Healthy Gardens

by Blake Van Jacobs

Last week we shared with you the benefits of eating more fruits and veggies, buying locally grown produce and community gardens.  If you have the space and the desire, growing a garden in your backyard is great! It’s also good for your physical and mental health.

Gardening is not a “plant and leave” activity–it requires care and attention to grow what you want, and to do so in a healthy, safe way. When deciding what to plant and when to plant it, Cornell University has a great resource on the proper place to plant different vegetables or flowers, plant traits, and special considerations.

The Omaha Library in Benson has a seed library–seeds you can check out to grow (you return seeds in the fall), as well as community resources, book recommendations, and other gardening resources.

A way to get your vegetable garden started is to build out the Square Foot Garden. This method plots your garden by each square foot.  Plants are properly spaced, it’s easy to water, and you can fit the largest amount of plants in the space.  Use this resource to help with proper soil, if you’re filling a bed.

Think you need a fertilizer?  Try compost.  It reduces landfill waste, is better for your soil and plants, and safe to handle.  You can compost at home or buy compost.  Want to learn more?  LiveGreen is hosting a 30 minute webinar, Wednesday, June 17th at 11am on composting and we’d love to see you there!

If you have to use a fertilizer, know that many large amounts of chemicals that are bad for the plants and soil. The Organic Material Review Institute OMRI has a safe product list. This is an unregulated industry, so be cautious and do research—a package that says “organic” does not mean its safe.

Insects and weeds are a fact of life.  Weeds can be pulled (part of the health benefit!).  Insecticides will kill everything, including the pollinators the plants need—and potentially the birds that eat those bugs.  It’s best to let nature do its thing and know that you may lose a few leaves or some produce in the process, but you and the ecosystem will still be better off.

If you do have to buy a pesti/fungi/herbi-cide, there are some chemicals you should avoid, like DDT, Glyphosate, and Atrazine. Other chemicals to avoid can be found here.

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