Are you wondering what you can do to live a greener life around your own home? Have you ever thought about growing your own vegetables? It’s not as hard as you may think and can have a big impact on your carbon footprint!
With the price of food going up, nutritional values going down, and more information coming out about toxic chemicals, pesticides, and GMO products that are being used in our food supply, it only makes good “green sense” to learn how to grow your own vegetables… organically, of course!
Here in San Diego we are blessed with some of the best year ‘round growing conditions in the country. Unfortunately, the soils aren’t very good. Digging up and amending your soil is a lot of work and can take a long time to become decent garden soil. Dormant weed seeds are stirred up every time you till, leaving you with thousands of weeds to pull. And you still have to deal with the local gophers that can reap havoc on the plants and their roots.
Fortunately, there is a very good solution: raised bed gardening! Raised beds allow you to bring in your own weedless mix and easily add amendments that allow you to start off with healthy, nutrient-rich soil. Healthy soil produces healthy plants that can naturally fight off many diseases and pests. Your vegetables are much more nutrient dense than what you will find at any supermarket.
Growing your own vegetables organically also gives you the peace of mind of knowing you are growing and eating vegetables that are free of chemicals and pesticides. And those pesky gophers? Raised beds allow you to put down hardware cloth before you fill the bed with soil to keep the gophers out.
Another benefit of raised beds is they allow you to plant your plants three times closer to each other because you are using loose, nutrient-rich soil. Traditional gardens make plant roots spread out and they take up more growing space. A 3’ x 8’ raised bed will give you the same production as a 9’ x 24’ garden.
When gardeners use synthetic chemicals, they are putting toxic products in our soils that are harming and killing the biological life. The nutrients in the soil become locked up because there is very little microbial activity to break them down. The soil becomes more compact because there is no biological life to naturally aerate it, and it loses its water retention ability. These fertilizers wash through the soil quickly and end up in our rivers and streams.
Organic gardening is “all about the soil.” Healthy organic soil is full of life and biological activity in the form of microbes, earthworms, and the beneficial fungi. A teaspoon of organic soil can hold up to a billion microbes! When we apply organic fertilizers they remain in the soil until the plants need them, so a little goes a long way. They encourage biological activity that feeds on this organic matter and converts it into a form the plants can absorb.
The plants take carbon dioxide from the air and convert it to carbohydrates released through their roots to feed the soil life in the root zone. This creates a very symbiotic relationship between the plants and the soil biology, which in turn helps plants develop healthier root structure as well as thicker cell walls in the leaves and stems that help the plants naturally fight off diseases and harmful insects. We benefit by the “nutrient-dense” fruit and vegetables the plants produce – which helps our body naturally fight off diseases and illnesses, too!
This biological life is naturally aerating the soil (think of worms tunneling through the soil) and creating greater water retention ability of the soil so we don’t have to water as often. Some examples of organic fertilizers and amendments we use are worm castings, rock dust, seaweed extract, as well as applications of compost, composted manures, and compost tea. There are many other effective products and amendments you can apply.
How else does growing our own vegetables reduce our carbon footprint? By growing our own vegetables organically we reduce the number of trips to the grocery store to buy vegetables that, in many cases, were grown and delivered from thousands of miles away, as well as reducing the use of fertilizers, toxic chemicals and pesticides. Since the vegetables are used immediately, there are no packing materials needed.
Best of all, raised bed gardening is easy. Since the soil is perfect from the start, there is no need for digging, tilling or weeding. All you have to do is plant your seeds once a season and water two or three times a week. Your garden becomes a fun family project that everyone can enjoy!
Shawn lives his passion promoting, teaching and growing organic food “the Natural Way.” His business is Instant Organic Garden, a partner with the Center for Living in Harmony (Valley Center, CA), and he has helped improve the vegetable gardens at The Center for a Healthy Lifestyle (Solana Beach, CA) where he teaches vegetable gardening classes. Shawn lives and grows his vegetable gardens in Carlsbad, CA. Visit: www.instantorganicgarden.com