Five Benefits Of Growing An Organic Garden
By: Kat Yares
No matter where you go today, people are talking about organic foods. From the daily paper to the local super-center, organic is definitely in. No longer are organic fruits and vegetables just for treehuggers or the old hippies; they have come into the mainstream diet with a bang. So what exactly are the benefits of growing an organic garden? Keep reading to learn more.
Benefits of Growing an Organic Garden
Below, I’ve outlined five of the reasons why, if you have a garden, it should be organic.
- Taste – While many organic fruits and vegetables will not have the uniform look of those you purchase in a supermarket, they will have superior taste — a virtual explosion of flavor that bears little resemblance to the taste of commercially raised produce. Nothing tastes better than fresh fruits or vegetables straight off the vine, tree, or plant. For fruits and veggies that don’t have to be cooked, they can be tasted right there in the garden.
- Health – An organic garden is free from toxic chemicals, which means that the produce is free also. Your fruits and vegetables will not have a chemical residue that would enter your body if not thoroughly washed away. Organic produce has also been shown to have a higher vitamin and mineral content than produce grown with the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. By planting your own organic garden, you are assuring yourself and your family the best possible fruits and vegetables. Plus, you have the added benefit of exercise; from planting the seeds to carrying in the harvest, working in your garden will help tone your body and work off extra calories.
- Money – Planting your own organic vegetable garden will save you money. That is something we all want to do. Buying organic produce at farmers markets and health food stores can cost up to 50% or more over the regular supermarket. By growing your own, you save money at the store, and in these days of rising fuel costs, you won’t have to make as many trips for the perishables. Preserving the excess will enable you to make your garden last long into the winter months without have to purchase ‘greenhouse’ vegetables from the store.
- Spiritual – Ask any gardener, especially an organic gardener, what they think about while tilling the soil, planting seeds, or pulling weeds in their garden. You’ll probably get an answer similar to these: “it’s my time with my higher power,” “being in the garden brings me closer to nature” and “working in the soil and watching the garden grow makes me feel I am part of something larger” or “it’s meditative” and “my time of prayer.”
- Environment – Since organic gardeners use no chemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, none of these chemicals can run off and find their way into the water supply. Another benefit of this lack of chemical run-off is that small animals, birds, and beneficial insects are not harmed. Because organic gardeners are continually building up their soil with organic matter, there is less erosion of topsoil leading to general erosion, which can impact an entire area. By putting organic waste into compost, you are helping relieve landfills from waste that would otherwise be taking up space there.
The benefits of organic gardening are many. I have only listed a few of the best. Your next step is learning to preserve the excess. By simple methods of freezing, drying and canning, you can literally enjoy the fruits of your labor on the coldest days of the winter. Even if you don’t have room for a large garden, or can only container garden, the use of organic gardening principles will reward you in many different ways, including having the best and healthiest produce.
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The Rise of Company Gardens
HERE at the world headquarters of PepsiCo, the masterminds behind $60 billion worth of Mountain Dew, Cheetos and Rice-A-Roni roam polished hallways.
But a five-minute walk away is the organic corporate vegetable garden, where spreadsheets and performance reviews give way to basil starts and black peppermint plants. Employees can sneak out for a quick lunchtime weeding session and cart home the harvest.
As companies have less to spend on raises, health benefits and passes to the water park, a fashionable new perk is emerging: all the carrots and zucchini employees can grow.
Carved from rolling green office park turf or tucked into containers on rooftops and converted smoking areas, these corporate plots of dirt spring from growing attention to sustainability and a rising interest in gardening. But they also reflect an economy that calls for creative ways to build workers’ morale and health.
“It’s almost as if they are saying, ‘Yeah, we couldn’t give you a pay increase and yeah, times are tough, but this is something we can do to help improve the quality of your life,’ ” said Bruce Butterfield, the research director for the nonprofit National Gardening Association.
In corporate language, there is very little benchmarking on the numbers of gardens. But dozens of companies in several parts of the country have recently installed them or are digging them this spring.
That Google, Yahoo and Sunset magazine have started organic gardens is not a surprise. They are, after all, based in Silicon Valley, where the work force is almost as comfortable composting as it is programming.
But the trend has caught on at more-traditional companies, too. At the headquarters for the Kohl’s department stores near Milwaukee, the organic gardens provide vegetables for a local food bank and a place for children at the company child care center to play. Abundant crops of pumpkins and tomatoes grow at the Toyota plant in Georgetown, Ky.
Still, what seems like a good idea in the conference room doesn’t always translate to the field. People don’t always follow through. It’s the same dynamic that fills the office refrigerator with old yogurt containers and moldy lunches.
At PepsiCo, most of the plots are still weedy and empty. The weather has been cool and so, gardeners say, has enthusiasm. Last year when the company first turned over a plot the size of two tennis courts to peppers and tomatoes, 200 of the 1,450 employees here signed up, mailroom workers and midlevel administrators alike. This year, the volunteers dwindled to about 75, and many of them have yet to ready their plots.
So on Tuesday, Anu Malhotra from the food services division pulled on her gardening gloves and yanked weeds from small squares of land that weren’t even her own.
“Corporate strategies had two plots last year, but they were always traveling, so we just kind of took over,” she said.
At Aveda, which offers on-site massage and organic cafeteria food at its headquarters near Minneapolis, the garden is a chance for its 700 employees to take a break from their desks and take home fresh produce. Workers pay $10 for the season and in return, they get a share of the bounty. Picking up a hoe is optional, but encouraged.
“It does seem like work, but it’s a different kind of work from our regular workday,” said Peggy Skinner, an employee who pushed to have the garden installed.
Aveda employees sometimes need to be cajoled to take their turn at the weeds. This year, to keep on schedule, Ms. Skinner has devised a chore calendar and suggests twice-weekly gardening sessions. Reminder e-mail messages will be sent.
For some employees, beanpoles quickly become just another part of the office scenery. On a visit last fall, the special self-watering “earth box” container garden on the Google campus in Mountain View, Calif., was filled with fewer actual gardeners than with workers hurrying through on their way back to their desks, cafeteria trays filled with free food balanced on their laptops.
Nevertheless, the editors of Human Resource Executive magazine were so taken with the corporate-garden concept that last month they named the garden run by the employees of Haberman, a Minneapolis-based public relations firm, one of the top five benefits ideas of the year.
True, some of the 24 workers at the firm still enjoy an afternoon mocha, but they also reach for the brussels sprouts and cucumbers packed into the company refrigerator. Even a scant crop of peas was passed around the conference room table as a snack.
Kim McMartin, who lives in a condo in downtown Minneapolis, had never planted a thing until she stuck some green bean seeds into the ground at the Haberman garden last summer. Some were planted too deep. Others were too shallow. As a result, her beans came up crooked.
This year, she vows to do better.
The new corporate green thumb is not necessarily a sign that American business culture is becoming more agrarian-minded, said Peter Cappelli, director of the Center for Human Resources at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. It’s more about the popularity of backyard gardening.
A National Gardening Association survey done in conjunction with Harris shows that 41 million Americans grew fruits and vegetables in 2009. That’s about 13 percent more than the year before.
In many cases, employee groups asked for the gardens. Sometimes, managers suggested them to help supply a food bank or as a team-building activity. It turns out that building tomato trellises together can help erase office hierarchies.
“It takes the politics out of the job,” said Sheila Golden, a senior manager at PepsiCo whose team grew what everyone agrees were the best tomatoes in the corporate garden last year. “Everybody is on the same level in the garden.”
Another beneficiary can be the company cafeteria. Best Buy planted a garden at its headquarters in Richfield, Minn., to help improve the food it serves to 4,600 employees.
“I really looked at it as what difference does a little bit less shrubbery make to my employees? Not much,” said Ian Ellis, director of corporate facilities. “But having fresh herbs and fresh tomatoes would make a big difference.”
A small plot or a few containers can cost a company less than $1,000 to install. At the higher end, Chesapeake Energy, a power company, is finishing a $500,000 garden this week that fills a city block just east of its main campus in Oklahoma City with container beds, gardening sheds and water sources. And there are ongoing expenses, like paying someone to tend the crops when employees can’t.
Cafeteria cooks may be delighted to get fresh herbs and vegetables, but managers can have other concerns, said Kent Buell, a resident district manager with Bon Appétit, the food service company that has installed kitchen gardens for 12 of its 80 corporate clients, including Best Buy, Intel and Target.
“A C.E.O. of a Fortune 500 company loses some control when they have a garden on the premises,” he said. “They worry about supply chain. They have the health and safety committee weighing in. They worry about what it brings to the brand.”
Finding arable dirt can be a challenge. Many corporate headquarters are surrounded by acres of empty land, but the soil is often mixed with fill from building construction. And all that sod in the corporate business park has been kept green with chemicals.
Then there are more mundane worries, like how to dress for a day that includes both garden work and a budget meeting with the boss.
Harvard Pilgrim, a nonprofit health care company with 1,150 employees in New England, planted gardens at its campuses in Wellesley and Quincy, Mass., last year. Some of the neophyte farmers change into their gardening clothes at the end of the day. Others get down in the dirt every morning and then use the company showers.
Tammy Binette, 40, arrives at the Quincy branch 15 minutes before her 7 a.m. receptionist shift so she can water the crops. She harvests at lunch and sometimes drives extra produce to the local food bank.
Since all the beds are raised and the paths between them well tended, Ms. Binette just goes out in her dressy work shoes, taking them off and walking barefoot in the grass on nice days.
“I even went out there in stiletto heels a couple times,” she said.
5 Secret Health Benefits of Gardening
by Kim Hayes, AARP, June 14, 2017 | Comments: 0
Gardening offers opportunities for physical activity and, in the case of community gardens, socialization.
In addition to providing nutritious veggies and fruits for your dinner table and beautiful flowers to decorate it, gardening offers a variety of health benefits.
1. Exposure to vitamin D
Vitamin D increases your calcium levels, which benefits your bones and immune system. A 2014 Italian study, published on the National Institutes of Health website, found that exposure to sunlight helped older adults achieve adequate serum vitamin D levels. So outdoor activities like gardening are a perfect way to get your sunshine while pursuing a fun hobby. (But don’t forget the sunscreen to protect your skin, and sunglasses for your eyes.)
2. Decreased dementia risk
A 2006 study found that gardening could lower risk of dementia by 36 percent. Researchers tracked more than 2,800 people over the age of 60 for 16 years and concluded that physical activity, particularly gardening, could reduce the incidence of dementia in future years.
3. Mood-boosting benefits
A study in the Netherlands, cited by CNN, suggests that gardening fights stress even better than other hobbies. Participants completed a stressful task and were then told to read inside or go outdoors and garden for 30 minutes. The gardening group reported better moods afterward, and their blood tests showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
4. Enjoyable aerobic exercise
Gardening is a great form of aerobic exercise plus, you might become so engrossed in your work that you don’t even realize you’re breaking a sweat. Pulling weeds, reaching for various plants and tools, and twisting and bending as you plant will work new muscles in your body and help with strength, stamina, and flexibility.
5. Helps combat loneliness
After retirement, many people struggle with fewer socialization opportunities, and community gardens can be a fun way to engage with others while providing benefits to neighborhoods. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, community gardens are "collaborative projects on shared open spaces where participants join together in the maintenance and products of the garden, including healthful and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables."
The American Community Gardening Association offers a locator tool for finding your nearest community garden. “The association recognizes that community gardening improves people’s quality of life by providing a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, stimulating social interaction, encouraging self-reliance, beautifying neighborhoods, producing nutritious food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education.”
To get started on your gardening adventure, visit Better Homes and Gardens or the National Gardening Association for helpful advice on the many varieties of plants and flowers available.
Top 5 Tips for Growing Trees in Gardens
Any gardener can tell you that the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. But the second best time is today, so dig in and make it happen. Seedlings aren’t expensive and a tree provides untold benefits, including shade, birdsong and even an increase in your property value. Here are a 5 top tips to get you started.
1. Choose a tree thoughtfully and carefully. Whether you have a happy relationship with the new tree in your garden depends largely on how much care you use in choosing the species. You should invest as much effort in picking a tree as you do a pet—or even a spouse. Many trees live a century or longer, while few dogs or marriages survive that long.
Evaluate exactly what you have to offer a new tree, then pick a tree that thrives under those very conditions. Start with hardiness zone, since a tree that is not hardy in your region is not likely to last very long. Then figure out how much space you have, the exposure, the soil type and specifics of drainage. Pick a tree species that fits your site. Then select a healthy specimen at the garden store.
2. Plant your tree right. A well-planted tree grows faster and is more likely to be healthy and vigorous than a poorly planted one. You’ll need to be sure the hole is three times the diameter of the rootball, and blend in one part compost to three parts excavated soil for backfill.
Plant your tree in spring or fall on a cool, windless, humid day. If your tree is bare root, soak the roots the night before planting day. Remove the container and/or all packaging ropes and wires. Position the tree so that the soil level is the same as it was in its prior planting location or container.
3. Don’t stint on water. Even if you chose a drought tolerant tree, you’ll need to water it thoroughly and regularly for the first few years after planting. Immediately after planting, water the tree at low pressure to settle the soil. After that, water the tree deeply whenever the soil is dry to promote deep, strong roots. What about winter? Be sure the tree starts winter well irrigated. If your winters are wet, irrigation isn’t an issue. But step in with the hose during warm, dry stretches.
4. Don’t prune or fertilize a young tree. Remember that your tree is trying to establish itself in a new location. It must develop a strong root system, get used to the new growing conditions, and make it through the winter. Given this, stimulating the tree to grow faster and produce more foliage is just a bad idea. Don’t fertilize a newly planted tree until the second or third year. Similarly, limit pruning to the absolutely essential at first. As the tree gets established, you can start to prune or train it.
5. Mulch not grass. Think of the soft carpet of dead leaves a forest provides its trees. That’s natural mulch, organic material layered over a tree’s root area to protect against cold and heat, hold in moisture and keep down weeds. Don’t even think of sowing grass beneath a young tree for a year or two. Trees don’t compete well with grass for nutrients they need to thrive.
Research the local botanical insecticides that can be useful in deterring the pest population. These are frequently more effective than synthetically engineered counterparts. However, because botanical insecticides are biological, botanical insecticides often have very fast decay periods and disappear rapidly.
Biodiversity is important in your organic garden. The more types of plants you have, the more wildlife species will be attracted to your garden.Plant various plant varieties to make the garden more similar to a natural environment. If you can manage this, you can create a naturally relaxing atmosphere, and you’ll have done a little something for the environment.
Now that you have read this article, you know why organic gardening is such a fun activity. You will eat better and have a fun and relaxing hobby that lets you enjoy the great outdoors. With the proper application of these suggestions, you will be achieving amazing results in your own organic garden in no time at all!
5: Don’t Touch and Spread!
Want to touch and cuddle your plants? We’re gardeners too so we know how you feel! But if your plants’ leaves are either: a) wet, or b) showing signs of disease (discoloration or spotting) outside of normal seasonal color changes as the weather cools, you need to learn to control your plant-touching urges. Otherwise, you might well end up spreading a foliar disease to other plants in your garden.
Concord grapes at Tyrant Farms. Always clean your clippers between trimming different plants to prevent the spread of disease!
On a similar note, be sure to practice good “clipper hygiene” by washing or disinfecting your garden tools between uses–especially if you’ve used those tools to remove diseased plants or plant foliage. Rubbing alcohol or scalding hot soapy water should do the trick.
You wouldn’t want to see a doctor performing surgery on a patient without first disinfecting their hands and surgical tools, would you? The same principle applies to your garden plants. Be a good plant doctor!
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