One of the top recommendations that we give people at Healthy Child is to eat organic foods. Still, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard people say, “I’d love to buy organic food, but I just can’t afford it.” I get it. I get it. We can’t afford an all organic diet at my house either. But, eating organic doesn’t have to mean buying organic. You can grow your own. And it’s cheaper than anything you’ll find at the store (a $2 tomato seedling can give 10 pounds of tomatoes over a season).
Photo by Mr Phil Price
Even if you’ve never done it before. Even if you think you don’t have the time. Even if you don’t have a yard. Even if you have a brown thumb. Really. There’s no excuse and the results are so gratifying: cheap, healthy food; eating the fruits of your own labor; the look of awe in your friends’ eyes when you bring homegrown culinary delights to the next potluck.
So, for all of you greenhorn gardeners, here are four tips for getting started.
- Pick a pot and a place. You don’t need green acres or a plow to have a healthy harvest. You don’t even need to have a yard. You can grow a wide variety of herbs, vegetables, and even fruits in containers (on your roof, fire escape, patio, or windowsill). R.J. Ruppenthal, author of Fresh Food from Small Spaces: The Square-Inch Gardener’s Guide to Year-Round Growing, Fermenting, and Sprouting, even has tips for using closets and empty bathtubs. Your only limitation is your imagination.
- Start simple. Ensure immediate success by beginning with surefire winners like herbs, sprouts and lettuce. Take it up a tiny notch by growing a pizza garden (basil, oregano, cherry tomatoes) or a salsa garden (cilantro, onion, tomatoes, peppers). There are specific varieties of vegetables and fruits that fare best in containers. You can find a list of them and the specific size of container they need at Garden Guides.
- Enjoy the experiment. Gardening is all about experimentation and even the most adept grower sometimes has a failed crop. It doesn’t mean you have a brown thumb. Keep a journal of your successes and failures (including details like type of container, type of soil, lighting conditions, watering schedule, etc), so you won’t make the same mistake twice.
- Get some help. Pick up some books from your library, like Organic Crops in Pots by Deborah Schneebeli-Morrell. Join the growing community of home gardeners by visiting websites like www.gardenaut.com. Call your local extension services with questions (for some immediate troubleshooting tips visit Texas University Extension Services).
I remember when I was a child and we had a small garden. The tomatoes were amazing. They were so delicious we would sprinkle a bit of sugar on them and eat them for dessert. Children eating tomatoes for dessert. Today parents share all sorts of tips for trying to get kids to eat their vegetables and even adults rarely eat the recommended amount of vegetables every day. Maybe it wouldn’t take so much effort if the vegetables actually tasted like they’re supposed to, flavorful and delicious. Once you taste your own homegrown organic produce, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. So, do it. Grow your own.