Help a Farmer and Help Yourself: On-Farm Volunteering to Learn Organic Production Basics

| 4/28/2016 9:37:00 AM

JFX Farmer's Market

When I moved to Maryland from Colorado, I suspected the vegetable growing possibilities would be great. The weather and growing season were significantly better for tomatoes, peppers, okra and more. All that was needed was some time, effort, and a whole lot of education.

I had some experience as a child planting and growing a small 10-by-10-foot garden in the outskirts of Denver, Colorado. Most of that was under the watchful eye of my father and grandfather and the lessons learned were mostly forgotten over the years.

I also had the pleasure of helping my roommate in Alaska grow peas, broccoli, cabbage, and potatoes in the 1990s. These cold-weather crops did well, as long as the moose didn’t get into the garden. The problem was most of that experience wasn’t useful in my new territory.

Time for a Real Garden

The first year and a half, we lived in a rental town home until a suitable house could be found. Once it was found, we moved and I started planning for a real garden. I would soon be growing veggies in three raised beds purchased from an online garden company, plus I had two Earthbox® planters I brought over from the back deck of the town home.

I ordered a truckload of topsoil, instead of using the local red dirt-clay soil on our land. I killed the grass by covering it with newspaper for a couple of weeks, installed the raised bed frames and shoved, by hand, a whole lot of dirt through my homemade sifter into my raised beds. I mixed store-bought compost into the soil and had some beautiful soil when the time came to plant. Now what was missing was an education.

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