Grow Your Own Vegetables What, When, Where and How
It was in 1914 and in the beginning of World War I, when people suffering from the ravages of war decided that they would not go hungry. And that is why when the menfolk were away fighting, the old people, the children and the women decided that they would grow their own vegetables in their own gardens or in every available free space where they could get 4 inches of soil.
These gardens were called victory gardens and the produce of these gardens made sure that during the war, absolutely no family starved, there was even enough extra to be sold in the market, and also to be sent to feed the whole British army fighting abroad! So just imagine that every family decided that even if it was living in a city or far away from wide-open spaces and farm area, they could grow their own vegetables, right there, in their suburban houses, on their terraces, balconies, or even in their kitchens.
It is surprising to know that by World War II, even though Britain was still very much in the habit of making victory gardens to feed its people, and its army, other countries in the West did not follow this very sensible idea of growing your own food. One wonders why. However, today you can consider yourself on just such an emergency footing. With the world's economic condition being what it is, and not many people bothering much about working their lands to grow food, no wonder they would rather eat unhealthy food, which they buy wholesale in tins and cans, rather than eat healthy nourishing food.
Canning your own food to preserve it has been done all over the world for millenniums. So why are we buying foodstuffs, in cans and tins, full of artificial preservatives, fresh off supermarket shelves?
I remember a friend of mine visiting a country, which had been hard hit by the Great Depression of 2004. She was surprised to see many people of the city, just getting depressed, because they had lost their jobs, and they expected their government to spoonfeed them and give them money for food and clothing. She said, “why do not the states put these people to work on land and help them grow food, doing something useful for a change, instead of just sitting by the side of the road in a self pitying binge?” I told her that that was not the culture in this particular society. People were used, to having other people take on the responsibilities since childhood, and they were not willing to take on any responsibility on their own, or do anything on their own initiative, because all of that meant going out and working.
Of course, one of the most important considerations that you have to think about is what is the soil like. Is it rich and fertile? Does it crumble to pieces, the moment you pick it up and rub it between your fingers? Is it grainy? Is it dry and dusty? Just look at any plot or empty space near your house. What grows there in abundance? Weeds and grass. So, first you have to dig up all of this green grass and all the weeds, skimming them off the plot’s surface. Then you are going to bury this same greenery right into the land, because now it is going to be the basis of rich organic future fertilizer.
Leave this land for a week, and if you want, you can do a little bit more of digging, on the third day. Just because you have upturned all this land, you are soon going to find all the birds in the area arriving to finish off all the worms and insects in the plot.
If you want to poison this land, you can now sprinkle it with poisonous super phosphates, but as I am more inclined to healthy natural fertilizer, go straight to any farm out there, where they have animals. Traditionally, in our area, we just go to the farmers around and ask them to send a cartload of manure, which they deliver by horse cart! That is because organic farming is being encouraged in this area, which has already been poisoned with pesticides and industrial wastes, killing off 50 species of birds and animals within the past decade.
If the grass is deeply embedded, you will have to do a little bit of deep digging to get it out from the roots. This has to be buried even more deeply, about 2 feet, because it is a pernicious type of grass. The sad thing in many parts of the world today is that instead of turning this grass into valuable organic fertilizer, farmers take the easy way out and burn it, as well as the stubble on their lands, after the harvest has been harvested. That is why this year the schools in our area were closed for three days, because the whole of the atmosphere was permeated with thick dark black smoke mixing up with other gases in the atmosphere and definitely not conducive to a healthy respiratory system.
Inspecting the Composition of the Soil
Here, you have to do a little bit of digging. It should be around 3 feet deep. This is going to give you all the layers, up to 3 feet down, and you can see what the composition of the soil is like. Put a little bit of water in these holes, and leave them, overnight. This is going to give you an idea about the drainage.
Soil composition means if it is full of black soil, you are lucky. This soil is rich in natural organic materials like humus, and other organic fertilizer. An aunt of mine, who is very experienced in gardening wanted me to go with her on a trip to the mountains nearby, because as she said, she wanted somebody to pick and carry rich organic fertilizer collected in sacks from under the trees to the car! I went along, anything for a trip to the mountains, and got the menfolk of the family carrying the sacks, while we dainty delicate ladies did the digging with shovels. Picnic lunch, optional.
If you have woods nearby, how fortunate you are. All you have to do is go to the woods, with digging implements, like shovels, and empty sacks and there you are, nature has already provided you with plenty of fertilizer, rich humus, which has been collecting for hundreds of years under the trees in so many layers. Get those with strong backs to lug the sacks to your medium of transport, and then come marching home.
Proper Tools And Equipment
You do not have to go out and buy plenty of expensive tools, just because you decided to grow your own food. However, you just need some tools, which are necessary, starting with a spade. When we were young, we had small spades, made of metal, because plastics were not very much en vogue at that time, and they were light enough and powerful enough to help us dig small holes, everywhere in the garden, much to the chagrin of the tyrant of the garden, our head gardener. According to him, the garden belonged to him, and he obeyed no law than that of my grandmother, ordered him and his two helpers to supply her kitchen with fresh fruit and vegetables for lunch and for dinner, without fail at 11 o’clock and at 5 o’clock every day.
We as children of course would not have been interested in gardening, because when there was somebody else to do the work, our job was just to tiptoe among the daisies and pluck all the fruit from our fruit trees. But because he called our garden “his garden” we had to show that this land was ours! And that is why we learned how to dig, plant, sow seeds, I would not be surprised if this was sort of inverse psychology, which he found very effective, because then we learned how to respect and love the land, instead of being otherwise rather destructive little pests taking advantage of his own hard work and not raising a hand to help.
Planning Your Ground
If you have a plot with the dimensions of 20 x 15 yards, this is much more than you need. But most of the time, we really do not have plots about as large as a good-sized tennis court, especially not in cities, unless we have large backyards.
Divide your plot into two parts, and make a path, down its middle. So now you are going to be growing vegetables on the left and vegetables on the right. It should be wide enough for you, on which to wheel your wheelbarrow.
The rows should run north and south, as far as possible, because that means you are going to be getting more of sun, in this particular direction.
Now here you are with two strips of land. The dimensions are either going to be 20 x 7 yards or 15 x 9.5 yards, depending on how your path is laid.
Let us take the example of 20 x 7 yards, because that is normally more common and the dimensions can be easily worked upon in different sections.
Think about the vegetables you are going to grow here. Herbs, of course. Greens, lots of them. If there are order corners in that land, you are going to use them for growing mint, and other herbs and also rhubarb. If not, you can always take a 6 foot section in any part of the plot, and use them for growing herbs like parsley, mint, sage, marjoram, or whatever you like best.
The rest of the land is going to be utilized for growing different plants in different seasons, but this one is going to remain steady and everlasting as long as your garden grows. The ancient Romans always made sure that their stone paths in the garden had plants of creeping thyme growing under their feet. They did not mind stepping on this Herb, and their gardens were always scented sweetly with the aroma of the Herb’s crushed-underfoot essential oil.
Proper Soil Preparation
More and more people say that digging and trenching is necessary, before and after planting, so that the soil particles can be moved and oxygen can be allowed to go through the earth. But here you need some common sense. The top most layer is the most important layer because it has humus in it. It is friable. The sub layers beneath the soil have not been exposed to air, and the sun. That is why they do not have nourishing materials in them.
So digging them up and bringing them to the surface and covering the nourishing top most layer is not sensible at all. So do not bother to dig up to the subsoil, but increase the surface soil depth, so that any sort of mild moving of the soil, when you are removing the weeds while your plants are growing does not mean any subsoil being thrown up.Loamy soil is of course excellent, but buying it and spreading layers of it on top of your soil to make it thicker topmost soil layer is bad economics. So I would suggest taking your soil, especially if it is made up of clay, and mix it up thoroughly with animal manure, leafy compost, kitchen, refuse, anything green and biodegradable, as long as there are no pieces of plastic and glass or even tins in that mixture, and there you are, you have excellent top most layer material.
You may think this Finch to be a pest, in your garden, but it gets rid of all those pesky insects on your plants and in the soil.
You are going to ask me why I have not given you a list of the vegetables which you are going to grow from month-to-month. This book is global and that is why, what is grown in the month of June and July, in Europe and in America is definitely not going to be grown in the southern hemisphere during these months. So you will need the help of your local nursery and gardeners who are going to tell you the best time to begin sowing, and of course time for harvest.
The Farmer’s almanac online, is one of the best and most useful reference sites available to gardeners all over the world, because you then get information on what to grow when and where. This book has told you the how, why and what of growing your own vegetables.
When your plants have begun producing their own seeds, you can collect them from healthy and vigorous plants, when the seeds are ripe and ready to disperse. This gathering is done in dry weather, and when the seeds are dry. Label them, and store them in a dry place away from moisture and fungus.
Slowly and steadily more farmers are beginning to know the value of natural insecticides to get rid of pests. Apart from honest to goodness neem oil extracted from seeds, 250 g in a 40 gallon bucket of water, and bougainvillea leaves, four handfuls in 10 L of water, left overnight and then used as a spray, here are some really natural organic fertilizers which you are going to use on your crops. Throw all your chemical pesticides out and stop poisoning the land. Enough is sufficient and there is no justified reason for being foolish and stubborn, following practices which were detrimental to the environment, and to your land, just because some agriculture specialists decided that this was the best way in which they could sell their poisonous pesticides with the help of the government, agricultural agencies and the state administrations all over the world, since 1940.
Aphids – these are really tiresome, especially when you see them infecting all your vegetables and eating through the soft stalks.
To get rid of them, you are going to take 1 gallon of water and ¼ pound of soft soap. My friend suggested dishwasher soap water, but I told her that this dishwashing liquid had lots of chemicals in it. So if you can get soft soap anywhere, which has been made up of natural ingredients, this is what you are going to use.
When this mixture has been boiled steadily for about half an hour, which means that the resin and essential oils of the plant has mixed with the soft soap, take some hot water in equal amounts – one bottle hot water, one bottle. This concentrated mixture, and spray all over your plants, when the liquid is still warm.
Your cabbages are going to be attacked by cabbage butterflies, of which the caterpillars are perpetually hungry, and you can see them crawling out of the cabbages and cauliflowers. Spray your cabbages and cauliflower harvest with saltwater. You may also want to encourage birds in your garden, who really love these caterpillars, especially when you have already handpicked them, and they know that you have their feast laid out for them on the ground, near your Cabbage Patch.
You can also sprinkle/dust some lime upon the leaves to make those caterpillars fall off.
A friend told me that he had seen his grandfather dipping cabbage seedlings in a mixture of lime and soot paste before planting, and he never suffered from any pest attacks, including cabbage flies. And after that, when the plants began to grow, he would occasionally spray the plants with saltwater solution. Funny, is not it, that here are these old easy and DIY pesticide ideas right at hand, coming down through the ages, and we have forgotten them. Or never thought of them before…
Red spiders like a dry atmosphere. So if the atmosphere is a bit moist, you are not going to suffer from red spider attacks.
If you have a harvest of turnips and you find some insects borrowing beneath the leaf surface, you are suffering from a leaf miner infestation.
Prevention and cure can be done by spraying your foliage with your soft soap water combination, to which you have added a little bit of paraffin wax. This wax prevents the miners from eventually destroying your plants.
When I was a child, I wondered why our gardener requested father to let our poultry over run “his” garden, because I was under the impression that the hands would be busy uprooting his tomatoes, potatoes, and root crops. However, the birds were the best hunters for caterpillars, wire worms and other number towards, and grew fat and healthy on such rich organic insects available to them every day. Also, other birds were encouraged in our gardens, wherever we had them, by allowing them full access to the soil, after the seeds had grown to a large size, which could not be uprooted by a mere little buddy birdie.
These friends included sparrows, owls, swallows, margins, starlings, magpies, trusts, finches, flycatchers, blackbirds, and our insect friends were the lady birds, the dragonflies, the glow worms, Ichneumon flies and the listening flies. Earthworms, toads, frogs, and hedgehogs, as well as titmice were luckily present in large quantities in our gardens, because it was basically a mountainous forest area, with rich humus soil, unadulterated with poisonous pesticides and chemicals.
Also, any of the birds which ate grain were encouraged to make their nests in our gardens because they did the harvesting of the grubs and the worms to feed their little babies. You may say that they cause a lot of damage, but think of the good that they are going to do, once your seedlings are growing into healthy, vigorous plants, and insects decide that they want to join in the feast.
So the more you begin to acquire knowledge about the plants and vegetables, which are going to grow in your own little plot of land or your garden, the more fascinated you are going to get with this hobby turned full-time occupation. Not only is it relaxing to you, but it is also conducive to plenty of positive strokes, because seriously speaking, I have told a number of my colleague- psychologist friends that instead of encouraging people with a morbid bent of mind to begin analyzing why they are this way, and why they are not that way, – self-absorbed time wasting futile exercise and an analysis of your own identity, with which I have no patience – they should be told to go out in the open air, and do something constructive, and grow vegetables. If they procrastinate and say, no, they do not have the energy to do so, they are not interested in growing something, they would rather sit in a corner and whine, I am sorry, but here is one whole generation lost to becoming parasites on society, wanting to be spoon-fed and not making any effort or lifting up a hand to help themselves.
Also, the teachers of today, in many parts of the world are more interested in getting through a curriculum and getting the children through school, than having them diversify their activities into more outdoor activities, especially gardening. And this is more prevalent in the cities, but in the small towns and villages, where society is still agricultural-based, children learn the value of the land from their family members and know how to respect it.
So it does not matter if you do not have that sort of background of talking about planting, harvesting, sowing, and all that agricultural stuff, as the only topic of discussion. Start small. Achieve something and see it growing on your windowsill. This positive achievement is going to make you want to spread your wings and fly towards the nearest plot of land.
Remember gardening is not something you take up on a whim and then forget about it, because you have lost interest or you think it to be too much of an effort. If you have already decided that it is too much of an effort, and you would rather not start it, you come under the heading of bone lazy procrastinator. And you are never going to grow up to become a responsible person able to survive when the going gets tough. However, if you think that you are capable, want to live a healthy and happy life, want to give your family members, a sense of pride and achievement when they grow their own fruit and vegetables in their own little patch – it is never too early or too late to start!
Live Long and Prosper!