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The Easy Way to Grow Your Own Food
Try the no-till, easy way to start gardening. As we explore our options to eating a healthier and more nutritious diet, some of us have noticed a co-relation between the high distances that food has traveled to our table and its low nutritional value. Thomas F Pawlick in his book The End of Food investigated this phenomena and discovered that tomatoes shipped to Canada, were bred with these characteristics in mind: yield, large size, firmness or resilience to damage in shipping, disease resistance, heat tolerance, uniformity in shape and ripening time. The priorities were based on having the largest and most tomatoes that can travel the furthest, without getting diseased or damaged during transportation. He was appalled to find that nowhere on the list of priorities were two of the most important characteristics to consumers: taste and nutrition.
The Globe and Mail on July 6, 2002 published a series of articles by Andre Picard on food nutrition and the conclusion was stark: a dramatic decline (average 50%) in the nutritional value of fruit and vegetables over the last 50 years. This decline coincided exactly with the rise of large corporate agri-businesses that shipped their cheaper cosmetically better looking, nutritionally deficient produce to us at great distance.
Fortunately over the last 10 years there has been a reaction to this with the slow food movement, the hundred-mile diet and community-supported organic agriculture. The philosophy is simple: when you buy local food, you reduce your carbon-footprint of transportation, you support the local economy and your food is fresher and more nutritious.
Many people however are taking this one step further, or should we say one step shorter, from the hundred-mile diet to the thirty-foot diet: growing their own food in their backyard. When you grow your own food, you can be absolutely certain that it is fresh, nutritious and pesticide free. This can be done fairly easily with a method of no-till gardening, part of a system of self-reliance called permaculture.
In the no-till method, a garden can be created without the laborious effort of double digging or using a roto-tiller to disturb the soil and having to pick and shake out the ensuing clumps of sod.
The No-Till Method
Start off by marking out the area for your garden with stakes and string. Start small.
Remove the packing tape, break apart and lay down cardboard (non-waxed) so that the ends overlap. Make sure that any holes or strips in the cardboard are covered with smaller pieces of cardboard. This will prevent weeds from growing through.
Shovel onto the cardboard about 1” of screened topsoil. On top of the soil shovel about 2”-3” of compost. On top of the compost place about 4” of mulch. Straw is best (avoid hay) but shredded paper or leaves can also be used.
You can immediately plant vegetable seedlings into the garden by parting the mulch. Potatoes can be planted into the soil and as they grow you can just cover them with more mulch and they will grow amazingly well right into the mulch.
With this permaculture method, nature is doing most of the work, not you. The weeds and grass breakdown into the soil under the cardboard; the mulch retains moisture, prevents weed growth and turns to compost and the earthworms till the soil. The next spring the cardboard has dissolved into the soil and you have a wonderfully fertile weedless garden.
The consequences are immense. You have reduced: the control of agri-business over your food supply, your food expenses and your carbon-footprint on the planet and in return you get more exercise and healthier food. These are some pretty powerful benefits within 30 feet of your back porch. Start off this spring by being a real revolutionary. Plant some tomatoes!
Russell Scott is a personal counsellor, self-actualization facilitator and organizes ecological awareness workshops. Check out his website at: www.TrueSourceSeminars.com.
“The End of Food,” Thomas Pawlick; “Edible Action,” Sally Miller;
“No Work Garden Book,” Ruth Stout.
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