(ARA) - There was a time when it was the norm to go out in the yard and pull fresh vegetables up from the soil. At some point over the years, we moved from the goodness of home-grown vegetables toward processed foods and microwave dinners. Now consumers are becoming more aware of the financial value of growing their own vegetables, and how doing so can bolster the health of their families and of the earth.
Vegetable gardening might sound intimidating, but new technologies can make your thumb greener than ever. Combined with good old-fashioned growing techniques, your garden can be healthy and yield a good crop with less effort than you'd imagine - all while being good for the earth. Here are some tips for a garden that is doubly green.
Water, water everywhere, but not too much
* A fine balance needs to be struck when it comes to watering your vegetable garden, especially during drought conditions. You want your plants to get adequate moisture, but overwatering can be bad for plants and a wasteful use of a precious natural resource. Because it's better for both your crops and the environment, careful water usage is essential to being a truly green gardener.
Installing an irrigation system is a good way to keep water usage at the ideal levels. Plus, you don't have to plan a schedule around when you need to water. There are user-friendly, affordable solutions like Mister Landscaper's new Drip Irrigation Vegetable Kit, which connects to your outdoor spigot. It's a great way to ensure that your plants get the water they need, without wasting or over watering. The kit is drought approved in most areas and available at Lowe's in the plumbing department. Watering timers can also make the job of watering even easier. Keep in mind that it's best to water in the early morning, when the sun is lower in the sky, for 30 to 60 minutes, every other day.
One man's garbage is another's fertilizer
* Ever feel guilty about throwing out vegetable and fruit peelings, rinds or scraps? Your intuition might just be telling you that there's a better way to handle those leftovers. Composting is a great way to make use of organic matter that might otherwise just get thrown away.
Building a compost heap is relatively easy, and it will keep on giving back to your garden and the environment. The four necessary ingredients for composting, according to California's "CalRecycle" program, are nitrogen (from sources like grass clippings or those throwaway veggie scraps), carbon (from sources like sawdust or twigs), water and air. Once your compost is at the ideal level of decomposition (it will be uniformly dark brown and crumbly), spread it on your garden to give plants a nutrient boost.
Get growing - organically
* From the moment you start planning a garden, think organic. The most basic - and fun - choice of all is deciding which plants you'll grow. Choose organic seeds and starters so that you know you're buying into an earth-friendly business venture. There's the added bonus of knowing that your plants won't be tainted with harmful chemicals.
When it comes to maintaining your garden, you'll probably need things other than just compost. Look for products that are recognized as organic by respected organizations like the USDA or the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) - you'll be able to find an ever-growing supply of products like pest repellent or soil amendments.
Growing your own vegetables at home has many benefits: it saves money, allows you to control what your food is exposed to and provides a fun and easy activity that the whole family can participate in. And when you follow these green gardening principles, you'll be doing something good for the earth, too.
Your thumb can be greener than ever with a few of these tips.