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Gardening for livelihood

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‘’Growing your own food is like printing your own money’’ Ron Finley
In the conscious effort to reduce our high cost of survival, and carbon footprint, more and more people are gearing towards a sustainable way of living. For avid fans of gardening, this also means growing their own chemical-free, economical, and eco-friendly edible patch.

Are you ready to really start growing some of your own food in your backyard? You will when you realize how much is to be saved moneywise. To quote Ron Finley an advocate of Urban Gardening, “Growing your own food is like printing your own money” As we become increasingly aware of our collective carbon footprints and its environmental impact, it makes more sense than ever to consider growing some of our own vegetables and fruits. In addition to show-stopping quality and flavor, gardeners have the opportunity to grow 100 percent organic produce, as well as unique or heirloom varieties—without having to pay more for specialty produce at the market. And really, whether you have an acre in the countryside or a balcony in the city, there’s nothing better than enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor!

However, it can be a challenging task to start an edible garden, especially from scratch. But to help you reap the rewards in your own kitchen, I ‘m giving you a list of some of the most useful tips. Aside from being economical and eco-friendly, growing a sustainable space in your yard also means that you take the lead in growing your fruits and vegetables. There is no better way to learn what goes into your meals than planting the ingredients yourself. Edible garden plants can range from herbs to full-grown orchards and peppers to oranges. If you want to start your edible garden journey, follow these simple ways.

Choose a Site
While it’s always tempting to start off big if you have the space, edible gardens take a good deal of attention, so it’s smart to start small and expand slowly. Prioritize what you grow, and plant the crops you like best—think quality, not quantity. Keep in mind some crops, such as corn, melons or pumpkins, require a lot of space to spread out, so be aware of the amount of room you have.

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What to grow
The types of plants you want to grow do not only need to fit your space, but also your schedule. After deciding on the location, you should also consider how much time you can devote to your new edible patch.

For example, some seeds do not require much nurturing after they were planted, but others need a lot of effort and attention. To ensure the success of your edible garden and prevent any problems further down the line, make sure to choose the plants that fit your schedule.
If you are planning to focus on growing a mere vegetable patch, meanwhile, know the basics to ensure success.

Exposure
For the best crops, most edibles, with few exceptions, require at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight daily. Ensure your garden’s sunlight isn’t blocked by mature trees or structures, such as your home or a shed, that will cast shade on your plot.

Healthy Soil
The best soils, known as loams, contain some sand, some silt and a little clay. Loams better hold nutrients, provide adequate drainage, and are workable, easily letting roots penetrate. Adding organic matter, such as compost, is the easiest way to improve your soil. When preparing your garden beds, use it as a soil amendment or as a top-dressing layer, working it in around the plants.

For containers: The best potting mixes contain organic matter such as compost, rice hulls and/or wood chips to provide nutrients, as well as perlite, vermiculite, and/or sand to prevent compaction and increase drainage, and coir or peat to absorb water. Make sure your container has drainage holes in the bottom. If it doesn’t, place a layer of stones or crumpled newspaper at the bottom of your pot.

For garden beds: Aerate and amend the soil with plenty of organic matter to a depth of 12 inches. This can be done manually with a spade or a fork to turn over the existing soil, break up clumps and add organic matter.

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Make your own compost: In your compost bin, layer wet and dry ingredients, taking care to never leave wet materials exposed. Ensure your compost contains a balance of carbon-rich brown material, such as dead leaves, and nitrogen-heavy food scraps and grass clippings. Always keep a bag of dried leaves near your compost bin—that way you have a ready source of dry material to blanket your organic waste!

Care for Your Crops
Fertilize: While adding organic matter to your soil provides nutrients, you can also purchase organic fertilizers, which are easy to apply. Individual crops sometime require special formulas of fertilizer. Look on the package for N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) ratio.
Water: How often you water really depends on the plants, location (sun or shade; windy or enclosed) and the soil. Water early in the morning, so the leaves dry in the warmth of the sun. Watering later in the day, when leaves might remain wet, promotes disease and fungus. Soak the soil—sprinklers lose too much water in evaporation and often the water won’t make its way deep into the soil. The best option for vegetable gardens is a drip irrigation system (also known as trickle irrigation or micro irrigation), which allows water to soak in slowly.

Get labeling
In planting an edible garden, it is essential to label your crops to determine when you’re supposed to be pulling up root vegetables. Readymade labels are available in the market but its best to use some eco-friendly tags such as stones or wood.
Mulch: Mulch prevents weeds from growing, maintains consistent soil temperatures, helps retain moisture and can add beneficial nutrients to the soil. Effective mulches include shredded bark, wood chips, crushed shells, cocoa bean hulls (not good if you have dogs) and straw.

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Have You Considered a Community Garden?
Community gardens have surged in popularity over the last decade, with friends and neighbors sharing knowledge, experience, common areas, tools, labor and produce. Don’t let your produce go to waste either! Share with family, friends and co-workers. Or, throw a produce exchange with fellow gardeners.

CONCLUSION
You don’t have to grow all your own food, or even 10% of it, to plant a tomato or pepper or an African blue basil plant, and to reap the benefits of your harvest. The simple act of growing food can be revolutionary for your finances, and can make a powerful difference for your family’s health, and for our planet.

Gardening in itself is a rewarding activity. But, there are also a lot of reasons to start a mint- fresh fruit or vegetable space in the backyard. So, double the purpose of your garden by doing so!
Finally, the most important thing you need to know about growing your own food is this: Begin.

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