Organic Gardening for Great Food and Good Health
Have Fun & Make Money!
"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.
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.
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.
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.