Plotting the Future:
Growing your own Healthy, Organic Food
How do we create change now and impact generations to come?
The world is going through some major challenges and changes now and while there is a level of uncertainty in the air, we believe that so much good can come from this. Individually our efforts may seem limited but collectively, with a similar drive and vision, they will be a force to be reckoned with. This will initiate change and create healthier systems and lifestyles.… So, in the words of Michael Jackson… “heal the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race”… Let’s get started!
We need a new Vision and Mindset Change:
Whether you have a ‘plot of land’ or a ‘pot of land’, no matter the size of your green patch, growing your own organic food is one of the most liberating activities on the face of the earth as you have the opportunity to become more self – sufficient and experience new levels of freedom and satisfaction. Like generations before us, we are again discovering the joys and benefits of seemingly simple activities like growing healthy, home grown edibles, baking from scratch, and learning to preserve our produce.
In our modern-day quest for a return to healthy living, food quality has been proven to be the basis of good health… ‘You are what you eat’. Not only does food supply us with essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to build strong bodies, but other important components such as enzymes, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and fibre, preserve our health. Freshly picked organically grown fruits, vegetables, herbs, and nuts are known to contain high levels of these beneficials, and nothing compares with the flavour of homegrown! Fresh produce grown organically in your own garden is the best assurance that your family’s food is safe and not contaminated by toxic chemicals often used in commercial growing.
Design principles for Edible and General Landscapes:
How does one actually get down to designing an edible garden or any landscaped space?
Firstly, start with a brief. Write up what you want – e.g. A herb garden, veggie garden, a food forest… or a combo of edibles, ornamentals and hard landscaping spaces. Be detailed and specific. Do not be afraid to dream!
Measure the space you want to develop and then draw it on piece of paper. Scale is important here… To put it simply, on a scale of 1 to 100 (1:100) – 1cm will equal 1m. On a scale of 1 to 50 (1:50) – 2cm will equal 1m.
The next step is to list all the elements, next to your drawn-out space, that you would like to include in the design. It could be things like stone cladding, tile, wood, metal, gravel, pots, un-plastered brick, raised beds, painted walls, trellises, pergolas… the list is endless. Writing these down creates a mental image and a reminder about the possible combinations that can be put together.
Plants. What edibles do you and your family eat and what will grow well in your area? Companion planting is an important aspect to consider and if you are planning a food forest then getting to grips with the 7 layers that make up this edible system is key. If you’re wanting a conventional planted space then make notes of the plants you like or if you don’t know the names, list some basics shapes that appeal to you i.e. grassy shapes, flat, round and conical or architectural shapes.
Time to create! Think about moving through the space, what will you walk on, what draws the eye, how about adding dimension in the form of level changes?… Steps, retaining walls, planter boxes, pots. Consider partial or complete screening to draw people in to explore further. Taking design ques from surrounding structures such as a pool or house will create connection and balance. Pattern, texture and repetition are pivotal in designing a space that is visually interesting. Food gardens need to be practical and accessible, and while a well thought out design is important, don’t overdesign it to the point where its functionality is lost. When your structural layout is done then it’s time to “paint” with plants, group them in odd numbers, 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 etc… consider the textures, shapes and colours and how they contrast or create unity.
Now that you have a design concept drawn up, lets discuss Soil Health and Preparation
Soil is by no means just “dirt”. It is the most important part of the garden! The more you nurture it, feed it and take care of it the more you will benefit from the abundant harvests and healthy environments.
If humans were able to explore the earth beneath our feet, like we do the oceans and space, we’d be astounded by the life and activity in the soil. A handful of healthy soil contains and sustains more living organisms than the human population. This soil life is made up of microscopic beneficial fungi, bacteria, algae and insects which have assigned duties to sustain life on earth, be it plant, animal or human life.
The principles of organic gardening focus on caring for the soil at all times. The number one priority is the health of the soil. We need to acknowledge that we depend on the many services that nature provides us with including oxygen to breath, water to drink and food to maintain energy. Plants need these services to flourish and we humans depend on the plants, and the soil they grow in, for our survival. Inputs which damage the environment, pollute, kill soil life or cause toxicity in food, soil and water sources are strictly forbidden in organic growing and gardening.
The organic gardener uses the following growing methods and mediums to preserve ideal conditions for soil quality and life to flourish:
~ Mulch is used for moisture retention, to regulate temperatures, preserve fertile topsoil and suppress weeds.
~ Compost is used to enrich and build soil structure, store water and feed the soil life.
~ Fertilizers from natural sources are used for health, through nutrition of plants and people.
~ Natural pest and disease control and growing strong plants are the organic gardener’s preference to using poisons, which kill the good with the bad. The organic gardener uses products that disrupt the pest’s life cycles, feeding habits or creates discomfort and repels.
~ Water regularly with good quality water as per the crop’s requirements, season and climate.
Top Tips for growing Organic Edibles:
So how green are those fingers of yours? Growing anything requires a plan and some basic understanding… it is not difficult and with the right information anyone can grow a plant and keep it alive. Consider the simplest of elements that keep us humans alive – Water, Food and Temperature. If you understand how to hydrate yourself, nourish yourself and keep yourself cool or warm then you are on the right track to keeping your plants alive and thriving!
Top Tips for Growing Organic Vegetables and Herbs:
~ Veggies and herbs are sun lovers – Choose a spot that gets full sun all day for the best results
~ Seasonal Selection – Select veggies and herbs to plant according to the season and climate of the area you live in. Most seed packets detail prime planting periods per variety
~ Plan Staged Plantings – This will ensure variety and continuous supply for the kitchen and home. Plant veggie seed varieties weekly to ensure harvests over the full season. Plant herb seed varieties monthly to enjoy ‘herby harvests’ throughout the year.
~ Prepare Beds in Advance – Preparing your beds well before seedlings are ready to plant will ensure that they don’t stay in their gemination trays for too long… Seedlings lose vigor and vitality if unplanted for lengthy periods. Soil life also gets a boost from advanced bed prep.
~ Old Seeds Expire – To ensure successful germination purchase fresh seeds each season.
~ Plant Edibles that your Family Enjoy Eating – There are amazing varieties of novel, tasty, colourful and aromatic veggies and herbs to choose from. If your family can’t handle the heat of the ‘Carolina Reaper’ Chilli then don’t plant it! Plant what pleases your pallet… simple as that!
~ Fertilize Veggies and Herbs by Growing Type, for Success – Root and Bulb plants need good Phosphates to develop strong roots and bulbs. Leafy veggies and herbs need Nitrogen and Potassium for green growth. Flowering and Fruiting plants need Nitrogen with higher Potassium to stimulate flower and fruit growth.
~ Water Regularly but not Excessively – In cooler temperatures, water veggies and soft herbs at least twice a week, preferably in the morning. Woody herbs such as Rosemary, Thyme and Lavender will require less watering to prevent root rot, especially if planted in clay soils. Once your plants are established, deep watering less often is preferable to surface watering more often.
~ Mulch Beds after Planting – Once you have planted your seedlings or your seeds have germinated, mulch your beds to prevent weed growth, retain soil moisture and maintain a constant soil temperature.
~ Do Not Spray Poisons on your Edibles – If you find a pest infestation that is proving too much to handle, rather use an Organic Pest and Disease Solution to solve the problem.
Whether you have a few pots of herbs on your windowsill or balcony, a small veggie garden, have turned your property into a homestead or have an abundant food forest, take the opportunity to share the fruits of your labour with neighbours and your community.