Keeping Your Garden Green
With the last freeze behind us—or at least hopefully behind us—it’s time to get back to the garden. Growing your own fruits and vegetables can be a rewarding and fun way feed your family. I remember when my sisters and I were young we each had a small garden. Our parents allowed each of us to grow whatever we wanted. All I remember growing for sure is peas, but I know there was a lot more too. Getting outside and being responsible for my own plot of land was a good way to learn about how plants grow and where our food comes from. I also had to be responsible for weeding and watering the plants so they wouldn’t die in the hot Utah sun.
I have had a garden for most of my life and now that I’m an adult that hasn’t changed. I have three raised beds in my backyard and have just planted several kids of tomatoes, peppers, kale, zucchini, an English cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, and romaine lettuce. All of the lessons from when I was a kid still apply: I have to make sure to water the beds, go out periodically to pull weeds, fertilize, and maintain the plants.
Fertilizer can be a huge help to create healthy and high-producing plants. Your fruits and vegetables and grow faster and larger because of the added nutrients. Think of fertilizer as a vitamin. Although we might try to eat healthy, there are vitamins and minerals that we may still be lacking, so we take a vitamin supplement every morning. The same is true of our gardens. The plants may be in good soil and receive enough sun, but fertilizer can help to ensure the plants are getting the energy they need.
Fertilizer doesn’t mean you have to give up your dream of having an organic garden. Take a look out there and you’ll find a lot of natural and organic fertilizers that work just as well, if not better, than conventional fertilizers.
Last year at the Farmer’s Market I purchased a bucket of worm castings. Worm castings are the natural waste from worms, also known as . . . worm poop! The castings are a natural way to provide nutrients to your garden. I’m able to make a worm casting tea by simply combining a few tablespoons of castings for each gallon of water. After a week or so, the tea is ready to be used for watering my plants. Unlike conventional fertilizers, there are no chemicals that can cause harm or burn my plants if I accidentally give a plant too much tea.
There are a lot of other natural fertilizers in addition to worm castings. In the last couple of years bat guano has become a very popular fertilizer, though humans have been using bat guano for centuries. Another fertilizer commonly used is manure. We have a great resource in the Salt Lake Valley where you can get free manure if you’re willing to load it yourself. The Salt Lake County Equestrian Park located at 11400 South 2200 West in South Jordan is able to provide free manure or for a minimal charge if they load it for you.
The Salt Lake Valley Landfill is also a great resource for nutrient rich fertilizer in the form of compost. If you aren’t able to compost in your own backyard, you can go to the landfill and get a scoop (approximately 3 yrs. per scoop) of compost for $30.00. The compost comes from the green waste that is collected throughout the valley, including produce and floral clippings from Harmons stores. The waste is then run through a grinder that chops the trees and other waste into very small pieces. Those pieces then sit in huge rows for 6-8 months. Because of the natural process, the rows reach a temperature of 120*, in the winter time you can literally see the steam rise up. The high temperature is reached in order to kill any weed seeds that might be present and to help further break down the material. The compost is then run through a screen to separate the fine and course material. The fine material is ideal for adding to soil for fertilizer and the course material is great for placing on top of the soil as a mulch to help provide nutrients and to help hold water in the ground.
If you’re planning on growing your own garden this year, take a look out there and discover the best options for you to grow beautiful, organic fruits and vegetables.