I learned how to grow vegetables about 10 years ago when I stumbled upon an opportunity to tend an 18 acre property in exchange for a beautiful place to live. The homestead, as it was termed, was located in the rural mountains of North Carolina and came with a quarter acre vegetable garden, impressive herb and flower gardens, two dozen hens, two beehives, an apple orchard, and woodlands with a creek running through it. In other words: paradise. The owner of the property temporarily moved away, but left behind a barn full of tools and a library filled with books on various homesteading topics, with hopes that the three women she entrusted to carry out the exchange would keep all systems up and running until her return. Having never dug into a garden, nor stepped foot in a chicken coop, I was in for a steep learning curve and what the home did not come with was internet. Navigation via google was not an option and neither was bombarding my neighbors with questions for the sake of our relationships, because I had endless questions - especially pertaining to the vegetable garden: How far apart to plant the seeds? Which varieties should I plant? How do I prune the tomato plants? What is eating my kale? Why did the radish starts disappear? So, I turned to the library seeking answers. As a result, these three books became my teacher:
Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. I kept this book by my side in the garden. I'd look up each vegetable before sowing the seeds, to learn: how far apart and deep to sow, light preferences, moisture requirements, potential pests, crop maintenance, and when to harvest.
The New Organic Grower. Thanks to this book, I was able to dig a little deeper and discover the benefits of crop rotation, companion planting, green manures, etc. Years later, when managing an urban farm in Wisconsin, I bought a copy of Coleman’s ‘Winter Harvest Handbook,’ an excellent resource on season extension in cold climates.
The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control: A Complete Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Garden and Yard the Earth-Friendly Way. With clear pictures and descriptions, the section on 'identifying and understanding you garden pest' was particularly helpful.
According to Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, toxic build-up can eventually manifest as a health disorder. And as we grow older, the body's mechanisms for eliminating impurities tend to be less efficient, making it even more important to cleanse every season.