By Abubakr Muhammad Karim
Dedicating and visualizing your purpose of gardening is a wonderful way to begin.
Think about why you want to grow a garden. It can provide you with an alternative food source. It can help you to understand the unique connection between man and nature. You can achieve a level of sustainability that will enable you to extend your life and your family’s life. Even more, it can help you to become “One” with the nature culture of life.
Start with some good earth…Potting soil v/s gardening top soil.
In the process of growing plants the medium in which your plants grow will change as they mature. Some plants work better when started in water. Some grow better when started in potting soil. Still other plants grow best when planted directly in organic soil. Be prepared to establish each medium required for your garden. In any case, the final destiny for healthy plant life is organic soil. That is, soil that is infused with lots of organic material. You can acquire healthy soil in many ways, but the best way is to develop it yourself. Start by keeping a can for composting in your kitchen to collect scraps that will make good soil amendments. Banana peels, egg shells and coffee grounds are standard items that make good compost material. Outside, you can collect leaves and grass clippings and include them in developing your compost pile. Some types of animal manures are also a good source of composting material. Dedicate a site for your compost pile and enclose it with link fencing or wooden pallets to allow for air circulation. Turn over the contents regularly and when it breaks down into soil material, use it in your garden.
Selecting seeds, bulbs and seedling slips.
There are many seed, bulb and seedling sources available, but keep in mind that developing your own increases sustainability. Collect the seeds you want to plant early and test them by sprouting a small amount to make sure they are active. Check to see what grows well in your environmental climate. Grow the kinds of plants you are going to use and eat. Include both perennial which come back each year and annual varieties that are seasonal and must be re-planted again each year. I buy seeds from organic seed companies, grow them and then save the seeds. I have built up a seed saving bank that way. To maintain it, you must either keep growing and saving, exchange seeds from other growers or buy new ones. Make sure you have plenty of flowers for bees and pollinators. Also think about whether or not you have room for fruit trees.
Trays, cells, planting cups, pots, indoor starting of seedlings.
Get started early. Obtain the necessary receptacles that will begin and house your plants. Seed starter trays and the cells that go inside of them come in different sizes and styles. I like the trays that retain water. I also like the cells that are large enough to
extract the seedling and put them straight in the ground. You can use almost any kind of seedling starter…from store bought plastic cell and trays to Dixie cups to egg cartons to many types of cans and buckets. For those of you who live in places where you don’t have a lot of outdoor garden space, large pots may be the way to go. If you are starting indoors, make sure you have something to cover the floor or window seal in case watering overflows or spills.
Using sunny windows v/s a greenhouse.
Most places here in the US have summer, fall, winter and spring seasons. Plants require a certain amount of time to grow and mature. Sun and heat is essential for their survival. To meet this requirement, you will have to provide the proper environment inside until the weather is warm enough outside to put your plants in the ground. I have found that a sunny window makes an excellent place to start seedlings. The assistance of a long florescent light fixture, hung over the seedlings will aid in keeping enough light long enough to create proper growth stimulation. Of course, if you have a greenhouse, it could add weeks and months to your growing time-line…both before spring and prior to winter.
Tools, plant food and watering.
Your number one tool is your hands. The second will be digging tools like shovels, spades, weed pullers, rakes and claws. A wheel barrow and five gallon buckets are helpful in moving quantities of soil and other materials. Watering jugs of all type will be helpful. You can be creative and punch holes in cans and plastic bottles to make effective containers. Water hoses or sprinklers can save a lot of time. However, I have found that the best water to use on plants is good old rain water. We collect rain water from the roof into rain barrels, it comes in handy and it saves money on the water bill…especially during summer months when rainy days are scarce. Plant food that is organic can be purchased or you can make it yourself. Fish emulsion, molasses, banana peels and coffee grinds can be made into what is called compost tea. IT SHOULD BE CLEAR THAT CHEMICAL FERTILIZERS AND PESTICIDES WILL HARM YOUR PLANTS AND YOU ALSO, WHEN YOU EAT THEM.
Beds, growing containers, plots.
Select a location where your plants will get at least seven or eight hours of sunlight.
If you have the space, direct access to the earth is best. Plant roots can grow very deep into the earth. They also mix with the microscopic elements that inhabit the soil. The more natural environment you give your plants, the better they will grow. If space is a factor, you can also use large containers or build raised beds filled with good soil, on top of compromised land like stones, clay or cement. Wherever you decide to establish your garden remember that the plants are your babies and taking care of them is the practice of sustainability. They are made of the same substance as you and I. They need what we need…food, water, companionship and a nice place to live.
Observing cultivation, pinching, splitting transplanting.
One of the most important things I have observed in gardening is
that YOU must BE THERE. From start to finish, you must maintain a presence in your garden. The plants you grow are your children and you must nurture them 24/7. Establishing a garden where you can observe its development and take action when required is a must. As you come to depend on the plants for food and medicine, the plants will also depend on you for cultivation and maintenance. Weeding, mulching, transplanting, picking insects, and occasional spraying with organic concoctions of hot peppers, garlic, castile soap and neem oil are never ending task. Sometimes plants will outgrow the space they are in and require thinning out or transplanting. You may also need to fence in your garden to protect it from predators. Rabbits, deer, squirrels, and birds like to eat what you grow. Make sure you provide something for them. Grow a little extra and don’t cut all the forage. Leave some for the local animals. Learn to live with nature.
Aligning with and observing the timing of your outdoor gardening process.
This is where becoming “one” with nature becomes most exciting. It takes time to learn the seasons and the climatic conditions that make or break gardens. Rain, sun, cold, heat are natural events that we cannot control, however, we can observe, predict, (within a certain degree), and thus prepare for whatever condition nature brings. Using an almanac can be of great help when determining seasonal changes like first and last frost, moon phases, snow, heat wave and drought forecast. Be cognizant of the weather every day. Watch, feel and listen to nature. You will soon become more in tune with the earth and all living things on it. After all…you are what you eat, grow, breathe, think and do.
Finally, the old saying holds true in gardening. “What you put into it will determine what you get out of it”. Have fun, observe and learn. Soon you and your family will be harvesting and eating what you helped to create. Essentially, you will be looking at and working on not only your plants, but “your” self development. You too are a plant living on a planet. Take care of your environment and it will take care of you. Growing a garden can be a life changing experience. And in this day and time, isn’t that what we all want? Make it happen by becoming a gardener. A new world awaits you.
There are many, many things to learn about nature…more than we will ever know. This has been a brief overview of some basic gardening tips. I hope it has been helpful in your quest to “grow your own food”.
Peace and blessings,