Chapter 3 C - Gardening for Health PDF  | Print |  E-mail

 

Gardening for Health

Take time to smell the posies—and enjoy the fruit of the garden

Many things are important for good health, happiness and the full life. Almost all of them may be found in the garden.

In the garden there are flowers to cheer a saddened heart. There are all sorts of good and tasty things to eat, all packaged to make one grow tall and strong. We all know the health benefits of exercise—none is better than that required to keep a fruitful garden. Every muscle, every ligament, gets put to the test. Not only so, but in the garden one breathes deeply of fresh outdoor air, and catches the healing rays of the sun. It’s hard not to drink a frequent draft of cool, clear water when working up a sweat in the garden—enough to cleanse the kidneys and the pores and to keep well hydrated as well. It has oft been said, “idleness is the devil’s workshop,” but with a garden he’ll find little place to set up shop. Many more are the benefits awaiting one in the garden, but none so great or so good as the opportunity the garden provides for us to get acquainted with He who would become our very best friend and helper in every time of joy and need—our Creator and Redeemer.

Everyone needs a garden. Oh! Not everyone has a nice plot of fertile land. Some have no tools to work the soil. Others have tools, but no precious seeds. In olden times, nearly every child helped earn his/her keep helping in the garden, but this is no longer true in much of the world today. Today, many people have no idea of how to raise a garden.

In this chapter we will look at some of the principles involved in raising a garden—if not for profit, at least for health.

Chapter contents

A) Choosing a place for your garden

B) Preparing the soil

C) Planting your garden

D) Here’s how to plant your seeds

E) How to plant in hills

F) How to plant in rows

G) How to transplant

H) Time to plant

I) Caring for your garden

J) Reaping the harvest

K) Enjoying the harvest

L) Thinking ahead

M) Making soil—composting

N) Raised beds

O) About chemicals

P) Mulch

Q) Berries and small fruits

R) Acid—base soil

S) Pesticides made from plants

T) Resources

 

A) Choosing a place for your garden

Seeds are amazing things. Take a little dirt—almost any kind—drop a seed or two into it, soak it well with water, and presto! The seed sprouts and grows as if by magic. But remember Jesus’ parable about the sower? Those seeds that fell on the rocky place sprouted and shot up quickly, but soon withered and died. Other seeds lay on the hard ground and were eaten by birds. Some of the seed grew among the weeds and soon got choked out. Only the seeds that were planted in the dark, deep soil grew to produce a nutritious crop of food. It’s still true today!—Both in the garden and in our hearts.

Here is what you will need to look for when you plan your garden. Look for a place where the soil is rich and deep, where it gets the direct rays of the sun at least 6–8 hours daily, and where there is water available either as rain or by irrigation. The size of the plot will depend upon what you plan to do with it, whether you plan just a few flowers and a couple of vegetables, or to grow food enough for yourself and your family for the whole year.

Even a few square feet of space between buildings or large pots on a patio or porch can provide flowers and tasty vegetables for those who must live in close quarters in the city. And plants grown inside the house clean the air and produce oxygen to breath.

It is best if your garden is close by so that you can watch it closely for bugs and weeds, water it when needed, and where you can pick the produce when at its prime.

Note: In Russia, some people live in the city and have a garden and a small shelter (Dacha) in the country many miles away. Many commute by public transportation. In some places in Africa, people walk five miles or more to their garden and carry the produce home on their heads. In other places, people grow their garden between buildings or in pots on the veranda.

Note: Soil can be made almost anywhere if not already available. Sand or clay, it makes no difference except to avoid a toxic dump. You can take what is available, add organic material (leaves, grass, husks, spoiled food, etc.—avoid grease) and in a couple of years have excellent soil.

Note: Sunlight is important for most fruiting and root plants. Salad greens and some other plants do well in shady places. You will need to tailor your planting to the place you have available.

B) Preparing the soil

Once you have determined your garden plot, you need to prepare the soil. Plants do best when the soil is loose and soft.

Here’s how! Using some kind of shovel, loosen or turn the soil as deeply as possible—breaking up all the hard lumps. 12 inches deep is often adequate. Place walking stones or boards on the prepared soil so as to avoid walking on and packing the loosened soil. This is also the time to add other soil nutrients like your composted organic matter, lime, etc.

Note: Gardeners like to share. When you have questions—about anything related to the garden—just ask a gardening friend!

C) Planting your garden

There are a number of ways to plant your garden. You may plant seeds, young plants started in a greenhouse, slips off mature plants (only some plants will start this way), roots from other plants, bulbs, etc. Most annual flowers and vegetable crops, beans, tomatoes, grains, etc., can be grown easily from seeds. For some crops like potatoes, yams, etc., you will need to plant a portion of the potato or yam.

D) Here’s how to plant your seeds

You may plant large seeds like corn, beans, melons, pumpkins, and similar ones either by placing a few together in a hole, often called a “hill,” or in a small straight trench in a row. Some seeds do best when planted in rows. Grains do well when scattered broadcast on the prepared soil. Some seeds are best allowed to grow and mature where planted. Some start best when planted close together, but need to be transplanted and spread out to grow when a few inches tall. Since not all of the seeds you plant will sprout and grow, and since the bugs, worms, birds, and animals will get some, one must always plant more than needed.

These seeds do well in hills 2-3 feet apart: Corn, beans, potatoes

These seeds that form vines do well in hills 4-6 feet apart: melons, cucumbers, pumpkins, etc.

These seeds may be planted in hills or rows: Corn, beans, peas, melons, pumpkins, etc.

These seeds may be started indoors or close together and later transplanted: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, cabbage, and many more.

These plants are planted individually: Potatoes, yams, many others.

These seeds do well in rows, thinning them out to 1-3 inches apart when 2–3 inches tall: Carrots, beets, radishes and many other rooted plants.

Note: Each plant must be given enough room to spread its roots in the ground and its leaves to the sun. Give plenty of room.

E) How to plant in hills

After preparing your soil, Use a string as a guide to make a straight line. Dig holes about 3 inches deep and the appropriate distance apart, depending upon what you are planting. Place 4 or 5 seeds, or a piece of potato in each hole and cover with dirt. Pack gently. Make your rows about the same distance apart as your hills are apart.

Note: Potatoes do well when planed in the soil, but they also do very well when lying on top of the soil and covered with 8-12 inches of mulch—like straw, mulched leaves, etc. Keep well watered. They will be good quality and are much easier to harvest.

Note: To plant potatoes, take a good potato that has not been treated to keep it from sprouting, and cut it with a clean, sharp knife into pieces in such a way that each piece has at least two eyes (dimples where the sprouts come out).

F) How to plant in rows

If you plant large seeds like corn, beans, pumpkins, etc., in rows, dig a trench about 2–3 inches deep. Space seeds of corn and beans 6–8 inches apart, and vines about twice that far apart. Cover with soil.

Onion sets may be planted in rows. If they will be pulled and eaten as young green scallions, they may be planted close together. If seed onions are planted for mature onions, they will need to be several inches apart in order to grow large onions.

Most small seeds should be planted about as deep as the diameter of the seeds, although some need to be deeper, and some do best when lying on top of the soil. If there are specific directions, they may printed on the package. Most small seeds do well when planted close together. The plants may be thinned later when a couple of inches tall. Space your rows far enough apart to give ample light to the plants and to give room to walk between the rows.

G) How to transplant

Some plants are easier to transplant than others. Root vegetables are usually very difficult to transplant.

Seedlings may be transplanted when well established, usually about 2 inches tall.

With a hand tool, gently dig up the seedlings you wish to transplant, being careful to dig deep enough to get all of the roots. Then gently tease each seedling from the soil, being very careful not to injure the roots any more than absolutely necessary. Make a hole deep enough and wide enough to accompany the roots where the seedling is to be planted, drop the seedling into the hole, and gently press the soil around it. (The technique is the same whether transplanting to a pot or directly into the garden.) Do not allow the roots to dry out, and water well after planting.

H) Time to plant

In cold climates, one must wait for warm weather before planting seeds outdoors. Some plants like the cool days and nights of spring and fall and do best when planted as soon as the soil is dry and warm enough to work in the spring. Others that are very sensitive to cold must not be planted until the last frost is past. Many plants can be started by a sunny window in the house, or in a green house or cold frame, and transplanted out of doors when the weather is warm. In some very cold climates, a green house will be necessary throughout the growing season for some plants.

Gardening in tropical and sub-tropical regions often requires consideration of the rainy and dry seasons. Planted too soon and the seeds may be washed away—or too late and they will not be mature enough for the arrival of the dry season. Where irrigation is available, one has much more flexibility in choosing a time to plant. Again, don’t be afraid to ask people who know in the area where you live. They will tell you what is best to plant and the best time to plant.

I) Caring for your garden

Gardens require a lot of attention and a wide range of activities—one of the reasons they are good for one’s health. Digging around the plants with a hoe or fork periodically (once a week or so) loosens the soil and lets it breathe (try not to disturb the roots). During warm, dry weather it helps to bring moisture to the roots.

Pulling weeds is important. Weeds are often more aggressive plants than vegetables and flowers. If allowed to grow they often steal the moisture, nutrients, and sunlight needed by your plants.

Watering is necessary in dry climates. One may water by sprinkling, by dripping, by flooding or by ditches running beside the rows. Different kinds of plants require different amounts of water—some rice needs to be flooded. Some vegetables and flowers require high ground with good drainage to keep their roots from rotting. Your friends will help you know what works best for your growing conditions.

Looking out for disease is a daily affair. Bugs and worms can destroy a garden in a hurry—even when you have used all the best natural practices for keeping your plants healthy. Since some bugs are beneficial and some are very destructive, you will need to learn which are which. Just watch them closely to see what they do. Then pick off and destroy those that are beginning to destroy your plants before they lay their eggs and another, even bigger generation is on the way. Many pests can be controlled by natural methods that you may learn from friends or books, but sometimes you won’t have much of a crop unless you use a few well-planned chemicals. Each gardener must decide in his/her own mind what is the best way to go when faced with loss.

J) Reaping the harvest

After you have cultivated, weeded, given your plants a drink, and controlled the pests, it’ll be time to reap the harvest. Watch closely as your garden begins to ripen. Pick your produce when still tender and sweet. A little practice will teach you when that is for each variety.

Some varieties of vegetables and flowers (determinate) bare only one crop and ripen all of their fruit at about the same time—then die. (You may want to plant these several times during the growing season in order to have them available.) Others (indeterminate) continue to flower and bear fruit as long as growing conditions are satisfactory. It is necessary to keep the fruit of these picked as they ripen in order for them to continue to produce. If mature fruits are left on the plants—cucumbers, tomatoes, string beans, etc., they will use all of their energy and stop production.

K) Enjoying the harvest

Eat what you pick—use it as soon as possible for optimal flavor and nutrition. Whatever is left over, you may give away, preserve by canning, freezing, drying, or storing in a cool, dry cellar, etc.

L) Thinking ahead

Seasons come and go rapidly. Soon it will be planting time again. Did you save some seeds to plant then? Many seeds can be cleaned and dried and saved for the next growing season. It will save you a lot of money if you do, and you can save seeds from those plants that do well in your area or that you enjoy the most. There is one note of warning. Only seeds from natural plant lines can be used. Seeds from crossed or hybridized plants will not produce the same good fruit as those from which you took the seeds. Knowing this, you may wish to be careful to select your seeds each year such that at least some will breed true each year. Even then, there are warnings. Plants tend to cross-pollinate easily. If you are planning to save the seeds, it will be necessary to plant similar varieties of plants at some distance from each other to prevent cross pollination and to keep pure lines of crops. (Examples: Pumpkins and squash may cross with each other. Cucumbers and melons will cross.) Once you have cleaned and dried your seeds, place them in a clean, dry place safe from pests and thieves.

M) Making soil—composting

When green or moist organic matter—leaves, stems, roots, garbage, and almost any other plants that grow are piled together, they begin to decompose. Bacteria, yeast, worms and all manner of microscopic organisms feed on the decaying matter and break it down into nice, soft dirt. The process can be hastened by keeping it moist and by turning it over and mixing it every few weeks. Once the material is nice and soft and sweet to smell, it needs to be mixed with mineral matter such as sand or clay or some mixture of these. One part of compost mixed with two parts of soil is a good place to begin. You may keep adding compost each season until your soil is rich and dark and holds the moisture well. Depending upon the source of organic matter, you may need to add calcium (lime) and phosphorous to obtain the best produce.

Note: Sawdust and similar organic matter that is slow to decompose may use nitrogen in the process. If you are growing your garden on wood chips, bark, sawdust, etc., before it is completely composted, you will need to add nitrogen to the soil for growth and fruit production.

As an alternative, you may spade your finely mulched leaves and other organic matter into the ground when available, or place on the garden to be turned under either late in the season or early next season.

A friend I once had was a baker at a food establishment. He saved the garbage from the kitchen each day, took it home, and dug it into his garden. His plants and produce were excellent.

N) Raised beds

Raised beds are a good way to make a garden when you don’t have much room, where there is poor drainage of the land, or when your water supply is limited and you don’t want to waste it. Using logs, boards, rocks, etc., make a container 3-4 feet wide and as long as you like. The narrow container allows you to care for the plants without stepping on the soil and packing it down. Fill the container with a good soil mixture as described above or as purchased from the store. At the proper time, plant your seeds or plants, keep them watered and watch them grow and produce.

O) About chemicals

Many potent chemicals are on the market and prized for their benefits. While pesticides and insecticides may eliminate many of the gardens pests, they also destroy many beneficial creatures. Fertilizers and mineral additives may create very high yields, but do often damage the soil over time. When one attempts to weigh the risks against the benefits of using chemicals, one must be very careful and honest. An acre of corn may yield 30 or 40 bushels (until you get it well built up with organic material) without chemicals, but with them, may yield more than 200 bushels. If your garden is just for you and your family and you have adequate garden space, you may prefer to avoid most chemicals. If, on the other hand, you are trying to raise food for millions of starving kids, you may look at it differently. In each case one must calculate the risk against the potential benefits and choose which takes priority.

P) Mulch

Mulch is a term used for material covering the ground around your plants to keep them insulated from extremes of weather. They serve to protect your plants from cold in winter and from excessive heat in summer. In addition, they help to preserve moisture and prevent evaporation. The most commonly used mulch materials have traditionally been composed of straw, leaves, bark, etc. To use, place several inches of the material around the plants either when planted or later.

More recently, specifically designed plastic films have become available and may be very effective. To use, lay out the plastic, weight it down with soil or stones along the edges, poke holes where you wish the plants to go and carefully insert them into the soil through the holes. This is a good way to get your plants off to a rapid start.

Q) Berries and small fruits

There are many berries and small fruits that are easy to raise and that provide an excellent source of valuable nutrients. Many berries do well where there is not enough sunlight for other plants. Like vegetables and flowers, small fruits do require good soil and plenty of water. Most berries and small fruits grow from cuttings or roots rather than from seeds. Once established, they may last for years with good care.

R) Acid—base soil

Most vegetables and many fruits and flowers grow best in soil having a neutral ph—neither too acidic nor too alkaline. Accordingly, it is usually not necessary to pay much attention to the acid-base balance in the soil. On the other hand, blueberries and some other plants listed here require a very acidic soil to thrive. Acidity can be easily checked with Ph paper available from a pharmacy or with a Ph meter. If neither are available, one can obtain an estimate of acidity by tasting the soil. A sour taste suggests high acid. A bitter taste suggests alkaline soil.

1. Acid-loving plants

Most berries, potatoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts, radishes, watermelon, chrysanthemum, marigold, and many trees of the forest.

Acidifying additives: Acid peat or muck, mulched oak leaves, bark or sawdust, cottonseed meal, sulfur.

2. Alkaline-loving plants

Most garden vegetables do well in neutral or mildly alkaline soils.

Alkaline additives: Limestone, preferably limestone-containing magnesium (dolomite) takes about a year for optimum effect.

Dry wood ashes are a good source of rapid release lime and potash (potassium) for alkalinizing acid soil. For rapid assimilation, work a cupful of wood ashes into the soil around the plant, and water well.

S) Pesticides made from plants

Plant oils are complex mixtures of natural substances made by plants. Botanical oils are derived from various parts of the plants, such as flowers, fruits, leaves, and wood. Plant oils sometimes repel certain animals and insects and sometimes kill. Pesticides made from botanical oils are derived from plants that are known to have insecticidal properties.

Pyrethrums are natural insecticides produced by certain species of chrysanthemum plant. Flowers are harvested shortly after blooming and either dried and powdered, or the oils extracted with solvents.

Rotenone is an extract from plants in the pea family. It has been used in organic farming, but may cause nerve damage and Parkinson’s disease.

Other oils, citrus, mint, pine, capsicum extracts, tree oils, and vegetable oils are used as pesticides.

Canola: Oil is obtained from the seeds of two species of rape plants (Cruciferae—mustard family). It is used to control a wide variety of crop pests. It repels insects by altering the outer layer of the leaf surface or by acting as an insect irritant. It has no known harmful effects on humans or the environment.

Catnip oil: Nepatalactone is the essential oil. It is a very effective mosquito repellent; 10 times more effective than DEET.

Citronella oil: Citronella oil is derived from grasses and used as an insect and animal repellent.

Cotton seed oil: This is the most insecticidal of the vegetable oils, but is not generally available.

Garlic oil: Garlic oil is not technically an essential oil. It has antibacterial, antifungal, amebicidal and insecticidal qualities. Its main disadvantage is that it kills good and bad insects alike. It is very good for aphids, small caterpillars, and whiteflies.

Tobacco is a very potent insecticide (and killer of people!). While it kills both desirable and unwanted insects, it is most beneficial for controlling sucking insects (red spiders, aphids, etc.). To use, boil 30 grams of tobacco in 4 liters of water. Cool. Add 2 ounces of liquid soap. Spray on plants after applying a test dose. CAUTION: Tobacco is toxic. DO NOT leave where animals of children can have access to it.

Nematodes, microscopic size insects that destroy the roots of plants, including carrots and other root vegetables, may be destroyed by digging tomato, egg plant, akai weed, or marigolds (before blooming) into the soil. These insects are also destroyed by heating the soil.

Cutworms, so named because they cut newly transplanted young plants off at ground level, may be controlled by wrapping a 4 cm strip of paper around each plant so that it extends 1 cm below the soil line, and 3 cm above. As an alternative, wood ashes sprinkled around the plants are said to keep the worms away.

 

1. To make garlic oil spray

Soak 3 ounces of finely minced garlic cloves in 2 teaspoons of soybean, sesame, canola, or other fine, light oil for at least 24 hours. Add 1 pint of water mixed with 1/4 ounce of liquid castile or commercial insecticide soap. Stir thoroughly and strain into glass jar for storage. When needed, mix 1–2 tablespoons of mixture to a pint of water. Spray plants for thorough coverage AFTER testing for possible leaf damage on a small portion of a plant.

2. How to make herbal oil sprays

Herbal sprays are made by mashing or blending 1–2 cups of fresh flowers or leaves with 2–4 cups of water and soaking overnight—or by pouring the same amount of hot water over 2–4 cups of fresh or 1–2 cups of dried flowers or leaves and let steep until cool. Strain and dilute with 2–4 cups of water. Add 1/4 teaspoon of non-detergent liquid soap per 1–2 quarts of spray.

T) Resources

There are an abundance of books on the market giving instructions for effective gardening. The Internet is also an excellent resource. Perhaps the best source of all is another gardener.

 
© Copyright 2010 by A Place of Healing.