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Growing A Backyard Organic Garden Is Good For Your Health

April 4, 2011 by  

Growing A Backyard Organic Garden Is Good For Your Health

One of the best ways to get organic fruits and vegetables is to grow your own backyard garden. It becomes a very personal and sometimes even a spiritual experience.

One of the best ways to stay healthy year round is to eat in the season there of. This simply means that when certain foods are in season, you eat as much of them as you can and preserve the excess by canning, dehydrating and freezing.

Have you ever noticed that you crave seasonal fruits and vegetables? That is because our bodies need the nutrients that we get from the different foods that are grown in those seasons.

If you don’t grow a garden you can shop the local farmers markets and purchase the most organic foods you can find. This is the best way to avoid sprays, chemicals, pesticides, additives and preservatives and you will be able to save money on your food bill each month. Locally grown produce is better for you because it hasn’t been picked while still green and shipped thousands of miles to get to your local supermarket.

Even if you live in the city you can take advantage of the farmers markets and other organic produce when it is in season.  Most farmers sell off their abundant harvest at bulk rates. You can bottle or put up the excess food. This will ensure that you will have seasonal foods rear round. This is much more nutritious and it will keep you out of the grocery store and help you avoid impulse buying.

During and after World War II, the concept of the Victory Garden was introduced to the nation.  Individual backyard gardeners and farmers produced the same amount of food as did the entire commercial farming industry. It was a great success, and every family that participated felt a sense of accomplishment by doing it.

The economic crisis of 2011 is demanding the return of the backyard gardens as a way to ensure that each and every family is self-sufficient in hard economic times. Saving your own seeds from your personal harvest is a way to lower your cost of living. Eating the food that you have grown is the best nutrition that you can get. (Source: Heirloom-organics.com, Victory Gardens of WW II)

Getting Started Growing A Garden

  1. First you prepare a plot of flat ground that gets full sun during the day. Figure out how much growing space you have. Turn the soil over with a shovel and add compost or other organic material. Till it with a hand or motorized tiller to mix it up. Rake it to level it out.
  2. Plan out the garden plots and plant accordingly. A garden planned in advance will save you a lot of headaches in the future. Lettuce can be grown in tight quarters, but tomatoes need to be spaced about 2 feet apart. Growing and spacing requirements are provided on seed packets, in catalogs, and on nursery tags.
  3. You can grow vegetables in containers or in pots on a patio or porch. Lettuce is a great pot plant. Certain varieties of tomatoes will grow well in a hanging basket. Plants that climb and have vines, such as cucumbers and pole beans, can be trained up a metal fence, chain link or a trellis to take up less room.
  4. Grow the vegetables you enjoy eating. Some examples of vegetables to plant are beans, peas, tomatoes, sweet corn, onions, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, zucchini squash, cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, spinach, melons and strawberries.
  5. If you are a beginner, you can purchase books on growing vegetables and gardening. Don’t be afraid to try growing something.
  6. Herbs such as parsley, thyme, basil, chives and oregano, and any other herbs you like to cook with, can be planted between flower beds.
  7. There are two planting seasons. Cool weather, as in the spring, and hot weather, as in the summer and early fall. The most common cool season crops include beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach and turnips. Warm season crops include beans, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, peppers, pumpkins, zucchini and other squash and tomatoes.
  8. Starting your own seedlings in the spring and transplanting them in the summer is the least expensive way to get plants. However, you can purchase seedlings that are already started at any nursery.
  9. If you are going to purchase plants from a nursery, then these are the best ones to get: eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. These plants tend to do better when started in a greenhouse and transplanted in the garden later.
  10. The following seeds are best started right in the ground. Beans, beets, carrots, chard, corn, cucumbers, lettuce, melons, peas, pumpkins, zucchini and other squash and turnips.
  11. Squash and cucumbers are two of the ones that you can plant as either seeds or seedlings. I have had better results with them by planting the seeds right in the ground. It seems that the plants go into shock and take as long to grow as the seeds do.
  12. Seed packets do have a shelf life. Look for the seeds that have been packed for the current year.
  13. Purchase seedlings when your soil is ready to plant. Keep them watered and don’t let them sit around for more than a few days. Buy healthy-looking seedlings. They should stand up straight and be stocky, with green and not yellow leaves or any bug damage.

Sowing vegetable seedsChoose The Best Garden Seeds

Non-hybrid seeds: The best seeds to purchase are the Heirloom open-pollinated type or non-hybrid. Saving seeds is only possible with open-pollinated seeds. These seeds are also called Heritage seeds. These are the best kind of seeds to buy. You can save the seeds from year to year and dry them out, then plant them the next season and they will grow the exact same fruit, vegetable, or grain. Open-pollinated varieties display certain horticultural traits, such as: fruit color, leaf shape, flower color, etc. This means they are stable within the variety and seeds saved from these plants will be the same as the parent plant in subsequent plantings. The variety will not be cross-pollinated with any other plants of species.

Hybrid seeds: These seeds have been genetically modified to only produce one crop that is true to form. The following generations of plants cannot be counted on to produce the same variety. The hybrid is definitely cross-pollinated with another similar species that might have a different trait. The offspring will be genetically different than the parent plant. The scientists that cross-pollinate these plants are trying to come up with a better, more hardy plant, however the seeds can only be used once and that could possibly create a shortage of seeds. If you save the seed and plant them the next season, you might get some strange fruit that you don’t recognize. Most seeds purchased from a nursery or store is the hybrid type. If you are stocking up on these seeds, you will need to purchase them every year.

The Advantages Of Stockpiling Non-Hybrid Garden Seeds

Better Nutrition: Seed varieties are being bred for many reasons, but typically for disease and pest resistance, their look, transportability and other commercial reasons. Nutritional content is not one of the reasons, but profit is. When you grow open pollinated (non-hybrid) varieties you are growing original strains with much higher nutritional content than varieties that have been bred for color, storability, portability, etc. Growing your own garden ensures that the food you produce is much more nutritious than commercially-grown produce. When food is grown in Mexico or other countries, we do not have any control over how it is grown, what chemicals are used, what fertilizers and minerals are—or are not—in the soil. We also cannot control whether or how much radiation is used to kill the bacteria. The food
is picked before it has ripened and it is shipped hundreds, even thousands of miles before we purchase it. The plants are sprayed to keep them from ripening too fast in transit, then sprayed again to get them to ripen. Have you ever noticed that the vegetables in the grocery store taste blander rather than rich in flavor like their home grown cousins?

Variety: We can participate in saving many original varieties of seeds. Once the food supply has been genetically altered to the point that there are no more original strains of vegetables left, we will be at the mercy of the genetically altered seed companies like Monsanto. This won’t happen with non-hybrid seeds because we can save many varieties of our own seeds from year to year and we will be in control of these seeds.

Self-sufficiency: In hard times, recessions and depressions, FOOD IS SECURITY. You will be able to take care of your family and even friends if you have the skills to grow food. You will have better health because you will be ensured the highest nutrition available. You can save foods like potatoes, carrots, onions, apples and squash in a cool, dry garage and they will keep all winter as long as it doesn’t freeze.

Shortages of food: If food supplies are challenged and the food cannot be trucked for thousands of miles, home gardening is a way to ensure that your family will have the food to sustain them in a crisis. It can also be looked at as food insurance. The economic crisis facing the United States and the world right now is causing the price of fresh produce to go up. When an economic downturn drives inflation up, the cost of real goods, like groceries, skyrockets. It becomes unmanageable very quickly, with items like a loaf of bread costing 10 times more than normal. It sounds unbelievable but this has actually happened many times throughout history.  I have heard a prediction for years that when times get tough and our economy fails, it will take a wheelbarrow full of money to buy one loaf of bread.

Trade or barter: For a self-sufficient person to be truly prepared he must have plenty of non-hybrid seeds available for personal use, storage and bartering. Seeds are an excellent alternative investment to paper money, as well as gold and silver. You can’t eat money or precious metals, which means food is the best investment. Growing your own food is a skill that is invaluable. Organic open-pollinated seeds must be in the hands of the organic backyard farmers. There is a huge movement sweeping the country right now. The small organic farmers are banding together to collect, save, sell or trade their seeds. It is called seed exchange. This movement is preserving the hundreds of heirloom seeds so they are not genetically altered or cross pollinated and lost.

Emergency Food Storage and Survival HandbookPeggy Layton is the author of seven books on the subject of food storage and preparedness. She and her husband grow a backyard garden every year and live off the land during the growing season.

Peggy bottles and dehydrates excess produce. Peggy and her husband keep winter vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, squash, onions and apples in a root cellar that they built. During the winter, when produce is less plentiful, they grow food in their year-round growing dome greenhouse, and they gather fresh eggs daily from their chickens. Provident living is a way of life in their home.

To purchase a variety of heirloom garden seeds that can be grown from year-to-year with seeds that can be saved, go to my website, www.peggylayton.com, and click on the “Garden Seeds Non-Hybrid” link on the left sidebar.

I have been testing out emergency food storage meals that have a 15-year shelf life. These meals are packaged in Mylar® pouches, serve four people and are ready to just add water and cook. I find them delicious, convenient, and easy. For more information or to order go to www.peggylayton.efoodsglobal.com.

–Peggy Layton

Peggy Layton

a home economist and licensed nutritionist, holds a B.S. in Home Economics Education with a minor in Food Science and Nutrition from Brigham Young University. Peggy lives in Manti, Utah with her husband Scott. Together they have raised seven children. Peggy owns and operates two businesses: One called "The Therapy Center", where she is a licensed massage therapist and hypnotherapist, and the other an online cookbook and preparedness products business. She is nationally known for publishing a series of seven books on the subject of food storage and also lectures and teaches seminars about preparedness and using food storage products. Peggy practices what she preaches, has no debt, grows a huge garden, lives off the land, raises chickens, bottles and dehydrates food and has time left over to operate her businesses. To check out Peggy's cookbooks and self sufficiency products go to her website www.peggylayton.com. To get a free sample of three different storable meals that have a 15-year shelf life go here.

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  • maggiemoo

    Some great books if you’re just starting out–”Square Foot Gardening” and “Lasagna Gardening”. Both take advantage of raised beds which are superior to row gardening in many ways.

    • M. T. Dailey

      Most people don’t know that agriculture is the basis for all civilization, but think of it as dumb dirt farmers. Just one of our many mistakes. AGricultural surplus is necessary for ALL our other jobs,profit, and power.
      Growingyourown is great evenin a tin can ifyou don’t havae space.

      • Vigilant

        I’m proud that Thomas Jefferson and I agree that agriculture is a noble pursuit.

    • Carlucci

      That’s what I’m interested in – raised gardening. I’ll look for those books. Thank you!

      • Vigilant

        I’ve done raised bed gardening in the past, and it can be very productive. The only drawback is that raised bed gardens need to be watered more often.

        • Christin

          Vigilant,
          Yes, raised garden beds do dry out more quickly and do need more water, but they can be planted earlier as the soil gets warmer earlier than gardens grown in the ground soil. A garden grown in the ground can acommodate more plants especially vine plants that need a lot of room to spread out. I think planting both is best. We just moved to our farm property and house so it will be a time before we can dig up the ground for a garden with fencing as we have deer and moles to contend with here. We did, however, plant more fruit trees in our orchard. We even have some container planters with strawberries and other vegetables from when we lived in the suburbs as I was teaching my sons how to grow food when they were younger. They are good gardeners and they both helped to plant another container of strawberries last week and our two raised beds this weekend just in time for the good rain we had this morning.

          Happy planting and healthy eating all.

          • independant thinker

            An economical deer fence is three strands of 10-15 pound test mono fishing line about 1, 2.5, and 3.5-4 feet off the ground. Sounds silly I know but it does work. I use the promotional stuff as you have to replace it every couple of years. I have rabbit problems so I put up a run of chicken wire around the bottom (16″ high I think) then two strands of mono above that. As long as the top strand stays intact I do not have problems with deer getting into the garden and there is woods within 25 feet or less of the garden.

          • granny mae

            Christin,

            I have been planting my containers this week and guess what I am using to plant pole beans in? It’s a big PVC pipe. It is about 6 inches in diameter and about 5 feet long. The old guy drilled holes in it to hook rope to so I can hang it from my porch railing and he cut two circles of wood to block in the ends. Then he drilled several long openings in the top side of it so I can plant what ever I want. I’m going to try pole beans to see if they will do as well hanging down as they do growing up. I hope they do well. I think I’m going to fix another one and hang it from the tree in the yard to plant lettuce in it. I will put it under the tree so as to protect it from the heat. It is getting hot here already. I am already canning stuffed cabbage from the garden. We planted cabbage and carrots and beets last fall and they are ready now. I should say most of them are. The beets are not quite ready but it won’t be long.
            The big garden is coming along good so far. The potatoes and peas and beans are up and the mellon is just pokeing through. Corn is up about an inch, but that doesn’t mean that it is going to finish off well. We have had a lot of trouble with corn for some reason. My head lettuce is up and my hot peppers just poked through today so it is looking promising. I will keep praying over it !!!!

  • FreedomFighter

    Raised gardens, even 3×6 waist high raised gardens on casters are available for the space challenged, some are self watering, very easy to work, even for the elderly.

    Laus Deo
    Semper Fi

  • DaveH

    Something everybody should be aware of. How one giant corporation is using Government to stomp on our Freedom:
    http://healthfreedoms.org/2011/04/01/farmers-launch-preemptive-strike-against-monsanto/

    • Christin

      Dave H.,
      Thanks for the website… just checked it out. Monsanto has some gull to blame the organic farmers for the spread of his evil altered GMO seeds and pollen. Of course, it is just so that farmers producing organic seeds can be put out of business… and he can monopolize the Seed Sales Industry making it solely for unreproducable GMO seeds to starve the masses. I had a hard time explaining this Mansanto seed problem to some people so now they can read for themselves. I will send your web site out with this news letter from Peggy Layton to others I know… Thanks again.

      • Richard Pawley

        Monsanto has been called “the most evil corporation in the world”. This happened so often in California that they had to pass a law protecting ordinary farmers who didn’t want their genetically modified and unnatural aberrations. If your goal was to reduce the world population without outright war, there is no better way it could be done than what Monsanto is doing. They have many people in key positions in the FDA and possibly in the USDA so whatever they want they get. They used to make AGENT ORANGE during the War in Vietnam, today they are trying to take over all the food in the world. In Europe citizens can be warned when GMO foods (90% of our corn and soy) and much more, but not in this country. To much to tell here but we lost a BILLION BUSHELS of corn this past year because of GMO corn that is weakened to other diseases. Americans may wake up when they are starving in twenty years, some say in ten, and I remain convinced prices are going to triple a lot sooner than that. Try your best to buy only non-GMO food, the life you save may be your own.

  • Raggs

    I have heard that there is a evil empire in Canada that has produced seeds / plants that do not reproduce in an attempt to control the market… Simply put you would have to buy seeds from them every year because the seeds will not reproduce.

    • Vigilant

      As Peggy mentioned above, seeds collected from hybrid plants normally do not yield the same thing, or are sterile. I wouldn’t call the company “evil,” since the most popular veggies are hybrids.

      The super sweet corns are all hybrids. I bought “Goloden Bantam” (heirloom) this year, and will thus return to the corn I ate as a kid, with the possibility of seed collection and infinite generations of corn for the future.

  • independant thinker

    I plant a garden every year. While I am not strictly organic in my efforts I do follow organic principles such as compost, mulch, manure for fertilizer when available, etc. I will use insecticides but try to avoid them as much as I can. In season I can also get fruits and vegetables from a Mennonite/Amish family that have a stand featuring their localy grown produce.

    • Vigilant

      Pesticides are taboo in my garden, but I’m not a purist when it comes to organic fertilizer. While I’ll use bone meal for phosphorus, wood ashes for potassium and fermented nettles for nitrogen, the inorganic fertizers are just as good, if not better, and the nutrients are immediately available. Chemically, there is really no difference as to making the nutrients available to the plants.

      Compost takes care of additional trace elements, as well as improving the friability of the soil.

      NOTHING in the store can ever replace homegrown tomatoes, garlic, basil, peppers and onions for pasta sauce.

    • Richard Pawley

      I have a friend, a college instructor, who believes that the Amish and the Mennonites are the only ones who are going to get through the coming economic chaos and food shortages for various reasons. Even the Book of Revelation says a time will come when it will take a days labor to buy a day’s food although the language in use is ancient (“A measure of wheat – a day’s food then – for a denarii – a day’s wage then”). I believe some of us may live to see that day! In the meantime a garden of non-hybrid plants and a stockpile of some non-perishable emergency foods is a very good idea. There are already some shortages of such foods.

  • Nora Smith

    Go back to the basis. We belong to the dust, therefore work it, love it, and cultivate it. Plant several plants of tomatoes, garlic, and basil so if there is a rewarding crop, freeze them to use when need them. Make your own sauce for pastas for almost a year.
    Own yard’s food is tastier, healthier, and more economic.

  • Sadly Wiser

    I have been gardening for a number of years, both row & raised bed. Now I live in a trailer park, and last year I tried Mel Bartholomew’s “All New Square Foot Gardening.” My two 4×8 beds were so superior to all other methods that I’m doubling my square feet to put in straw/black/blue/rasp/berries as well as space to grow corn and potatoes & onions for storage. The yield is fantastic–it’s the only way to go in small yards! DO NOT skimp on Mel’s mix–it’s the key to successful intensive gardening. I’m also thinking of trying to build an above ground root cellar under my trailer, since in a power outage frozen food will go bad. Any ideas?

    • independant thinker

      One quick thought is the flat rectangle cinder blocks (patio blocks)for a floor then walls of regular cinder blocks. You should put sheet plastic over or under the floor to prevent moisture from soaking thru it and the walls can be dry stacked for your purposes. To be practical this would require more than bare crawl space height though.

      Another thought would be a box built out of pressure treated wood. I would use double walls with insulation between and set it on bricks or 2X4 scraps to keep it from direct ground contact.

      I may have to look into this myself as I live in a manufactured home and where it sits one end is 3-4 feet off the ground.

      • granny mae

        Independant thinker,

        I read somewhere recently, where a person used old coolers to put their extra produce in and strapped the lids down with bungy cords and use them for cold storage. They said they worked out real well and they put them where they were protected from the sun as they lived in the south. I have several around here so I thought I would give it a try this year myself. We find coolers all over the place and they are easily washed out and if you line them with news paper and put the vegetables in plastic bags I don’t see where it would hurt. Just keep them as cool as you can. I know in the north if you had to keep them outside the styrofoam coolers might be a good idea as they would keep things from freezing. Anyway that is what I use to put over my plants in the wintertime up north to keep them from freezing. Putting the cooler in a protected area that may have enough warmth to keep it from freezing might be a good idea. In fact I don’t see why you couldn’t make a root celler out of sheets of foam insulation. Just an idea. but I don’t know for sure it would work.

        • granny mae

          Anyone interrested in container gardens might be interrested in this. I just read an article where the woman saw some cloth bags in a gardening catalog and she decided she didn’t have to by them she could make them herself. I guess she took old blue jeans and pieced them together to make a couple large bags and filled them with dirt and planted something in them. I have seen those bags myself in gardening catalogs but was always afraid they would dry out real fast however I see now that before they fill them with dirt they line them first with a plastic bag and then fill with dirt. I think a person could also make some smaller ones with handles to be able to hang them on a hook. It’s just an idea. I have used some old buckets and large pots, I have used old waste baskets and just about anything that will hold dirt. One year we cut down a tree in the back yard and I had the husband hollow out the trunk stump and I planted flowers in it, unknown to me my brother-in-law did the same thing at his house at the same time. He lives in Mississippi ! We laughed over that one. I have planted little things in cups and jars, most anything. If it will hold dirt it can be planted with something ! Two years ago I planted okra in three small waste baskets on my deck. I had all the okra I could use. Just remember to pick and keep picking because when you stop it signals the plant that productive time is over and the plant dies back ! Same way with flowers. Keep the blossoms picked or dead headed and they will keep on blooming. I have even used the holes in cinder blocks to plant flowers in and I suppose you could plant a couple seeds of bush beans in them and pick enough beans for a couple meals. I had a neighbor that used a couple deep old drawers that he was going to throw out and I mentioned he could use them to plant something in so he did. He planted watermellon in one and musk mellon in the other. They produced beautiful plants for the summer and some nice mellons for eating when the grand kids came over ! I am using old tires right now for a planting sight for my day lillies also a couple wheele rims for some other lilly plants in the yard. If it has sides and a hole in the middle PLANT IT ! Happy gardening !

          • granny mae

            I have even planted peppers in old shoes and boots ! Works just fine ! LOL !

          • granny mae

            OH yes I even used an old straw hat one time ! Only lasted one summer though !

  • http://yahoo richard

    now why do you suppose the a&& hole liberals are outlawing home gardens they figure food is a good way to control the masses

  • 45caliber

    It certainly is good for you! The food is okay, but the labor to make one will make you lose weight, strengthen muscles, and make you stronger. It will give you more stamina.

    If it doesn’t kill you first…

  • MontanaGrandmom

    We have 3 raised beds in our garden area so far. We plan to add more. We also had 2 Costco ‘tent/garages’ that fell victim to a wind storm last year. One frame is intact and we have already placed it in the garden and plan to turn it into a green house. We will salvage what we can of the frame of the other and build a smaller green house. I’ve also be looking into other container gardening. Google ‘global buckets’. Very interesting concept. I’m contemplating trying this in the basement with grow lights to see if I can be growing produce year round.

  • LAW2

    Had my first garden ever last summer, and it was a huge sucess,(except for sweet corn) but have to give credit: “Making Vegetables Grow” by Thalassa Cruso and “Square Foot Gardening”. Got both from the local library. Am reading them again this spring as a refresher. Am so encourahged that I will be planting about twice as much this year.
    Other helpful sources are “Mother Earth News” and “Organic Gardening” which you can easily subscribe to for year round reading.You will get some info that you have to take with a grain of salt in those two publications, but still worth the money!

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