When planting your organic garden it is always best to start with the end in mind. Ascertain what goal you are wanting to achieve by asking yourself some pertinent questions. What is the purpose of your garden? Is it to feed your family or are you just wanting to grow produce that is typically very expensive and outside of your budget? How much time will you have available to plant and tend it? What crops are easy to grow? What grows well in your area? What fruits and vegetables do you consume a lot of? And of those what are the most pesticide-laden when eaten non-organically. Developing an understanding of what you are trying to achieve and doing a bit of reading prior to planting will pay dividends.
A recent report from the US Food and Drug Administration stated that in the past few years pesticides in fruit and vegetables have been reduced by as much as 57%. In my world that is still 33% too much. Avoiding the twelve most pesticide-laden fruits and vegetables can reduce your pesticide exposure by up to 90% automatically and ensure that at least 14 different pesticides are removed from your daily intake. My advice? Plant these twelve as a matter of principle. Peaches, apples, peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, grapes, pears, spinach and potatoes are the bad guys in question. If you are pressed for space at least plant those commonly consumed - lettuce, apples and potatoes. Being open-minded as to where they can be planted will also ensure maximum efficiency in your garden. Lettuce can grow on the kitchen bench (another benefit of this space is that no pest control is required as a result which is a particular issue with any leafy greens) and apples can be grown up the side of a house or planted in containers for example.
Our first priority when considering our garden however should be to protect those most precious to us (and most vulnerable to pesticides) – our children. Children are particularly susceptible to pesticides in foods for several reasons. Relative to their body weight, they consume more pesticides than adults as they eat more. As they are often picky eaters they also typically eat one pesticide in larger amounts which can accumulate to toxic levels aided by the child’s detoxification system that is not fully developed. A common school of thought considering these factors is that the greatest risk of cancer is established in childhood, from pesticide consumption. So, plant fruit and vegetables that your children like to eat (and ensure you squeeze in a few that they don’t too – they are good for them).
The ten easiest vegetables to grow might interest those new to organic gardening. Beetroot, chard, crook neck squash, radishes, zucchini, cucumber, carrots, flat leaf parsley, green beans and spinach are all great for beginners. In addition to spinach, most green leafy vegetables are easy to grow as well.
Looking at your next-door neighbours’ patch and the supermarket prices should complete your list of ‘what to grow’. It should go without saying that whatever is growing well on your neighbours’ property should also grow well on yours unless the soil type is vastly different. If they have fertilized a lot this may be true, but typically if your neighbour grows great citrus, you should be able to as well. Supermarket prices will give you some money-saving tips if that is your penchant in this endeavour. For you, grow what is expensive. Happy gardening!