Building a Paleo Perfect Vegetable Garden
By Arnie Dorr
When so much farming focuses on profit instead of the common good, it can be challenging finding produce you trust. Instead of sourcing the best ingredients directly from farmers, become your own farmer. Plenty of paleo essentials are easy to grow, even if you don’t have much experience. Here are a few pointers on building a paleo-perfect vegetable garden at home.
Gardening is as much about the journey as it is the destination. Remember, the time you spend outside with your garden is as valuable as what you end up harvesting. Be reasonable about what you want your final outcome to look like, especially if you're a beginner. Take your time and decide what is worth your time to plant. Invest in a couple of necessary tools: gardening gloves, a hand spade, a digging-spade, and a pitchfork.
More-expensive organic fruits and vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, artichokes, and berries can make your garden more valuable. But growing produce with a short shelf life, such as spinach and salad greens means having a continuous supply of fresh food on-demand. Seed catalogs can help you find high-quality organic seeds and unusual varieties of fruit and vegetables you won’t find in stores.
Pick & Prep A Sunny Spot
Sunshine is the crucial ingredient for determining whether your garden will be a success or a flop. Pick the sunniest spot you can, and make sure it gets sun first thing in the morning. You can prepare the bed by removing any grass or weeds and then loosening the soil, using a pitchfork. You’ll want to add compost to enrich the soil, and if it's heavy clay, you may want to add a bit of sand for drainage.
If you don’t have an area where you can dig a bed, don’t worry–plenty of great gardening is done on patios in containers. Just make sure that you find large enough pots to support big, deep roots. If you’re not too concerned with looks, you can use five-gallon buckets with drainage holes drilled in the bottom. And for growing sweet-potatoes, a giant Ikea bag filled with soil works fine.
Plant On A Schedule
Find your planting zone so that you know when to plant your garden. Paleo-friendly crops, including tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, broccoli, and cabbage, can take a while to get started. If you decide to grow them from seed, you’ll want to start indoors toward the end of winter so they're ready to plant in the spring. If you don’t have the time or confidence to start from seed, gardening centers will have “starts” — greenhouse-raised seedlings — for sale. Be sure to buy organic starts, which are unlikely to be available at big-box stores. Check smaller garden retailers for organic plant starts.
Greens, root vegetables, melons, cucumbers, and squash are best grown from seed. Plant seeds in seedling trays or directly in your garden. Make sure the soil stays moist until they begin to grow. Many people stagger plantings of greens every week or so to have a continuous harvest.
Treat Pests Organically
Using chemical fertilizers and pesticides in your home garden defeats the purpose of growing your own organic produce. Use natural pest control to manage any insect invasions. Neem oil is one of the most effective, safe methods of controlling pests, and it's available over the counter.
Enjoy Your Bounty
Don’t get discouraged if your first attempt at gardening isn’t a slam-dunk. Enjoy every little (or big) harvest you can, take note of what worked, and be better prepared the next time around. Once you taste your own homegrown produce, it’s hard to go back to store-bought.
Arnie Dorr is a landscaper and gardener who prides himself on being eco-friendly. He maintains a green lawn without using chemicals. His garden is filled with herbs and native plants that attract pollinators.