10 05 13 Organic Vegetable Gardening - Jack Heppner

So you have decided that you DO want to grow at least some of your own chemical-free vegetables this summer. Congratulations! So where do you begin?

If at all possible, find a mentor. On the one hand, growing your own food is a simple matter. On the other, it is an art that you never quite master. There are always questions others before you have asked and found answers to. Gardeners build community because they depend on each other. My mentor was a neighbor who, in his mid-seventies, seemed to be in his garden all day all summer. Thanks, Jacob.

So what basics have I learned so far?

The foundation of gardening is soil – in a plot in your yard or community garden or in a box on your deck. Soil is alive with millions of micro-organisms and hopefully earthworms. Depending on your location, you may need to bring in some garden soil to start with. But over the years you need to build it up, especially by blending in various forms of compost. Gradually you will learn to make your own, but to begin with pick up some free compost at the Steinbach Landfill Site in early June. Compost is much superior to chemical fertilizers.

So you have soil, either a plot in your back yard or in a box on your deck. Now consider the sun because most vegetables require lots of sunshine. Does the location of your garden allow for maximum sunshine? If not, either move your plot or remove whatever blocks the sun, unless it is your neighbor’s tree!

And then you need water. If you are lucky, regular rains will keep your garden moist. But when it doesn’t rain, you need to take charge. If possible, use rainwater – much better than cold tap water. To conserve water, create a shallow bowl around each plant, fill the bowl with water and let it soak down to the roots gradually. Again, if you are too close to some types of trees they will send up roots to steal this precious water, so keep the trees at bay!

Having looked after soil, sun and water, you are ready to begin seeding and planting. By mid-April you can seed radishes, lettuce, and spinach because they can handle some frost. Onion sets can also be pressed into the ground. Other seeds must wait until the threat of frost has passed. Check information on seed packages. Plant vegetable plants you have purchased at the local greenhouse sometime after the May long-weekend. If weather remains cool, wait until after June 1st

And now you are off and running! Soon you will be eating food you have grown yourself. And it will have moved only a few meters from your garden to your plate. What a life! What a gift!

For more information and inspiration, join the May 18th gardening workshop sponsored by the South Eastman Transition Initiative, “Urban Gardening: Growing Your Own Food,” at 69 Westdale Street in Steinbach at 7:00 p.m.