How did you begin vegetable gardening? Where should I start if I’m interested in gardening? Does this sound familiar? These are the two questions I am most frequently asked, which leads me to believe that many view gardening as both intriguing and fun as well as intimidating. Well, I’m busting that myth today and serving up 4 of the best organic gardening tools including a nontoxic hose, a good hose filter, the cutest functional apron and a two imperative organic fertilizers.
First, A Little Bit About Why…
I grew up in a sleepy Midwest farm town with a population of 1,000 citizens. Though I did not grow up on a farm, my grandparents were farmers and our elderly neighbor lady (who was like a grandma) had vegetable gardens that sprawled her property. Both truly lived off the land. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the process of nurturing a tiny individual seed into a mature plant that eventually produces fruits to harvest. Isn’t it a beautiful process of transformation!?
Fourteen years ago, my husband and I purchased our first home. We built four raised garden beds in the backyard and went to town! We had no clue what we were doing. Reading seed packets and talking to other gardener friends was the extent of our research. The outcome was great and we both thoroughly felt excitement around harvesting…we’ve been gardening ever since! Here’s the thing, would you try something new if you knew you could not fail and the return was greater than the risk?
Growing your own food is just that! There is no right or wrong way to gardening or your approach, it’s an art. There will be seasons where one crop can flourish and another may fail. That’s all part of the learning curve of what works for you, your climate, and soil condition. Regardless, even if a crop fails (it’s inevitable), you learn from it and make shifts for the following growing season. My best advice on where to start?
Small or big, any steps are the right steps. Gardening is a classic area where people tend to overthink it. There’s no need! The stakes are low, the investment minimal, and the return is huge! Not to mention, you may just gain a new hobby in the making.
I have to tell you a fun story. About three years into our gardening journey, we decided to use one entire raised bed for growing a garlic crop. We planted 125 “German-extra hardy” garlic cloves and ended up with a banging crop at the end of it! All 125 cloves turned into 125 heads of garlic. I vividly remember sitting on our patio braiding garlic head stalks to hang from the garage rafters to dry. It was quite the site. Depending on how well you like garlic, you either loved us or hated us for neighbors.
Ordering Organic Seeds
The winter’s here in Wisconsin are long and cold. Nothing excites me more than when February rolls around and my favorite seed catalog arrives from High Mowing Seeds. I mark, highlight, and dog ear pages laying out the upcoming year’s plan. When ordering seeds, call and speak with a seed specialist. High mowing has an extremely savvy and educated staff. They will help in navigating varieties best for your zone and that are resistant to things like mildew and pests. I prefer High Mowing because they are a 22 year old company that produces and sells only 100% USDA Organic and non GMO seeds.
Many companies produce both conventional and organic seeds. In my opinion, this is not ideal because inevitably seeds can get crossed. Not to mention the quality is exceptional. I have yet to have a crop fail since investing in their seeds. As a home gardener, I am always experimenting with different varieties from year to year. I think it keeps things fun and exciting! The large array of heirloom and open pollinated seeds to choose from is also a big perk in my book.
If you find yourself feeling confused as to what layout may be best for your first gardening attempts, here are a few thoughts.
Each year, I’m seeking new concepts and products to make the job easier and with greater return. This year, I’ve knocked it out of the park with a few home gardening game changers and I’m here to share them with you! First up? My nontoxic garden hose!
Nontoxic Garden Hose by Eley
Using a nontoxic, drinking safe, garden hose is an area that is often overlooked by even some of the most experienced organic gardeners. In fact, I hadn’t thought of it until a few years back myself.
One day, it occurred to me that my garden hose sits in the sun all day and without a doubt had to be leaching chemicals into my water/soil/garden. I dug deeper and found that high levels of lead, cadmium, bromine, and phthalate chemicals are still present in hoses today. These chemicals have been linked to birth defects, impaired learning, liver toxicity, and hormone disruption to name a few. Even if you actively choose to avoid using chemicals in your garden/yard, you could still be adding hazardous chemicals by watering with these hoses. Yikes!
If your family is anything like ours, not only are we watering our gardens but also hooking the hose up to our sprinkler and kiddie pool. After searching and reading many reviews, I found what I would consider to be the Cadillac of garden hoses in both performance and safety. It’s produced by a small, family-owned company named The Eley Corporation.
Eley is located in Nebraska and has been in business for 28 years. The three founding brothers still run and manage the business today and their attention to detail/quality is bar none. Upon visiting their website, I was pleasantly surprised to find a slew of 5 star reviews. With a 30 day, no hassle, money back guarantee the 100ft. food grade polyurethane, drinking safe, garden hose was a no brainer. Not only is the hose safe and free of chemicals but polyurethane is MUCH lighter than all its counterparts and does not kink!
After using ours Eley hose all summer, I can say with excitement: no kinks, no wrestling a heavy hose, and no nasty chemical smell! Most people will purchase a garden hose every few years. This is the type of investment that will pay for itself over the years with its 10-year leak free warranty. My husband frequently works with machined parts and is thoroughly impressed with the industrial grade brass fittings. I also have my eye on Eley’s portable garden hose reel cart, every gardener and lawn keeper’s dream!
The Boogie Blue Plus Garden Hose Water Filter
Next on my list of organic gardening game changers? A good garden hose filter! We live in the city and have municipal water. Let me tell you, the pungent smell of chlorine wafting out of the spickets is SO intense! Think of what unfiltered city water contains…anything from chlorine, chloramines, heavy metals, and prescription drugs. There was no question that a great filter was in order. Not only was it needed to purify water for our gardens but also for our son who is constantly playing in it.
It’s essential to use filtered water on your gardens to protect and maintain healthy microorganisms in your soil. Think of the soil being similar to your gut. Plants will thrive when the soil is biologically healthy. The instant we compromise it by adding chemicals and pollutants, the soil bacteria is altered in a negative way and is thrown out of balance.
The Boogie Blue Plus filter has upped my gardening game in a huge way. My plants are double in size from what they were a year ago at this time and definitely yielding higher produce. With that said, the Boogie Blue Plus is affordable, composed of carbon and KDF (kinetic degradation fluxion), and has a large filtering lifespan of 45k gallons! Between using our nontoxic Eley hose and this high performing filter, there is absolutely zero trace of any smell and crystal clear water.
And installation is a breeze. When hooking the filter up to the hose, it will require one round of back flushing and then you are good to go! Get your Boogie Blue Plus here!
SOIL CONDITIONER AND FERTILIZER by TERAGANIX
If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know it’s been a hot minute since I’ve talked about my love for EM-1 Inoculant and EM-1 Bokashi! Two products I cannot be without. Not only because they perform like no other but are also multifunctional.
Let’s start with EM-1 Bokashi. Bokashi is a Japanese term meaning fermented organic matter and plus it’s fun to say (HA!). This is an organic specialty fertilizer loaded with beneficial bacteria. It’s meant to be used just like any fertilizer, giving your plants and soil a boost. The makeup of Bokashi is rice bran that has been fermented by EM-1 Inoculant containing small amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
What is EM-1 Inoculant you ask? This is where it gets really cool and I could geek out on info like this for days! EM-1 Inoculant is a combination of three groups of beneficial bacteria, lactic acid, yeast, and photosynthetic bacteria. A fermentation process occurs and all metabolites are remaining in the finished product. Metabolites are vitamins, amino acids, enzymes and organic acids. The purpose of the EM-1 Inoculant is to add beneficial microbes into the soil. It acts as a food source for other microbes in the soil multiplying it’s healthy bacteria. For instance earthworms eat only microbes so after using EM-1 Inoculant your earthworm population goes up dramatically creating healthy soil.
The VAM (vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhiza) (aka beneficial fungi) increases by several hundred percent creating erosion prevention, drought tolerance, and mining of nutrients. It acts similar to an extension of plant roots helping plants get nutrients easier. If you still aren’t convinced that EM-1 Inoculant is an essential, here are a few of the other ways you can use it. Tried and true by yours truly of course!
Joey Apron + Garden Life Tee by: The Roo
If you’ve been around the block with this gardening gig, you understand that it always feels like there are never enough hands to carry tools, produce, and weeds. I love the Joey Apron because it serves as a great catchall. It also empties effortlessly by releasing two rope-like strings. It’s a beautiful earthy green color, made with a heavy duty canvas-like material, comfortable, and waterproof. This pouch makes gardening more efficient and cute! Because…GARDEN LIFE! Get your Joey Apron and Garden Life tee here!
IT’S NOT TOO LATE!
By the way, even though it’s the middle of the summer, it’s not too late to plant, cultivate and harvest this year. There are several varieties that do well as fall crops. Anyone want a followup post on that!?
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