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Make green plans for the warmer weather

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We are in the depths of winter, yet it is never too soon to start thinking ahead to warmer weather and how it can help you grow your own organic (i.e., chemical-free) food.

A workshop on starting an organic vegetable garden takes place in Toronto next month, but for those who cannot attend here are some tips on how you can go green in the kitchen later this year.

Why grow an organic vegetable garden?

The oldest method of cultivation, organic gardening is good for you as home-grown food has none of the artificial preservatives added by supermarkets, so you can be sure of what you and your family are eating.
 

It is also good for the environment, as the increasing popularity of organic produce means fewer toxic and long-lasting chemicals are poured into the soil and water table. Experts say that all the problems common to gardening, such as diseases and pests, can be solved naturally and without chemicals.

Organic growing does not have to be confined to those with green space to spare, either: city residents can set up a rooftop plot or even a balcony garden in raised beds.

How to start
  • The key ingredient for successful organic vegetables is well cared-for soil, so start creating a compost heap as soon as the weather permits and then spread it on the soil in a layer at least two inches thick. Leave it for three weeks until planting.
  • For vegetables, choose those that are suitable for your region and are known to resist disease and pests—seed catalogues can offer such information. It is often advisable to start growing the seeds indoors, four to six weeks before the threat of the last frost of winter has passed. They should be planted in soil and left in an area with good lighting, and not be over-watered. The soil should be kept at room temperature, and once there is no danger of any more frost and they have grown two true leaves in addition to their sprouting leaves, they can be transferred into biodegradable containers and planted in the garden soil a few inches apart. Put mulch around the base to preserve heat through chilly evenings.
  • Peas, spinach are broccoli can be planted once the snow thaws, but frost will kill tomatoes, peppers and squash.
  • By avoiding the use of pesticides, you can attract beneficial insects to the garden, and removing weeds will help restrict the number of pests.
  • Towards the end of the fall, once you have harvested the last vegetables, cut the plants back so they are about six inches tall. The cover them with a thick layer of straw or wood chips to protect them from Canada’s winter temperatures.

Where to learn more

  • Information for this article came from www.helpfulgardener.com, www.vegetablegardeningguru.com and www.ehow.com.
  • For advice on growing vegetables in urban areas, visit www.cityfarmer.info.
  • Canadian Organic Growers, which has a membership including farmers, gardeners, processors, retailers, educators, policymakers and consumers, campaigns for sustainable organic stewardship of land, food and fibre.
  • The Government of Canada and YMCA Vancouver, among others, supported a detailed guide to growing organic food in a community garden.
  • On Earth Day in 2009 the Government of Ontario backed the growing popularity of organic gardening by banning cosmetic pesticides, and set up a website explaining why.
 

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