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Gardening on the Jersey Shore

It’s that time of the year at the Jersey Shore – time for sunshine, frolicking on the beach, fresh air, and even vegetable gardens! With everything that’s being discovered about Monsanto, GMOs, and the extremely loose government regulations, planting your own organic vegetable garden may be a good way to ensure the health of your family…or at least one aspect of it. You see, Monsanto has pretty much gotten their hands into every aspect of the food industry – growing your own vegetables is not enough to keep your family Monsanto-free, but it’s a good start!

tips for gardening on the jerseys shore

About three years ago my family decided it would be fun – and rewarding – to start our own vegetable garden. It’s become a family tradition – we even let the kids paint the garden box themselves so that they would truly feel it was their own. And because the families of squirrels, gophers, and bunnies have claimed our backyard, we wrapped a high wire fence around the box. I haven’t figured out how to get them to chip in for the mortgage, but the wire fence should at least keep them out of our vegetable garden.

If you have the room and dream of building a sprawling garden, by all means go ahead and live that dream. But if you have limited space or just want a more contained garden, that’s great too. What’s most important is that you make efficient use of your garden space – no matter how big or how small. For example, less watering, less weeding, and less mulching is required of densely planted gardens because they shade and cool the ground below. So, pick your favorite vegetables and go get started! We chose tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

If you want a truly organic garden, you will need to educate yourself a bit before you head to the nursery. If you plan to use seeds, you want to make sure the seeds are not genetically manufactured – Monsanto has its fingerprints all over many of the seeds sold in stores. By the same token, if you are buying plants you want to be sure they have never been treated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. So, when you are buying your plants or seeds, be sure to ask someone if they are truly organic. Organically grown seeds are harvested from plants that have never been treated with chemical pesticides and never genetically modified.

Once you have your seeds or plants, you’re ready to get started! Here are some helpful tips to help you begin your own garden:

  1. Find a spot in your yard where your garden will be exposed to a lot of sunlight – while there are vegetables that will grow in the shade, those that grow in the sun are easiest to cultivate.
  2. Using a shovel, clear the surface – get rid of grass, weeds, and rocks. If you live in a rocky area, dig a little bit deeper and use extra potting soil so roots can grow easily.
  3. Plant your seeds or plants based on the directions on the packaging: make sure you space them as recommended and sow at the correct depth. If you buy tomato plants, you need to plant them deep enough that the soil is at least 1 inch up on the stem. This will allow for stronger roots.
  4. Be sure to feed your plants with an organic fertilizer formulated for full-sun vegetables. Follow the directions on the package – many need to be diluted.
  5. Water on a daily basis, either early in the morning or early evening. If you water when the sun is too hot, your plants will burn – but if you water too late at night, the water can pool causing them to grow mold.
  6. Make sure you weed your garden on a regular basis. It’s important to keep your garden clean – just a few small weeds can take over before you know it!
  7. Harvest your vegetables – this is the fun part! Make sure you pick your veggies as soon as they are ripe. Big vegetables may look impressive, but often won’t taste as flavorful. Also, most plants will yield multiple harvests if you give them the chance.

What are you waiting for? Go start that planting and feel good that your garden will produce healthy, bountiful, organic vegetables!