get_growingThanks to everyone who came out for Class One of our Get Growing! Organic Gardening Class Series! Ruth packed those two hours with tons of information, and you all had some really great questions. There was just an acre of y’all out there, and it is so good to see this many people with such a variety of backgrounds all getting together to learn how to grow sustainably!

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Ruth opened by asking the question, “Why garden organically?” and while everyone there probably had their own set of answers, Ruth presented some really eye-opening facts to drive home that organic is the way to go. Did you know that lawns use more chemical fertilizers and pesticides than farm land? Couple that with the fact that kids and pets spend a lot more time tumbling around and eating dirt on lawns than they do in corn fields and you’ve got a real health hazard.

It wasn’t all gloom and doom, though. In fact, there was very little of that! Ruth moved on then to the fun stuff, the real bread & butter of gardening. She talked about site selection: some parts of your yard hold frost more than others, plants need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day, and airflow around your plants will help prevent disease. She also reiterated to everyone that there is no reason to make it harder on yourself, so set up close to a water source. Ruth recommended that you put your garden between your house and where you park your car. That way, when you get home from work, you have to walk through your garden before you can switch into lazy mode: “I don’t know about you, but once I sit down, I’m done,” Ruth said. Words of wisdom.

We learned about healthy soil being the basis of organic growing: feed the soil, not the plants. Ruth talked about compost being one of the best ways to improve your soil. If you have clay soil, she said, which is hard and compacts easily, compost will add fluffiness to your soil. If you have sandy soil, which is loose and doesn’t hold nutrients or water well, compost will increase your soil’s holding capacity. Because we’re in Western North Carolina, though, clay tends to be our situation. Did you know that compost increases your drought tolerance? Across the board, organic farms fare better than conventional farms in drought conditions because they have healthier soil. Compost is kind of like the poor organic farmer’s insurance policy.

We got more into the nitty gritty when Ruth talked about soil amendment recipes that include lime, greensand, and rock phosphate. She also brought some of her favorite organic treatments like kelp & fish fertilizer. Ruth was kind enough to bring along her favorite tools and give us a demonstration of how to use a hoe properly. Turns out I’ve been holding it wrong this whole time.

There was so much information given we couldn’t cover it all here. Check out the handout from Class One to learn more. It was a great primer on organic gardening, presenting the information folks need to get started. Next week, Ruth will dig a little deeper into composting & transplanting as well as talk about what to do when you’ve gotten your garden started and it needs some troubleshooting.

See you next Tuesday!

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Jenn Cloke

Jenn Cloke

Jenn Cloke, originally from Atlanta, has lived in Western North Carolina for since 2006 and wears her Appalachian mantle proudly. Jenn was the Communications Coordinator for Organic Growers School from 2012 to 2014. She and her family run a small farm at the foot of Cold Mountain.