Savannah Marie searches for the best restaurants, wildlife and attractions that Harrisburg has to offer.
Living a healthy lifestyle has innumerable benefits for your body, your mind and the environment as a whole. Choosing to use less synthetic, harmful chemicals both in the products you use and the food you ingest means you’re absorbing fewer toxins, and that’s something your body thanks you for. But because chemical use is mainstream in today’s society, avoiding them oftentimes means paying more for more natural, organic options.
One way around this: starting your own garden. You can grow many of the superfoods you love to eat, as well as some of the natural skincare ingredients, like aloe and lavender, that pamper your skin without the pollutants. Here’s how you can get started:
Whether you’ve gardened before or are coming into this totally wide-eyed, it’s important to educate yourself on the basics. You’ll need to take into consideration your climate zone, the best types of soil, and more in order to build a garden that thrives. To familiarize yourself with the essentials, check out some top gardening books that can help you along your way.
Make a Plan
This is your garden, which means you get to call the shots. Now that you know what selections will grow best in your local climate, make a list of your favorite vegetables, flowers and plants. Consider buying only seeds in order to ensure no chemical contamination, but if you opt to go for seedlings, local farmers’ markets are a safe bet.
After you know what you will be growing, it’s time to survey the area the garden will be planted. Take a walk around the perimeter and make sure there aren’t any pools of water or sunken areas in your yard. This may be a sign of plumbing issues. If your yard is good to go, move on to prepping your soil. Many find that mixing in compost, manure and clippings from leaves and grass allows your soil to reach its full potential to support your garden. It is also important to keep in mind that when you start the growing process, you’ll want to space your plants appropriately, based on the needs of each species.
Maintain Your Garden
Once your garden has been planted, it’s time to nurture! The type of soil you select will affect how often you need to water your plants. One benefit of adding compost is that it allows your soil to retain more moisture, which means less watering time for you. Keep in mind that to maintain a garden that’s as chemical-free as possible, you may need to filter your local tap water to eliminate exposure to chemicals like fluoride and chlorine.
After all of that watering, there will be both a bountiful harvest and a plethora of weeds. To provide basic upkeep for your new garden, hoe around the base of your plants about once a week, being sure to go in only about five inches. Also, get in the practice of weeding daily for several minutes, to prevent having to dedicate hours every weekend to yanking them out.
Don’t Forget to Protect Yourself
Spring showers bring tons of mosquitoes. Okay – maybe that isn’t the age-old saying, but it’s true! If you’ve created a garden oasis in your yard for spring and summertime enjoyment, don’t forget that pest protection is essential. Mosquitoes live and breed in stagnant water and organic materials, and your backyard garden is a haven for these pesky insects. Get rid of the water and consider investing in mosquito protection for your yard and garden. You won’t be able to enjoy the fruits (or veggies) of your labor if mosquitoes are a big issue in your yard.
Reap the Rewards
While all this might appear to be a lot of work, soon the benefits will begin to show in the form of beautiful produce, flowers and more. Growing organic produce means less trips to the grocery store, where you spend money for fruits and vegetables that may not be handled in the cleanest and healthiest way for your or the environment. Because you are controlling the conditions and materials used to grow your garden, you can now be certain that the produce you are consuming is great for you and your family.
However, the benefits don’t stop there. Gardening is also a known stress reducer, forcing people to put down the cell phone, turn off the TV and focus on the task at hand. It also gives you an opportunity to revel in the sights, smells and touch of earth. Additionally, all that stretching and moving counts as a form of low-impact exercise.
So what are you waiting for? Consult some experts, hatch a plan and get to digging in your own backyard. Make this summer healthy, happy and homegrown.