Start your own vegetable garden this year

A new year is upon us and its that time again when everyone looks back at the year behind them and resolves to make the new year better. Why not start from the inside? Nutrition is the single most important contributing factor of good health. If you have a healthy diet chances are that you are in good health and will get sick less often. But it isn’t enough to just eat a well balanced diet. Today’s vegetables and fruits are loaded with pesticides and consuming “dirty” produce can have the opposite effect on your health. Make it your new year’s resolution to start shopping organic or grow your own vegetables and fruits in your very own garden.

The top pesticide heavy vegetables and fruits of 2014

12. Snap Peas (imported)
11. Potatoes
10. Cherry Tomatoes
9. Cucumbers
8. Nectarines
7. Sweet Bell Peppers
6. Spinach
5. Peaches
4. Celery
3. Grapes
2. Strawberries
1. Apples

 How to grow your own vegetable garden in Florida

Step 1

Build your garden near your house and a faucet or convenient source of water. Measure the area you wish to use, and make raised beds that are about 3 feet wide by 6 to 8 feet long.

Step 2

Start composting your kitchen scraps, lawn trimmings, fallen leaves and other plant materials as early as possible. If you begin a compost pile in the fall, it should be ready for you to use for spring planting. You can make a compost pile on the ground, inside a ring of chicken wire or in a special container designed for compost. (See Tips.)

Step 3

Spread a 3- to 4-inch layer of compost on top of your raised garden bed area. You can purchase bags of ready-made compost at your garden supply store if you prefer not to make your own. Then dig the compost into the soil, going down at least six inches. Finally, set a sprinkler on the area for one hour.

Step 4

Plant young vegetable plants one day after you turn the soil and water it. Some plants, including most root crops like carrots, do not transplant well, so plant seeds of these vegetables directly into the ground. Check the specific planting instructions on the seed packets.

Step 5

Monitor your plants for signs of small chewing insects such as aphids, and if you begin to see holes in your plants’ leaves, examine the plant to determine what type of insect is attacking it. For aphids, spray with insecticidal soap, available for purchase at garden supply stores. For scale insects, mix one tablespoon of canola oil with the insecticidal soap and spray with the mixture. For caterpillars and other chewing worms, dust your plants with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a naturally occurring soil bacterium available at garden centers.

Step 6

Fertilize your vegetable garden about one month after you plant, and then once a month until late summer. One way to give your plants continuous nutrition is to spread a 2-inch layer of compost on top of the soil around your plants as mulch; this serves to keep the soil moist and also to nourish plants. Fish emulsion is a good organic fertilizer—purchase it at your garden center, then mix and apply it according to label instructions.