With the wide variety of fresh fruits and veggies consumed on a daily basis, we happily welcome the growing season by preparing and planting our organic gardens. If you have never grown your own food, this is a great time to give a backyard garden a try. At The Paleo Diet, we have been tending to lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, peppers, cucumbers, kale, parsley, basil, and German thyme, just to name a few. Follow us throughout the summer and into the fall as we report on our progress and share tips and tricks for a successful harvest. We are also sharing delicious Paleo recipes using ingredients straight from the ground they grow in.
Once you’ve decided to grow your own food, the most important decision is choosing the ideal location for your garden. Even those who live in homes with little to no yard, can usually find a sunny place for a pot or two for growing tomatoes, herbs, peppers, lettuce, or other veggies. Your garden may be extensive and take up the majority of a large yard, or be nurtured on a small porch or patio, or somewhere in between. The most important thing to be considered is the amount of sunshine the area receives throughout the day. Shady gardens typically don’t yield hefty amounts of produce, while sunny to partly sunny locations tend to be successful. Although it sounds basic, many people overlook this important point when first choosing to start a garden. So let the sun shine and let’s get started!
Preparing Your Space
Now that you’ve chosen the perfect location for your garden, it’s time to design the space. If your garden will be in the ground, with no raised borders, be sure to prep the soil. You can do this by digging out the entire area and either removing the existing soil, or mixing it with organic potting soil. The best way to determine which method would be best for you, is to consider the type of soil in your area. Hard clay, or sandy soils typically are poor foundations for a successful garden. Also, if the soil in your yard has been exposed to chemicals, or any type of polluted run-off, you will want to remove the soil and replace it with rich, organic dirt, being mindful of future water sources that will affect your crops. Many people are now choosing raised garden beds that are placed in locations that are free of these concerns. These garden beds are easy and inexpensive to build and even come in kits with easy assembly.
At The Paleo Diet, our space was limited so we opted for a raised garden trough placed on a sunny patio and free of contamination from other garden soils. When choosing containers for raised gardens or pots, be sure the materials used to make them are free of solvents, paints, glues, or other adhesives that can leach into your soil and damage your plants. The more natural the product, the more likely your food will be free of contaminants. Once you’ve determined the best option for your garden, it’s time to get planting!
Once you have created your garden space, keep in mind that not all dirt is clean! To ensure that the food you produce is of the highest quality, it needs to be grown in rich, organic soil. Most nurseries and gardening stores offer a wide variety of soils that are sold by the yard, or in bags. Soils designed for growing trees, shrubs, and flowers typically contain added nutrients that will help them grow and flourish, but these aren’t necessarily the best for your veggie garden. Soils for growing food products come in a variety of forms. Be sure to choose organic soil for your garden so that your home grown fruits and veggies will be of the highest quality and free from unwanted chemicals and additives. To keep your garden healthy with rich nutrients, you may want to give composting a try. You can find many sites online with good information for how to create your own compost right at home.
Choosing Your Plants
Most nurseries now sell fruit and vegetable seeds as well as starter plants that are labeled organic. This means they have not been exposed to pesticides and chemicals when grown. This is the best option and will give you confidence that you are getting the healthiest start to producing your own food. Once you have prepared your garden area with organic soil, you are ready to go! Make sure to read the description for each plant and the instructions for spacing and soil depth. This will ensure that your plants will thrive without crowding or root depth issues. Once you’ve planted your garden, be sure to water thoroughly. Don’t worry if the plants look a little droopy immediately after planting. As long as they receive enough water and sunshine, they will perk up pretty quickly. After a few days, you may have to trim off a few yellowed leaves. This will encourage new, healthy growth as the plants become established.
Water your garden everyday throughout the growing season. On especially hot days, above 90 degrees, we water in the early morning and again in the evening. Most plants will do just fine, but leafy greens such as lettuce and kale, wilt quickly in the heat and do best when the soil around the roots stays moist. We get excited when Mother Nature sends us her quenching rain, as it is by far the best source of water for making happy crops.
Reaping the Rewards
After about the first three weeks, some plants will be ready for their first trim. Lettuce, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens will continue to produce throughout the growing season. Start at the outside of the plant and snip off leaves until you get to the smaller inside leaves. Herbs like cilantro, parsley, and basil can also be trimmed throughout the season for adding to your Paleo dishes. We take “fresh” literally at The Paleo Diet, and wait until the moment of final preparation to pick our produce. From snipping to serving, the less time in between, the more alive our food will be!