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Friday, March 7, 2014

Growing Good Health

"To create a garden is to search for a better world. In our effort to improve on nature, we are guided by a vision of paradise. Whether the result is a horticultural masterpiece or only a modest vegetable patch, it is based on the expectation of a glorious future. This hope for the future is at the heart of all gardening."
- Marina Schinz

I know it sounds insane, but on Saturday I planted our first row of sugar snap peas. Yes, I did, in spite of knowing that by Monday everything would likely be covered with tons of snow.

Crazy or not, gardening is in my blood, a part of my roots, an annual experience of therapy. Every spring I dream of growing the finest possible crop of green lettuce, yellow corn and ripe red tomatoes ever.  In gardeners, hope springs eternal.

As a result of years of composting and mulching our naturally clay soil is mellow and dark, and as soon as the snow clears and the soil is dry enough, will be ready for more peas and some onion sets--even before the official start of spring. Then come radishes, beets, carrots and lettuce, hardy plants that can withstand late frosts may persist through early May.

Then, as soon we dare, we'll boldly plant several rows of sweet corn and green beans, along with  some early tomato plants, trusting that a late freeze won’t do irreparable harm. But we are prepared to cover the young plants if we must, hoping for the earliest possible harvest.

I'm sure you'll agree that there’s no food as delicious--or nutritious--as the kind that comes straight from your own garden. And when you grow your own produce, you can know it hasn't been tainted with all kinds of pesticides and herbicides that might be a part of what's grown commercially and shipped in from all over the world.

Here’s a simple way I've found to convert some lawn space into growing space, without back breaking effort and at very little expense:

For year one, start with some potted plants from a nearby greenhouse, things like tomatoes, squash, peppers, lettuce, cucumbers, cantaloupe, etc. Dig an appropriate size hole in the sod for each plant and set each with a bit of compost and/or other organic fertilizer. Cover the surrounding grass with several layers of newspaper, then the entire new garden space with straw, leaves or other forms of a readily biodegradable mulch (not sawdust).

After that, simply water the plants if needed. Your new garden will remain virtually weed free (and without hoeing!) and by fall much of the garden’s cover will have become mostly decomposed and the soil easily tillable for year two, when you can do conventional planting of any seeds you wish.

But don’t just take my advice. Consult some experienced gardeners in your neighborhood. But be warned, this activity can be highly addictive.
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