Going Green
Ideas, Recipes and Lifestyle

Eat Better, Cheaper

Start a spring vegetable garden

Start off spring with by planting a vegetable garden. Before you know it, you'll have fresh, delicious produce for your table at a fraction of the cost

Tip #1: Start with Compost

Having good, healthy soil is crucial to a healthy organic garden, and one way to start improving soil quality is to mix compost into your soil. You can make compost from your own yard trimmings, grass clippings and food waste (such as peels from fruits and vegetables, and even egg shells). Once the mixture is composted, which usually takes a few months, that rich compost can be incorporated in the soil, adding valuable nutrients and biological activity. If you can't wait to make your own, you can purchase compost at most garden centres or nurseries.

Tip #2: Choose Carefully

When you begin planting, usually in the spring, choose vegetables or other plant species that are well-suited to your climate and that tend to be resistant to pests and diseases. Check with your local nursery or university extension service to find out which plants are best suited to your climate.

I tried growing broccoli in my garden, but it really didn't work in the soil that I have: The
broccoli was stunted, and the leaves yellowed. I found out later that the soil had too much

clay, did not drain well, and needed more nitrogen. I could have fostered nitrogen by adding more compost and manure, or by planting soy beans as a cover crop before planting the broccoli. The lessons to me were: Grow plants that are suited to your environment and soil, and ensure your soil is healthy and well-prepared.

Tip #3: Mix Things Up

Planting a diversity of flowers or other plants in a garden is known as "interplanting" (or sometimes "companion planting"), an approach that helps to protect crops against insect pests. It's wise to interplant flowers or herbs between or around vegetables in order to attract beneficial insects and encourage natural pest control.

You can use small plant "starts" that can also be purchased locally. If you start with seeds, it's helpful to put seeds into little pots or a flat tray first, and then transplant them when they are a few inches tall.

Tip #4: Repel Pests Naturally

Plant marigolds, chrysanthemums, dahlias or clematis vines in and around your garden. These aromatic flowers are natural bug repellents because they have strong scents, called olfactory inhibitors, which may confuse or repel insect pests looking for crops to feed on. These flowers also may act as "trap" plants that entice pests away from crops: Nasturtium flowers, for example, act as a trap crop for aphids. In addition, these flowers attract certain types of beneficial insects (such as lacewings, hover flies, ladybugs and pirate bugs), which help control insect pests that feed on vegetables.

Tip #5: Grow Easy

Your organic garden should be a source of pleasure, not frustration. The best plants to grow organically vary depending on where you live, but squash, cucumber, watermelon, tomatoes, peppers, greens, green beans and herbs, as well as all the "natural insect repellent" flowers I mentioned earlier, are relatively easy to grow organically in many climates.

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