On Wednesday, November 24, I got the chance to head out to the arboretum before leaving town for Thanksgiving festivities. When I arrived, I realized that the lettuce, mixed greens, mustard greens, chives, and kolrabi were all ready for harvesting, so I grabbed some and hit the road. My family was excited to see what I had brought home. The lettuce and mixed greens were thrown together to make a luscious salad for our big Thanksgiving dinner, and we added chives to the traditional mashed potato dish for flavoring. My family couldn't believe how good the food looked, and more importantly , how great everything tasted. As we finished up our big meal of the night, my mom told me that we will have to have our own garden next spring and summer.
When someone asks me why I believe we should try to eat local and organic, I usually start spewing off tons of reasons, such as we don't usually know where out food comes from, what fertilizers and pesticides were used, whether or not the seeds planted were genetically modified, and if people were exploited during the growing process. What I often forget, though , is to talk about the most important potential consequence of eating local and organic: the bonds it creates between people. Unlike past Thanksgivings, I felt that I was more connected to the food because I had helped grow it, and my family's appreciation of that made us all more aware of what we were eating and how we were all able to enjoy it together. I can't wait to have a garden with my family next summer.
If you, too, want to start your own garden for the spring/ summer, go ahead and start preparing now. Here's a little bit about soil composition to help you out:
Figure out your soil composition: Is it mostly sand, silt, or clay? Ideally, you will have a balance mixture of three, known as loam. Loam is best because it retains moisture and nutrients but doesn’t stay soggy.
Do you have worms? The presence of worms indicates that your soil is very healthy and nutritious.
Make sure you have an adequate water supply: The student organic garden uses a drip irrigation system, which I've read is best because it decreases erosion and mineral loss.
What is the PH? The degree to which a soil is acidic or basic plays an essential role in garden production. This will be tested in the soil test. Lime is usually added if the soil is too acidic.
Perform a soil test: Some of the elements that a test looks at are Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium. It will tell you the levels of each and what organic material you need to add to make your soil more fertile.
Don't forget compost: "Compost is a soil conditioner, fertilizer, and mulch all wrapped into one". It will help with your soil's water retention and drainage issues and add organic matter to your garden.