By Regina M. Dlugokencky
Growing, nurturing and harvesting one’s food can be one of the most centering and fulfilling activities in which we can engage. It offers benefits far beyond the fresh air, a hand in your own nutrition, and low-impact physical exercise and has also been found to bring psychological benefits such as mood enhancement and stress reduction, too.
The web and books at your local library hold a world of information on just about any question you may have about gardening. Gardening classes are popping up everywhere and you can even hire a garden coach to get you off to a confident start.
Most importantly, remember that Mother Nature can be a pretty forgiving lady.
So, don’t wait! Let this be the year you go forward and garden, just keep this simple truth in mind: “things want to grow.”
There are just a few basic rules to begin your gardening adventure in the most wholesome way:
- Start Small and Choose the Right Site:
New gardeners and sage ones alike are equally guilty of taking too much on too soon. Stay focused and start slowly. Gardening should be a labor of love, but not one you’re shackled to and from which you plot escape. Consider container gardening for vegetables such as peppers and eggplants if you’re limited on space. Unless otherwise noted, site your garden where it will get full sun (6-8 hours per day).
- Grow What You Love:
Growing a prolific but un-harvested vegetable will not only be less fulfilling, it will seem like a chore. If you have limited space, grow only your favorites and purchase the others at a local farmers’ market.
- Grow Organically:
Not only will you save money on inputs that cause the environment and you some trouble, it is healthier on other levels. Organically grown vegetables have been found to be more nutrient-dense than those conventionally grown. It just makes sense that Healthy Soil=Healthy Food=Healthy people. Soil is a living thing and healthy soil can be had with a bit of compost, kelp, and other unprocessed forms of nitrogen such as composted chicken, cow, or horse manure. (Don’t use fresh manure unless you are leaving it to age for several months before planting.)
- Buy Locally Grown Plants:
Locally grown plants are usually varieties that are acclimated to our Long Island climate, and so will likely grow happily in your garden. They also have usually been tended more carefully, than plants sold in the big box stores, which are probably from out of the area and have suffered all manner of abuse. By purchasing locally grown transplants, you are supporting local growers financially. when it is financially feasible, buy organically grown transplants.
- Invite Diversity:
Planting a variety of vegetables, flowers and herbs will guarantee success for at least a few things: a bad year for one variety will most certainly be a good one for another. Flowers and herbs attract beneficial insects like pollinators and provide habitat for predatory insects that keep those that would like to chomp on your plants in check. The Xerces Society is just one great organization that works to conserve native pollinators, check out their face sheets at http://www.xerces.org/fact-sheets
Regina M. Dlugokencky is a market gardener, garden coach, and librarian. Regina began gardening at age eight, after moving to Long Island from Brooklyn, and has been an avid organic gardener ever since. She has worked as an organic farmer for the past give years and is the founder of Seedsower Farm, LLC, of Centerport, a small, diversified business that includes growing organic vegetables and berries, seedling transplants, and provides kitchen garden coaching to gardeners of all abilities with gardens of all sizes