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Organic Gardening for Great Food and Good Health

Updated on August 15, 2015
Every spring, Mother's winter garden plan comes alive
Every spring, Mother's winter garden plan comes alive

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"If you love something, you give it room to grow."

That was a little sign my Mother placed in her garden years after her children had grown and gone away to have families of their own. I remember meditating silently at first glance thinking how she'd unselfishly lived these latter years of her life giving us room to grow. She'd been helpful to us from a distance while respecting our independence and time with our own families. From the time I could remember, Mom's gardens had always been her sanctuary and passion. Today, it's where she's happiest and I believe the benefits of organic, chemical-free, nutrient-rich vegetables, exercise and inspiration have been major factors in contributing to her longevity, strength and good health.

My mother's garden inspired me to have one of my own. Although my garden was probably six times the size of hers I've always figured she probably had 1/2 the yield because of her methodical planning and the ever-growing knowledge database she managed to keep in her brain. I often described her garden methods as being "organically scientific" because she was always studying and improving her organic knowledge and gardening techniques. While my garden was a larger country style farm garden equipped with tractor and garden tiller, Mom worked her small city garden by hand. She brought in dirt and manure, and added compost to perfect the soil.


Early spring
Early spring
Paper mulch discourages weeds, contains moisture and provides a clean walking path.
Paper mulch discourages weeds, contains moisture and provides a clean walking path.

Design, Planning and Maintenance

For lack of space, her garden had to grow up instead of sprawling outward, so she designed it adding fencing and cages. Her soils are perfected with proper testing and she avoids chemicals using cayenne, powdered lime and garden fabric to discourage garden pests. She has a shaded area where she keeps an active compost pile. There, yard leaves join the kitchen scraps and she keeps manure in the area which, with water makes "manure tea" –– an organic fertilizer treatment treatment that's far less encouraging for weeds.

She sectioned her garden in growing spots and each year the crops are rotated from one area to the next. She uses paper (like newspaper) or mulch on the pathway areas to discourage weeds, keep a clean walkway and add humus to the ground. Within the garden she plants flowering garlic and marigolds which discourage deer and insects.

Summer Planting is Pretty Constant

With her garden, Mom keeps plenty of seed on hand and has a continuous planting pattern. For instance she always has varieties of radishes growing in several spots and since they're fast to mature, she staggers the plantings by a week or so to be sure she keeps a constant supply. As soon as spring season is over she's quick to pull up the early crops like spinach and peas and replace them with summer vegetables. Constantly rotating, the garden produces to its full capacity each year. Her tomatoes are fenced, growing upward like cucumbers, peas and beans. She uses cages for squash to maximize the use of space. Okra is a favorite as she likes it for soups and gumbo. Favorite herbs are chives and parsley.

Summer harvest
Summer harvest

Early Harvest Means Before Daybreak!

During the summer harvest season, before the hot sun rises Mom is out in the garden checking out everything and harvesting the crops. Fresh tomatoes destined to fully ripen will line the tables in the screened porch area and what isn't frozen or canned will be placed in the refrigerator for healthy, delicious meals.

During the growing season, a day won't pass when there isn't some form of fresh flower arrangement in the house. Mother's green thumb wasn't just dedicated to vegetables. Her gardening hobby began with flowers and she has areas of her yard dedicated to some of her favorites.

The absolute beauty of fresh cut flowers
The absolute beauty of fresh cut flowers

Mom's Garden is Her Sanctuary

At 85, her health has been incredibly stable and although she's wrestled with COPD in her latter years she's been able to stay strong and work (and play!) in her garden. The healthy lifestyle and quality of vegetables and nutrients have surely played a huge role in sustaining her health. There won't be a day this summer that she isn't out there watching her garden grow. "I'm happiest in my garden," she'll say without any hesitation. It truly is her personal sanctuary.

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    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 5 years ago from Australia

      Wow, your Mum's garden sounds amazing and what a wonderful passion for her to have from raising her family with garden fresh produce to keeping healthy in her later years. Your hub speaks of many messages for maintaining health and vitality. Enjoyable and inspiring reading, thank you. My votes and sharing with others.

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      B. Leekley that's kind of you. I've always seen gardening as a way to stay in shape, and then rest during the winter. It's pretty healthy and isn't as boring as exercise routines.

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Wellness you may have to haul in some topsoil. Every county has an agricultural center and you can get your soil tested there. They can test and tell you exactly what you need to do. Call them and they'll tell you how to gather the samples for testing.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I bookmarked this hub in case I ever have a mind to try gardening.

    • wellnessguidesja profile image

      wellnessguidesja 5 years ago

      Thanks for this hub. Ive been experimenting with my own tiny organic backyard garden and have had some challenges because much of the topsoil in my housing estate was removed during construction, and so the soil needs a lot of amendment. i will be experimenting with some of these tips. Thanks once again

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Thank you very much Goody5, it sure feels good to win!

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Sen, the lime is white powder - not pellet lime. And the cayenne is the ground spice, sprinkled lightly the insects hate it. Good luck!

    • Goody5 profile image

      Goody5 5 years ago from Bohville, USA, Just below the Mason-Dixon line in the land of the pleasant living

      I want to be the first to congratulate you michabelle on your new hubnugget victory. You won with a whopping 46% of the vote in your category. That's a land slide! You join the elite few here on the hub pages that has achieved such greatness. The only other person that I know who has won a hubnugget is my cousin Goody7. Congratulations again, and keep on hubbing..............

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 5 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Michabelle, that information about lime and cayenne pepper is wonderful. I try it out. Thanks.

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Eyes, my mother continues to study each winter. She puts lime and cayenne pepper on the leaves of the vegetables to discourage insects. Her garden is completely organic and she's lived to be very old. Thank you for your comments. I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Thank you Sen!

    • EyesStraightAhead profile image

      Shell Vera 5 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      This was very informative! I never knew that garlic and marigolds would keep deer and insects away from a garden. My mother, likes yours, has a small garden in her yard and she loves to tend to it. I love the pictures you shared and found the information very helpful.

    • sen.sush23 profile image

      Sushmita 5 years ago from Kolkata, India

      Very nice Hub. Voted up. And good luck with the HubNugget. :)

    • michabelle profile image
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      michabelle 5 years ago

      Hi Goody, thank you for the help with votes. I'm glad my brother could tell me which team he thought would win. Now I will have to watch the SB..

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Thank you jey, the importance of good nutrition is being overlooked. Carefully maintained home gardens are the best source for healthy food in my personal opinion.

    • michabelle profile image
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      michabelle 5 years ago

      Hi Ripple, wow what a good hub. I had never found it and I did vote! Thanks!

    • michabelle profile image
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      michabelle 5 years ago

      ESP thank you very much and hopefully my garden will be up and running next year!

    • Goody5 profile image

      Goody5 5 years ago from Bohville, USA, Just below the Mason-Dixon line in the land of the pleasant living

      michabelle, I just wanted to pop back in and tell you that I've got a bunch of my friends to vote for your hub in that contest you gave me the link for. All of your hard work deserves a hubnugget award. Good luck!

    • jeyaramd profile image

      jeyaramd 5 years ago from Mississauga, Ontario

      Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos. Nothing beats organic home gardening. Great hub.

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 5 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Being surrounded by nature and eating organic food does play an integral part in one's health. Awesome that you have a mother like this to inspire you to do the same. :)

      Congratulations on your Hubnuggets nomination! Please visit this hub and read and vote, okay? http://redelf.hubpages.com/hubnuggets6/hub/The-Adv...

    • Goody5 profile image

      Goody5 5 years ago from Bohville, USA, Just below the Mason-Dixon line in the land of the pleasant living

      Very beautiful photos of a very beautiful garden. I cast my vote for you, and thank you so much for voting in my football pole.

    • profile image

      esp 5 years ago

      This is really impressive! I like your garden, too and miss it!

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Hi there, wordscribe! Bunnies (and squirrels, and deer and voles) are what gardeners often take measures to keep away from gardens. Bunnies love gardens, in fact there are some weeds they particularly like as treats. The problem for gardeners is the bunnies prefer veggies over the weeds. Mother has always said there's plenty in her organic garden for all of her little "varmint" friends and so her garden feeds them too. Thank you very much for your comments and your vote.

    • wordscribe43 profile image

      Elsie Nelson 5 years ago from Pacific Northwest, USA

      What a wonderful hub! I can't tell you how much I'd like to get a lovely garden growing. I've recently gotten a bunny and would really like to give her fresh garden veggies. But, I have a lot of learning to do first. Anyway, congrats on the Hubnugget nomination, I voted for this hub, so good luck!

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Hello Cred, it's wonderful to go out back and harvest your dinner.  Anyone who can have a garden should start small with a couple tomato plants, peppers and a fence of cucumbers. That alone is the freshest garden salad you'll ever eat! Bush cukes and patio tomatoes are available for container gardening so even some of those city folks have a few options. Thanks for the comments!

    • Credence2 profile image

      Credence2 5 years ago from Florida (Space Coast)

      Hi, Michabelle, sounds like you are in a veritable Garden of Eden. My mouth just waters just looking at the photos. With so many people trapped in the urban jungle it has got to be a blessing to have a little land and space to spread out.Your mom is smart and her desire to live a simple and healthy life is why she is a prime example of healthy living well into a ripe old age. Thanks for sharing with us this window into your world... Cred2

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Thank you, ethel

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 5 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Lovely taste of spring and summer thanks

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Hello Moonlake, and thank you for visiting. Isn't it nice that someday our grandchildren will be remembering our gardens too? I started mine inspired by my mother but transfers with job moves halted it for a while. Now I'm back at it! Have a Wonderful New Year.

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Welcome HWM, It's great to know others are busy with this rewarding hobby. You're right about the present generation - if they only realized what they could do with that small back yard! The beauty of my mother's garden is that she so skillfully adapted such a small space in her back yard to fill her freezer and canning shelves with summer fresh produce. Thank you for your comments.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      Love this garden. What work your Mom puts into it.

      My grandmother use to plant her garden with paths running through and in sections. She always had a beautiful garden.

      Enjoyed your hub.

    • healthwealthmusic profile image

      Ruth R. Martin 5 years ago from Everywhere Online ~ Fingerlakes ~ Upstate New York

      I am impressed! I love to hear from others who enjoy organic gardening, as this is something my husband and I are passionate about also. He puts in the hard work, right up until harvest time, then he lets me harvest, can, and freeze the veggies.

      Today's generation is often not as dedicated to growing their own food as the past generations are and were. It is one of the things that are truly going to be sadly missed in the future! Our health often is better when we eat more of the things we grew ourselves, as your mother has proved!

    • michabelle profile image
      Author

      michabelle 5 years ago

      Thank you so much. I'm visiting my Mom and have been rummaging through some of her photographs (and visiting her garden.) Happy to share these and there are plenty more. Have a Wonderful New Year!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

      Ditto Expert Gardener.

      Your title is a real head's up for everyone. We benefit from having a good garden in so many ways!

      Tell your mom, "Bravo!" for us. Voted up.

    • Expert Gardener profile image

      Expert Gardener 5 years ago

      This is awesome. The garden story is the best of all. Thank you for sharing. Hope you will share more about this.

      More power! Vote up!