's bless each other with our lessons learned!