By Dr. Mercola
You probably know already that organic foods are good for you. The major problem most people have with organic food is the expense. However, there are several different ways to radically reduce the cost of your food.
Growing your own is probably one of the best, and can be extremely satisfying. I am convinced that growing sprouts is more practical and useful for most people and takes less space and time but it will be a bit longer before I am able to provide a comprehensive article on how to do that.
In the meantime anyone, regardless of space allowance, can also produce their own food. If you have a back yard, you’re blessed indeed. But apartment dwellers can also grow fresh produce. Alex Mitchell’s book The Edible Balcony is an excellent resource.
One of the major benefits of growing your own food is that you have complete control over the end product, from soil composition to chemical exposure.
Whereas a conventionally-grown garden might include the use of chemical fertilizers and potentially toxic insecticides to protect the crop, an organic gardener will forgo the chemicals and feed the soil with natural fertilizers and insect barriers.
The same goes for weed control. While a traditional gardener may apply synthetic herbicides to control weeds, an organic gardener, just like an organic farmer, will use hand weeding and cover crops with mulches to control weeds. For every toxic solution, there’s usually an equally effective non-toxic alternative.
Growing Seedlings Can Give You a Head Start on the Season
While you can certainly wait until the danger of spring frost has passed, and then plant your seeds directly in the soil outdoors, you can get a head start by growing seedlings and then transplanting them into your garden. This can be particularly useful in areas where the growing season is short.
Growing seedlings, which can take between four and 12 weeks to sprout, will allow you to harvest your vegetables four to six weeks earlier than had you planted the seeds directly outdoors.
The University of Maine1 has an excellent web site describing how to grow your seedlings, and which ones are best left for direct-seeding due to their rapid maturation:
“Using transplants instead of direct-seeding is especially important for plants that take a long time to mature or are sensitive to frost, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and melons.
Some plants (mostly root crops) do not transplant well, or they mature quickly enough that starting seedlings indoors is not necessary. Vegetables that are typically direct-seeded in the garden include beans, beets, carrots, corn, peas, spinach, turnips, and zucchini.”
To get started on your seedlings, you need just a few supplies:
- Fresh seed, ideally heirloom
- Containers, about 2 to 3 1/2-inch deep with adequate drainage holes
- Growing medium. Use fine-textured soilless mix of equal parts of peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. Do not use conventional fertilizers