Growing Organically Family Style
While some people’s wintery visions may include sugarplums dancing through their head or palm trees swaying in the breeze, come January, and the arrival of the seed catalogues, it’s visions of vegetables dancing through my head.
Of course, these vegetables look plump, glossy, and free of dirt, pests and disease. That is a vision we strive for, but by sticking to the principles of organic gardening, our harvest can be smaller or bear the evidence of dirt, pests or disease. That is the sacrifice we make for the uniqueness, the flavour, and the health of the food we grow for our family. In addition, we know that we are cutting back on our carbon footprint and food miles, while simultaneously involving our children in the growing, harvesting, and preserving of our food.
Our children are learning the value of hard work and tasting the fruits of their labours - literally! They witness and partake in all the steps of a home harvest:
- preparing the garden beds for planting
- starting seedlings indoors (and then later transplanting those same seeds)
- planting seeds directly into the beds
- caring for the plants by watering and weeding
- reaping the bounty
- cooking, preserving and freezing the harvest
The children are also coming to appreciate the fact that homegrown veggies and fruits are not the same as their supermarket counterparts. Our produce is ugly when compared to the standards of beauty you find on the supermarket shelves; our harvest can be asymmetrical, bumpy, and variable in colour. But, oh the flavours and nutrients - all present in the food as nature intended it to be. To grow such crops, we do our best to adhere to the principles of organic gardening.
The foundational principle of organic gardening is to work with nature; if we can provide an environment that nourishes growth and mimics the natural processes of decomposition and nutrient recycling, then we won’t need to use man-made inputs. And, if we can take measures to limit stress to our plants and to prevent pests, blights, and diseases, then we will not need to treat problems with the “icides” (i.e., fungicides, pesticides, insecticides or herbicides). Organic gardening makes sense if we want to sustainably grow healthy food.
Here is a list of some of the tenets of organic gardening.
- Feed your soil
- Replenish your nutrients
- Interplant your crops
- Apply companion planting
- Rotate your crops
- Know your insect and bird allies
- Use barriers to protect your crops
- Mulch your soil
- Use alternative pest control products
In following posts I will explain these principles in more detail and explain how we apply them at our country home.