Grow Your Own Organic Food

African basil

Now that Spring is officially here, it’s a great time to plant a garden! If you are one of those people who think buying organic food is too expensive, then why don’t you grow your own organic food? If you live in a house with even the smallest backyard, you can create your own garden. I have also seen plenty of information online about growing your own organic produce in pots in apartments.

What kinds of fruits or vegetables do you love? It would be a great idea to do some research to find out what grows well in your area in the spring and summer. And if you can get native varieties of those fruits and vegetables, you will probably have more success. For instance, for a couple of years, I grew tomatoes. The second year, I had a ton of tomato plants. Suddenly the plants started to be decimated by these voracious green worms. My husband and I picked off every single one of the worms by hand and sent them to the garbage. That took care of our worm problem. Next came the spider mites. Yes, they sound creepy, but they were too small to see how creepy they really were. They just looked like an orange powder on the leaves of the tomato plants. They sucked the plants dry and dead. At that moment I understood why people turned to pesticides. Since then I haven’t grown any tomatoes. Recently one of my coworkers was complaining about how a section of her yard was being taken over by tomato plants and that she was going to rip them out. I asked about bugs. She said she didn’t have any problem with bugs getting her tomato plants because they are a native species. So I asked for a few of these tomatoes to see if I can get some to grow in my backyard. I’ll report back to you if it works.

I am a trial and error gardener. I try something out and see if it works. If it doesn’t, then I start researching for solutions. Let me tell you, this is a backwards way of going about gardening. Do your research first. I tried growing eggplants for two years before I found out that you need bees to do the work of pollination for you on an eggplant. I had no bees!! I just happened to be at my favorite local farm and nursery when they showed me some African basil that attracts bees like you have never seen! I took one home, and voila! Bees!! So I went back and got another one to attract more bees. Before I knew it, my eggplant plants finally started to produce eggplants and not just pretty purple flowers. It took me about two years to figure out that problem. I asked a lot of different plant people about why my eggplants only made flowers. Nobody ever said, “Do you have any bees?” I happened to be watching a documentary about pollinators, and it said that the buzzing vibration of the bees in the flowers of the tomatoes and the eggplants caused the pollen to dislodge and disperse. I’m not sure why I never had a problem getting tomatoes with no bees.

African basil

African basil attracts bees. If you look, you’ll see a busy bee working in the flowers on the left side. He’s a little blurry because he wouldn’t stay still.

I haven’t had much time for my garden for the past couple of years, so I’m not growing anything seasonal. For now, I have turned to growing things that don’t take much work here in Florida. I have a couple of banana trees, a papaya tree, pineapples, an avocado tree, an olive tree, lemon trees, orange trees, strawberries, jalapeno, mint, rosemary, oregano, sweet potato, and who knows what else. I planted the pineapples from the tops of pineapples that I bought. I picked up the banana trees and strawberry plants from the farm and nursery I talked about before. The avocado, lemon and orange trees I started from the seeds of the stuff I actually bought to eat.

Did you know that you can take a sweet potato that you get from the store, wait for it to start spouting, plant it in the ground and before you know it, you’ll have sweet potato vine taking over and area in your yard? Then, you’re supposed to have sweet potatoes ready for harvest in three months or so. You can also plant organic russet potatoes that you buy at the store. Russet potatoes don’t make vines.

Sweet potato vine

The beginnings of sweet potato vine. This will grow and take over the whole area.

Here’s another great trick. Organic celery is expensive. Did you know that you can regrow your celery? Just cut off the bulb at the bottom and put it in a small bowl or cup with an inch or so of water and put it in the kitchen window. In less than a week, you will see the new celery shooting up out of the middle. When it has grown anĀ inch or two, go plant it in the ground or in a pot. I have done this with celery that I thought was beyond hope of survival, and it still worked. Try it out! It’s pretty cool to see it actually work. Pineapple is also really easy to grow if you live in a climate that will support it. It takes at least two years to get a pineapple from the plant, but it will be the best tasting pineapple you have ever eaten in your entire life!

regrowing celery

Here’s a celery that I thought was past hope, but it is sprouting in the window sill.

Speaking from experience, organic gardening is a lot of hard work, frustration, research and trial and error. When you grow your own organic food, it is also social, educational, rewarding, fun, healthy and worth all of the hard work. Grow your own organic food, dig in, get your hands dirty! When you see what it takes to grow organic food, you will have a better appreciation for the price of your organic produce.