Whether you’re on a budget, aren’t sure of the authenticity of local organics or both, the surest and cheapest way to get good organic food is by growing your own. And growing your own can be as simple or as involved as you want.
If you’re a first-time gardener, the trick is not to overwhelm yourself. Keep your garden relatively small, but leave room for expansion when you’re ready. A family of 4 can start with about 200 square feet (approximately 50 square feet per person) and have a great supply of produce. But if you don’t want to start that big, don’t. Do what you’d like and what you can.
If you don’t have a lot of space, containers work well. Root vegetables may not be possible but some people report great success in growing potatoes in compost bags. Other traditional container fare includes tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, carrots, peppers, strawberries, blueberries and herbs.
If you are growing in the ground, there are a couple of things to consider. First, is the amount of sunlight. The second is soil quality.
For sunlight, you should find a space that gets what’s full sun. That’s about 8 hours of sun each day. Some items may need a little less sun, but 8 hours will help you grow a large variety.
For soil quality, you are looking for a pH of about 5.8 – 6.8 and you can buy an inexpensive testing kit at a garden store. You can increase pH, or correct acidity, by adding limestone. To decrease pH, or to correct alkalinity, use elemental limestone. Also, ensure that you have plenty of organic material in your soil and add leaves and compost to help.
If your soil isn’t quite right, you can make raised beds and surround them with bricks or stone to contain the nutrient rich and balanced soil.
When you’re ready to start planting, consider planting some plant starts, instead of seeds. They may be a little more difficult to find organically, but for first time growers, they’re much easier to work with.
Make sure to water your plants regularly. Seeds should be watered daily. New plants should be watered every 2-3 days. On particularly hot days, you may need to do more. You can even collect rain water for your plants by using rain barrels or creating your own from garbage pails.
Organic herbicides don’t work that well. Instead, take the time to pull weeds, ensuring you grab the weeds fully by their roots or they will continue to grow. Weeding regularly will keep them from maturing and becoming problematic…plus it makes your whole job quicker and easier.
As you go through your gardening journey, keep a record. Write down dates things are planted, how they are treated and progress. Take weather and other conditions into consideration. It will allow you figure out what worked well and help you improve your gardening techniques, year after year.
You may not feel like a green thumb now, but keep at it. It’s so worth it. Now let’s talk about raising chickens.
Backyard Chickens: Tips for Getting Started, his will be our theme.
A few years ago, it seemed a little bizarre that someone would keep chickens in their backyard. These days, no one bats an eye at this inexpensive and rewarding way to feed the family.
There are a few reasons why people raise chickens:
– Obviously, for the fresh eggs
– Natural removal of weeds and bugs
– Save money
– It’s pretty easy, once you get started
Of course, always check local laws about raising chickens in your yard and ensure you’re in compliance before you start. You can purchase chickens from a variety of suppliers. You can actually hatch eggs or raise chicks, but they are more work than a grown chicken. Keep your climate in mind, the egg size you want and whether or not the chicken will be raised strictly for eggs. You can use the handy tool here to select a breed.
One chicken will lay about 4-6 eggs per week, but they generally lay less in colder months, so keep this in mind when planning their space.
To raise chickens, you can have them running free, but a coop provides protection from the elements and predators, so make a plan to build one. A coop should provide about 2-3 square feet per hen and for the outside area; each hen should have about 5 square feet of space. In a coop they can peck each other without enough space, so never try to cram them in.
As you build, keep seasonal temperatures in mind. Make sure air can get through in summer and keep it from going through in winter. You can even use a tarp to keep air from blowing through and remove it, as needed. Use a slanted roof to let rain roll off, if you live in a rainy area.
Inside the coop, use pine shavings for the flooring. This makes it comfortable for the chickens and easy for clean up as you scoop out and replace the shavings. Provide plenty of roosting space. They will also need nesting space. Wooden boxes work well for this.
You can feed chicken store-bought feed pellets. They also love vegetables scraps, bread and bugs. Give them fresh water regularly, keep their area clean and you’ll have happy chickens. Check on them daily and collect their eggs each day as well. Eggs can go bad quickly in warm weather and in cold weather; they can freeze, expand and crack.
If you have young children, always supervise them with the chickens. Chickens will peck to defend themselves and although it won’t take a child too long to learn this, you need to be there to ensure proper handling of the chickens. In addition, live poultry can carry salmonella. Everyone should wash their hands thoroughly and immediately after handling the chickens or being in your chicken’s area.
Overall, having chickens can be a very rewarding experience and many people come to see chickens as part of their family. It is a long term commitment because chickens can live for 12 years or more. Just care for them, protect them and they will serve you well.
Next theme link here: Nine Things to Consider When Storing Organic Food
What Other’s are Saying about Going Organic