Inside: Growing an organic family garden is a great project for you and the kids. Make it hazardous chemical free and reap the benefits of a safe environment and healthier harvest for everyone.
Growing an organic family garden is a project that has many benefits. You get to grow the fruits and vegetables you love. It is a great project to do with your kids and gets the whole family involved in making healthy food choices. Most family gardens are for the most part pesticide and herbicide free. Most of us do not want to risk our kids and pets coming into contact with these hazardous chemicals.
Why Growing an Organic Family Garden is a Great Idea
There are, however, some very important reasons to garden organically. Take a look at these very good reasons for keeping healthy and helping the planet by organic gardening:
- healthy food is grown that is free from artificial chemicals resulting a healthier body
- organic gardening follows natural processes thus helping the ecosystem
- pesticides and chemical fertilizers are kept out of your home and reduce allergic or toxic reactions
- artificial chemical free gardening supports pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds and butterflies by providing a safe environment and nourishment
- gardening organically promotes healthy soil rather than killing it with chemicals
- you create a safe habitat for local creatures by growing plants native to the area
- organic gardening reduces the flow of chemical runoff thereby improving our waterways and reducing water pollution
Natural Pest Control in your Family Garden
Growing an organic family garden is not without its problems. Pesticides and herbicides are really effective at killing the stuff you don’t want in your garden. But they aren’t so great for the environment and really not great for kids to handle. There are some home made preparations that work will on garden pests.
We had an outbreak of gypsy moths earlier this spring. I was getting hundreds of their caterpillars daily in my pool. I had a number of trees completely stripped of leaves. Many others had a lot of leaf damage. They even attacked my beautiful roses. I have too many trees to treat so I hoped they could cope on their own (It turns out I was right on that front, as later when their attackers were either eaten or turning into adults, new leaves appeared on most of my trees.
My roses would not have survived though. I treated them with diatomaceous earth. This stuff is pet safe. It is made from fossilized algae that contain lots of silica. Silica has a lot of sharp edges. When insects crawl over it, they get wounds in their body that cause body fluids to leak out. It also gets absorbed by the insect causing it to dry out and die. Not pleasant but either are the effects of pesticides. And indeed it did work for my roses. I sprinkle some on to control earwigs as well.
Some Homemade Solutions to Control Pests when Growing an Organic Family Garden
|Soapy Water Spray||1 tbsp dish soap/1 tsp Cayenne + 1qt water|
|Neem Oil Spray||1 part Neem/1 part water|
-spray leaves only
|Essential Oils||Few drops of cedar/8 oz water-spray leaves only|
|Nematodes||A round worm in soil kills pests in larvae form|
|Biological predators||i.e. Praying Mantis / Aphids/Birds|
|Crop Rotation||Starves bugs that slept thru winter & woke up hungry|
Adding Nutrients to Boost Production in your Family Garden
Composting at home is the best way to boost production in your family garden. Read this excellent article that goes into great depth on the art of composting. The following chart gives some great ideas and timelines on fertilizing your family garden.
|Coffee grounds (spent / never fresh)||Provides nitrogen to accelerate growth|
|Kelp meal, aged manure, compost||Don’t get fertilizer on leaves as it will burn|
|Apply every 6 weeks -spring, summer/ fall||Not necessary in winter even in indoor garden as growth slows down|
|Containers need more watering which washes out fertilizer||Therefore, fertilize more often in smaller amounts|
|Make own compost||Kitchen scraps, grass cuttings/leaves/pruning|
Organic Garden Friendlies: The Pollinators
Bees and butterflies are your two main groups of pollinators.
Bees are critical for a number of reasons:
- they are critical for continued food supplies for 85% of the population
- they pollinate flowers by carrying nectar and pollen from plant to plant on their legs, working up to 12 hours per day; pollination works well because they tend to focus on one flower species at a time thus getting the pollen that rubs off of their legs to the right flower
- bees support a healthy environment by pollinating plants; thus, increasing biodiversity
- bee numbers are declining because of widespread use of pesticides, disease, and global climate change
- these pollinators provide a number of products for humans like honey, beeswax, propolis and royal jelly
Butterflies are also important pollinators. When they sip nectar from flowers, they also unknowingly carry pollen to other flowers. They are an important barometer of our ecosystem health. They die off quickly when something is wrong with their ecosystem. This provides valuable insights to ecologists. They are an important part of their ecosystem’s food chain. Both caterpillars and adult butterflies are an important food source for a number of other creatures like birds, lizards, frogs and bats.
Other pollinators are also important in the food chain. Hummingbirds, ants and other insects and bats also play a role in pollination.
Support your Local Pollinators
There are a number of things you can do to support your local pollinator populations. Building a pollinator garden is one way and it will help in growing an organic family garden because food crops need pollinators too.
Support your pollinators by doing the following:
- provide food, water and safety
- observe which pollinators visit your garden and which plants they visit and make a list and plant more of those plants
- put out water containers for refreshment…add stones for bees and butterflies to safely land on so they don’t drown
- for butterflies add orange slice feeders…they love them
- hang bee hotels, bird and bat houses
- try a messy garden; this is an informal garden that encourages native plants and grasses as well as vegetables and flowers
- don’t clear debris at the end of the growing season but leave fallen leaves and garden “mess” for pollinators to overwinter in
Growing an organic family garden has no downside. It does take some effort. It requires some planning and trial and error to get it right. But it is such a fun activity to plan and work on with your kids. Allow them in on the decision making. Let them choose some of their favorite fruits and veggies to plant. Watch their eyes light up as the plants begin to grow and they can finally harvest what they helped cultivate.
Growing a garden is a great learning experience. From food growth to table you and your kids will learn a ton. Making it organic will create a healthier harvest and climate for you and kids to work in.