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Tips for your own garden getaway

Author and healthy food advocate Michael Pollan once said, “A garden will move us to the extent it engages the imagination as well as the senses.” It’s true; a garden will awaken your senses and can often become a very healthy addiction! There are many reasons for planting a garden, no matter how large or small.

The first thing you should think about is location. It’s very important to the grow-ability of your garden. You could take over a whole field and plant up a storm. Or, realistically as a beginner... start small. A garden just big enough for success! You can always grow the next year...no pun intended, of course.

Walk around your yard/land no matter how large or small and feel the earth. Once you’ve decided on a good spot, look to see how much sunlight the spot you chose will get. The amount of sunlight is very important... at least 8 hours per day.

Also, it’s good to think about access to water. You probably don’t want to be hauling heavy watering cans too far a distance.

To start, you may want to think of a couple of raised beds — say two at a size of 4 feet by 6 feet. It’s quite amazing how much food you can take from two beds of this size. We use rough hemlock for the beds. Since we practice organic methods, this wood is very good. We buy the hemlock from New England Forest Products in Greenfield. They sell true 2 inch x 12 inch boards and will often cut them to the length you’d like. After you’ve assembled your wood to the desired size (use 4 inch screws, not nails), gather heavy cardboard without any ink or color and line the bottom of the beds with it. This encourages worms to make their home in your garden. Earthworms create 100 times their own weight in castings per year. An average population of earthworms can make 250 miles of tunnels per acre per month. They are definitely beneficial little workers!

Then, add your soil so it fills the beds; Soil is the most important aspect of the garden. Building and maintaining a healthy soil is the first priority. Both texture and structure have an impact on soil chemistry. Usually a combo of compost and potting soil — plants need a grow-ability factor. We use Ideal Compost in Peterborough for most of our soil needs. A good principal is; feed the soil and the soil will feed your plants. And, after a while you will begin to have a solid relationship with your garden. You’ll begin to be aware of what will be successful and what may not work.

Feeding your soil with organic matter, from compost to grass clippings, is a key to successful organic gardening... along with the living organisms in the soil. Good soil is much more than just dirt.

Next, you’re ready to plant either seeds or seedlings. Here’s a chart to help you decide.

Direct Seed Seedlings

Arugula Broccoli

Beans Brussels Sprouts

Beets Chard

Carrots Cauliflower

Cucumber Eggplant

Lettuce Leeks

Peas Onions

Radishes Peppers

Spinach Potatoes

Squash Tomatoes

Salad Mix (mesclun)


The care

There are 5 ingredients for a good producing healthy garden.

Soil: good, clean, rich

Sun: a minimum of 8 hours a day. (I know I already mentioned that)

Water: Try to keep your plants well watered. The best time is in the morning hours. Try very hard not to water at mid day...you can burn the leaves and sometimes your veggies.

Air: Never plant too close together; like us, plants need to breathe.

Love: It might seem odd, but plants love to be loved.

East organic methods

Soil Health: cover crops, compost and manure

Organic Plant Health: compost tea, fish emulsion and anti-fungal spray

Combating Pests: copper tape, sluggo and plants that attract beneficial insects ie: allysum, yarrow, thyme, coriander and marigolds as borders — just to name a few.

The tools

I like to do much of my gardening with my hands rather than use tools. There’s something about the whole spiritual aspect of working in the soil with your hands...kinda brings you closer to nature. You can feel the energy of all the living organisms and at the same time transfer your good energy to what you’ve planted. But, if you’re more inclined to want to use some tools, here are just a couple you can’t live without!

A spade or hand spade, a hoe, a shovel, a watering can and a hose. String and identification sticks.

Good gardening books

Rodale’s Organic Gardening

Elliot Colenan’s Four Season Harvest

A few tips

Order your seeds in February or, buy them locally in March-May

Know what you’d like to grow in your garden ahead of time.

Keep good records of your plantings...it’s always fun to see if you can beat the seed package suggested growing time.

Watch the weather; especially for frost.

Share seeds and garden time with your friends.

Think about companion planting... plants that like one another.

And lastly...


If you have any questions, please phone 784-5069 or email admin@cornucopiaproject.org.

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