With all the recalls in the food industry, the rising prices and the increasing benefits of organics, many moms are considering growing their own food. The first year of your child’s life poses specific challenges that can be met through your own herbs and foods from your garden. Here is a guide to creating your own organic garden, whether you have an acre of land or a small porch to grow on.
Lavender is a beautiful, fragrant plant with purple flowers. It is very easy to grow and one plant produces more than a family would ever need. The sprigs and flowers can be cooked or used for aromatherapy and cleaning. It is anti-bacterial, healing and calming.
Grow from purchased plants because they are slow growing to start. Put plants outdoors after the last frost. Lavender needs lots of sun and grows well in zones 5-8. It needs good drainage, so it might help to put loose gravel in the bottom if potted. Lavender is a perennial that will come back for many years.
Chamomile is a calming herb that can be useful in teas for aiding sleep, relieving menstrual cramps, nausea and stress.
It’s easiest to buy seedlings that have no flowers and lots of leaves. Put outdoors in May. This pretty perennial needs full sun and well-drained soil. Plants should be 6 inches apart. Fertilize every 4-6 weeks. Cut the flowers as they open to use or dry.
Calendula is a healing herb that can be used on the skin and eaten. The plant repels insects too.
These annuals like full sun with partial shade. Seed them directly into the soil after the last frost. These plants do well in hanging baskets because the blossoms flop over. Water frequently and cut blooms to encourage more. For use, lay the blossoms out to dry and put in a jar for later use.
These iron-rich fruits are an essential for a healthy kitchen. However, these plants can be difficult to get the most out of the fruit, so take care with watering and fertilizing.
Tomatoes need 1-3ft between plants or one pot per plant to grow well. The rule of thumb is: the bigger the pot, the bigger the plant. Put plants deep in well-composted soil when the soil is about 55 degrees, so that the first set of leaves are at soil level. Water often and don’t let the soil dry out, mature plants need about a gallon a day. Clip lower leaves regularly to stimulate growth. Fertilize lightly when the plant is 1ft tall and again when it flowers. Once the plant is loaded with fruit, fertilize lightly on the top inch of soil and cover with grass clippings or mulch. Harvest the fruit just after turning from orange to red and let ripen inside (not in the fridge). Once the temperature drops below 55 F, the taste begins to decline.
Basil is antibacterial, nutritious, tasty and comes in 17 different varieties. Add to salads, make a vegetable spray, or cook with tomatoes.
Basil should be grown next to tomatoes because they work together to ward off pests. Start seeds indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. They can be put outside when soil temperatures reach 50 F, or will do well on the windowsill. Prepare the soil with lots of organic matter, and mulch to keep the ground warm. Place plants 6-8 inches apart for the small leaf varieties or 1ft apart for large leaf varieties. Basil needs lots of sun. Harvesting will encourage growth.
Beautiful purple and pink bulb flowers make this herb a nice addition to the garden. Every part of this perennial can be eaten.
Chives thrive in zones 3-9. Sow seeds directly in the soil in April. Add compost to the soil before planting. Place plants 5-8” apart. This plant doesn’t like a lot of nitrogen. Keep the soil moist. To harvest, cut 2” above the soil from the outside edges before flowering.
Thyme is an easy plant to grow and provides an iron-rich herb for soups, sauces and meats.
Thyme does well indoors and with some shade. You can start from seed by sowing thinly (1/8”) in the soil indoors at the end of January. You can sow directly outdoors in May for plants by the end of the summer. Water and fertilize very little. Harvest before flowering for the best flavor. These plants can live for 3-5 years.
Just one rosemary plant will provide all the herbs you need for a variety of dishes and can be used in aromatherapy.
Rosemary does well indoors and outdoors. Seeds are slow growing so it’s easier to buy plants. Put outside when the soil is 50 F. The herb likes full sun but will tolerate some shade. It likes moist air and well drained soil. Brown tips mean it’s getting too much water. Harvest the plant often and dry or use fresh herbs as desired. Bring inside if temperatures drop below 30 F.
Aloe is antibacterial, moisturizing and healing. This cactus is a must for scrapes and cuts, dry skin, or rashes. Few climates will allow this plant to grow, but it’s easy to find in a pot. Buy the potted plant and keep inside near a sunny window, re-pot as the plant gets too big for its old one.
Spinach is high in iron, vitamin C and is a perfect vegetable to add to salads and stir-fries.
Spinach seeds can be directly sown in the ground when the soil is about 35 F or no hotter than 70 F. Keep the soil moist until the seeds germinate. It grows very quickly and does well in cool weather, so you can plant once in the spring and again in August. Spinach likes well-drained soil and is tolerant of partial shade. They should be planted 1-3ft apart. The soil should stay moist but not wet. Water with fish emulsion weekly until the plants are 3” tall. When harvesting, cut an inch above the base and it might grow back. If the plants freeze, cover with hay or mulch and they will continue growing the following spring after you remove the covering. Very warm weather will cause plants to flower and seed.
Dandelion roots can be used for a detoxifying tea and the crown and leaves can be eaten in salads or stir fries. Dandelion greens are very nutritious. The flower buds can be used to make wine.
These are best planted in a pot to prevent infestation of the garden. Sow seeds outdoors, 2-3 weeks before the last frost. Dryness and heat with make the leaves bitter and they become bitterer later in the season. These plants will come back year after year if you leave one or two behind.
Garlic is a very easy plant to grow and can be used in all types of dishes. Just find a garlic clove you like and stick the flat end down in the ground (about 2”) in the early winter months. The bigger the clove is, the bigger the outcome will be. The plants will need an inch of water each week during the spring. Flowers in June can be cut off and used in cooking. Only dig up when half to three-quarters of the leaf turns brown. Tie the garlic in bundles and hang in a dry shady place for 4-6 weeks.
Echinacea is notorious for its immune-boosting abilities. The root is used medicinally after the 3rd or 4th year of growth. It has lovely flowers.
Sow seeds ¼” into the soil when the soil is 55 F or above. When plants are 1” tall, put them 18” apart. Keep the soil fertile, relatively dry and make sure the plants get sun with partial shade.
Fennel bulbs and stalks can be eaten and the leaves can be used in sauces. The oil can be used in liquors, candies, or soaps. The seeds can be used for seasoning. This nice perennial is touted for its ability to boost milk supply in breastfeeding mothers.
Sow directly into the soil as soon as soil can be worked. You can do another planting in mid-summer too. Fennel should have full sun and be in well drained soil. Fertilize once or twice a season. Pull out every other plant when bulbs are tennis-ball size. This plant will continue growing even through frosts.
Alfalfa fixes nitrogen into the soil and is a very nutritious vegetable. It can be rotated with red clover for soil balance. Alfalfa can help shorten bleeding time when recovering from childbirth.
Sprouts can be grown indoors by putting seeds in a jar with soil and covering with a woven cloth or pantyhose. Fill the jar with water that comes 1-2” above the seeds and allow to soak overnight. The next day, turn the jar over to let the water drain. Roll the jar around so seeds stick to the sides. Rinse them everyday for 4-5 days, after which they are ready to harvest. Let the harvested sprouts sit in the sun for 15 minutes or so to activate enzymes. Use sprouts immediately or refrigerate briefly.
Dill has pretty flowers and the seeds are used to make dill pickles. This perennial’s flowers and leaves are perfect for seasoning fish and dips.
Sow thinly in April and fertilize with bone meal. Dill needs about a spade and a half to grow into. Plants should be about 9” apart and get full sun. You can sow them again in the spring and early summer. Dill needs very little care, only water in dry areas.
De-spined thistle leaves can be used in salads and the flowers, stalks and roots can be cooked. Milk Thistle has often been used for breastfeeding women to promote milk production. This annual typically grows wild, and with little care can be grown just about anywhere.
Put seeds ¼” under the soil after the last frost. It likes high temperatures and dry soil. Fertilizer increases seed yields. Seeds have to be dried and powdered to make supplements.
This perennial is good for menstrual cramps, colds and skin problems. It can be used as a tea, a seasoning or in a salve.
Start from seed indoors weeks before the last frost or buy seedlings. This plant prefers some shade during the hot part of the day. It doesn’t need much water and likes loose, fertile soil. It can be harvested 3 times a summer. These plants will self seed.
You don’t need to buy expensive fertilizer for every plant. An all purpose or "for vegetables" fertilizer will do for all plants. You can also buy bone meal, fish emulsion or use grass clippings. 1/2 inch of grass clippings prevents weeds, conserves soil moisture and infuses nitrogen into the soil. Avoid clippings from lawns that have been sprayed with pesticides. If buying fertilizer, use the nitrogen number as your guide, because that is the part that gets depleted most. If plants get too little, they will be small and spindly. If they get too much, they will be huge but produce behind schedule.
You can get seeds from foods you buy. Roots and bulbs like potatoes and garlic can be placed in the ground before the temperature starts to rise. Fruits and vegetables with seeds can be deseeded, allow the seeds to dry in the open air. To get seeds from the plants you’ve already been growing, hang the plant upside down with a paper bag to catch the seeds, as it dries the seeds will fall in the bag.
Having a garden requires some work, but the outcome is always worth it. Once you’ve established your garden, it takes very little to keep it going and can save you money at the store. Plus, there is no question of where your food came from. Gardening is also a light exercise that is good for the body. The kids can help too and learn a lot about plants. Gardening can be fun and rewarding for the whole family!
Do you garden?
Organic Fertilizers [Care2]
Woman’s Care Garden – Plus Herbal Remedy Recipes [Care2]When to Start Seedlings [Care2]
What Organic Fertilizer Works for Everything? [MotherEarthNews]Build Better Soil With Free Organic Fertilizer! [MotherEarthNews]
After the Baby's Birth: A Complete Guide for Postpartum Women [Google]Learn how to get garden seeds from your grocery store! [littlecountryvillage]
Using and Growing Lemon Balm [oldfashionedliving]