How to Grow Organic Foods at Home

May 23, 2019

"Growing fruits and vegetables at home can have a lot of healthy benefits since you’re in control of what type of soil and fertilizer will be coming into contact with your food."

Growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs at home is not only be incredibly satisfying, but has a number of great benefits to your health too. And it’s easier than you think.

In today’s live with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, she’ll take you through how to do your own backyard garden, indoor garden, hydroponic herbs, and more. Don’t miss this special live show with Dr. Nancy!

Video Highlights.

  • 1:52: The benefits of growing your own fruits and vegetables
  • 2:58: Location
  • 8:34: Garden trivia
  • 9:28: Gardening Options
  • 12:06: What to plant
  • 17:38: Hydroponic Garden
  • 18:46: Space
  • 19:33: What to Grow?
  • 20:12: How much do you want to grow?
  • 20:40: How much will it cost?
  • 21:11: Time
  • 22:11: Lighting
  • 22:48: Room Conditions
  • 24:13: Growing Sprouts
  • 31:12: Wrap Up

The benefits of growing your own fruits and vegetables

The benefits of growing your own fruits and vegetables are plentiful. The biggest benefit found in growing your own produce is control. You are in complete control of what you grow, and can make sure your organic fruits and vegetables are free from toxins and pesticides. Homegrown produce also tends to have more nutrients, because you’ll be picking them when they’re perfectly ripened. A lot of store-bought fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe to allow for time in transit and on the shelf. Eating fruits and vegetables that you grow yourself can dramatically cut down your risk of consuming foods that cause inflammations since you will be in total control.

Location

Not everyone has acres and acres of land to explore and to plant. However, there are gardening options for you as well, so don’t you worry. If you are growing a garden in your backyard, there are just a few things that we recommend:

  • Pick a spot that gets at least 6 - 8 hours of direct sunlight every single day.
  • Start small. You don’t want to create a big garden that you cannot maintain or you can’t eat all of the produce that you harvest as this will be wasteful.
  • Use organic soil. This soil is made of living matter that is rich in nutrients and minerals. The perfect soil is loamy soil, which means it’s made up of equal parts of silt, clay, and sand. These are the three ingredients found in soil. You want to use a soil that is free of non-organic fertilizers and free from pesticides.
  • Consider building a raised bed garden. These are constructed from wood and they look like boxes that sit above ground in your backyard. Raised beds are ideal if you live in a location that does not have very quality soil. Planting in raised beds also allows you to control soil nutrients and water.
  • Create a critter-free zone. Enclose your garden with chicken wire, or a fence to keep out critters like groundhogs, rabbits, and even birds.
  • Fertilize. You want to make sure that you fertilize so that you create a garden with good nutrient-rich soil. Fertilize your garden with an organic slow release fertilizer.
  • Water. Plants need water to thrive. Seeds will need to be watered daily. You can use little spray bottles for some. New baby plants need to be watered every two to three days depending on how hot it is outside, and the climate where you live. Once your fruits and veggies really start to get going, you’re going to need to water then one to three times a week. This really depends on your location, where you are and how hot it is outside. If you live in a warmer climate, by July you might even need to water your plants one to two times a day.

Garden Trivia

  • Did you know that if you planted a pumpkin seed in June, it will be ready for harvest by October?
  • Blueberry bushes bear more fruit and bigger berries when planted in pairs of different varieties.
  • When growing asparagus, you’re not supposed to pick shoots until the second year you’ve harvested them. Blueberries and asparagus might not be the best things to plant if you are a nervous gardener.
  • If you plant onions next to strawberries they work really well together and the onions work as a natural pesticide for critters or insects that like to eat the strawberries.

Gardening Options

Let’s say that you don’t have the space to grow a garden in your backyard. Maybe you live in a condo or an apartment... that’s totally fine. You can still create a patio garden depending on the size of your patio. You can easily create the raised bed garden or you can grow vegetables in pots or an elevated planter box which you can let sit outside or on your window sill. Be aware that you’ll have to be super vigilant about watering. Plants that grow in pots dry out much more quickly than plants that grow in the ground.

One more option is the kitchen garden. You can grow micro greens here, which are one of the most nutrient-dense foods that you can eat. These are really great for herbs, sprouts, and even lettuce.

As with the patio garden, you can use an elevated planter box or you can line pots in a row on a sunny window sill or you can hang them from the ceiling. There are lots of really popular ceiling hanging plants that are filled with succulents and ferns. They’re very beautiful as well or you can display them directly on your wall in a wall planter like a living wall. You can do this with herbs and other wonderful, easy, set-it-and-forget-it plants like succulents.

What to plant

Unfortunately, everyone in the United States can’t plant the same fruits and vegetables at the same time of the year. It’s good to make yourself aware of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) hardiness zone maps. It’s a map that shows different colors, represented by different zones and each zone represents a climate. This map shows you the average coldest temperatures in your region, which will help you figure out what plants will thrive in your neck of the woods.

Each zone has what’s called hardiness dates. These are the first and last frost dates. These dates are important because they clue you in to what is the best time to start seeds indoors and then when is the best time to transplant those seeds outdoors to grow, thrive, and to spread. If you do this too soon however, the plant won’t be able to stand the cold temperatures and will either become damaged or they’ll die.

For instance, Cosa Mesa, California is considered Zone 10. This means the coldest average winter temperature is 30°F to 40°F. This is the coldest it will be. A lot of plants can withstand Zone 10 temperatures. The last frost date in Zone 10 is mid January, which means that is when you can start getting plants in the ground outside.

To figure out what hardiness zone that you live in as well as when and what to plant, the Urban Farmer’s website is a great resource. Or just google search the words “urban farmer planting schedule”, and that would be helpful as well. Click on your area and you’re going to see the last and first frost date, as well as a list of what vegetables to plant and when.

Keep in mind that the hardiness zone map is just a guide. You still need to watch the weather as the actual last frost days can vary by a week or two, depending on the type of winter that you’re having in your part of the country. If you are going to create a backyard or a patio garden, there is a certain date that you should start planting seeds indoors. That way you can get a jumpstart on your growing season and maximize your harvest if you’re ready to go and get them in pots or in the ground as soon as the last frost date occurs.

Zone 3 (northern Maine, Minnesota, Montana), means that you have a very short growing window, typically from mid-June to mid-September. Starting seeds indoors prior to that mid-June date will give you a jump on that short growing season, so you’re ready to go as soon as the weather is acceptable for planting.

Never fear. There is a solution to getting more longevity out of your growing season. 

Hydroponic Garden

This is a type of garden that does not use any soil but it does use a solution of nutrients and water in which to grow plants. Hydroponic gardening is fun, super easy, you can grow it vertically, it can save you a lot of space, and your plants will grow faster and bigger. They conserve a lot of water as well. You can grow sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, and berries; you can grow your own salads in your hydroponic garden.

When embarking on your own hydroponic garden, there are a few things to keep in mind:

Space

If you don’t have a lot of room, a hydroponic garden is perfect. You can do a mason jar or you can do your own sprouted kind of plexiglass garden. If you do want to use soil you can do it. You do not need a lot of space; you only need 3-8 feet, depending on the type of hydroponic garden you create.

What to Grow?

If you’re new to gardening, maybe start with a low maintenance herb like mint, lavender, basil, or thyme. Literally put the seeds in some kind of container, walk away and the whole entire thing is grown within a week. It’s really easy. Low maintenance vegetables include kale, spinach, cucumbers, radishes, strawberries and blueberries; these are all anti-inflammatory foods and it’s really easy.

How much do you want to grow?

This goes back to the space issue. Make sure that you have enough space and time to eat what you grow. It would be a shame to put all the time and energy into the fruits of your labor and end up wasting it. But it may take some experimentation the first year to find the right amount.

How much is it going to cost?

From growing supplies to the actual seeds or plants themselves, it’s not that expensive. For example, to buy three little sachets of seeds, gardening gloves, containers, and some soil will cost approximately $14.

Time

All we need is time. How much time do you have to dedicate to your garden? Hydroponic gardens can be easier to start and maintain than other types of gardens. They do require a little bit of time and attention though. For example, you may need a few minutes every morning and in the evening to spray your plants with water.

Lighting

This is very important. Since hydroponic gardens grow indoors, you want to make sure that your plants are getting enough light. If you have a bright, sunny room, great. However, this might not be enough in the winter months depending on where you live. You need to have possibly a high output fluorescent light to sustain your garden. So you might need to look at that if you are living in a place that does not give you a lot of sunlight year round.

Room conditions

You also want to plant your hydroponic garden in a room where you can control the conditions. A hydroponic garden does best at a room with up to 60% relative humidity and lots of air circulation. Add a humidifier if the humidity drops below 40%. If your hair starts to getting frizzy, you probably have enough humidity. The room temperature should stay at around 70°F, otherwise the water temperature may become too warm. If the water temperature becomes too warm, this can lead to root rot. We don’t want that as this will cause your plant to die.

All in all, do your research. There are a number of different hydroponic growing systems. You want to find one that is going to be the best for your space, your time, your budget, and your level of experience.

Growing Sprouts

Sprouts are awesome, and they are one of the most nutritious things you can eat on a daily basis. They can be easily grown indoors even during winter. Here is what you need:

  • One large quart size Mason jar
  • One canning ring
  • One mesh screen cut into a little bit area where you can cover the top. This is so you can have it be breathable
  • Seeds. You can use cilantro, broccoli, radishes or Alfalfa
  • Water

Procedure

  1. Scoop two or three tbsp of seeds into the Mason jar.
  2. Place the screen over the mouth of the jar and then screw on the canning ring.
  3. Add 2 or 3 cups of distilled water to the jar. Make sure the water is free from harmful chemicals like chlorine.
  4. Let the seeds soak overnight in a dark place like the kitchen cabinet.
  5. The next morning/day, drain the water out and make sure your seeds don’t go into the drain. Make sure that the screen is preventing all of the seeds from leaking out and going down the drain. Repeat this process every day until the seeds begin to sprout and then grow. This should take anywhere from three days to about a week. Stop adding water when the sprouts have grown to your liking.
  6. Pat them dry and then store them in the fridge until you’re ready to sprinkle them onto your salad, soup, or stir fry. They should stay fresh for about a week.

If you wanted to grow your sprouts in a plexiglass dish or do it on the window sill, take some organic soil and fill it up in your plexiglass. Fill it up all the way around so it covers the bottom. Take your seeds and sprinkle them in and then cover them with one very thin layer of soil so that none of the seeds are showing. Use a spray bottle with purified water and literally spray them until all of the soil is covered with water, but not saturated and not too much. Place it onto the window sill where there is lots of sunlight and water twice a day. Within three or four days, little sprouts are going to start coming up and then the whole entire thing will be filled with beautiful, rich, dense antioxidants sprouts that you can put in your salads, and sandwiches or just eat them right there.

Wrap Up

Growing fruits and vegetables at home can have a lot of healthy benefits since you’re in control of what type of soil and fertilizer will be coming into contact with your food and then into your body and becomes you. You’ll also be in control of when to pick your produce which can really be a nutrient factor in your food and cut down on inflammation.

Create a garden that’s right for you. Not all gardens are created equal. We‘re all gravitating towards something that makes the most sense for us, whether it will be a patio garden, kitchen garden, raised bed garden or a hydroponic garden.

Also consider space, time and budget. Determining your hardiness zone and hardiness zone dates will help you figure out when is the best time to start seeds indoors and then when is the perfect time to transplant them to their newly created garden outside so that you can get the most out of your harvest.

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