Organic gardening is simple, easy, affordable

With all the hype over labeling of Genetically Modified Food (GMO) in the United States, and Monsanto “playing God” with our food supply — many people have started their own organic gardens in their yard.

I am no exception.

It is very easy to do, and you can start reaping rewards from your hard work in as little as two weeks.

Last week I was in Krogers and needed a green pepper for a recipe I was making, and was taken back at the cost for that one pepper — $1 each (not per pound). I simply walked away and found a substitute for the pepper. Tomatoes, bananas, potatoes are on the high end now too, and this was NOT in the “organic” section of the produce department.

It’s sad that so many people are sticker-shocked when they go in the grocery store anymore. I often hear how organic food is more expensive than other foods, and it seems as if they are almost a level playing field now. Without a doubt, everyone is paying more for food than they used to — yet wages are not going up.

To combat this, you should start by collecting “heirloom” seeds (seeds that were gathered pre-Monsanto). You do not want to go through all this work and then end up using seeds you got on sale at Wal-Mart (those are probably GMO seeds).

Depending on the size of your chosen organic bed, you can estimate you will spend approximately $300 to get it up and rolling, but that investment will last for years to come.

First of all, measure the size of area you want to use. (Example: you want a bed that is 8 feet long and 4 feet wide and 18 inches deep) measure the type of block you will be using. I used scalloped blocks made for retaining walls, that were 12 inches long, 4 inches wide and 6 inches tall.

For this example, I would need to have eight blocks for my length, four blocks for my width and three rows for my height for a total of 72 blocks. These blocks at Lowe’s in Monroe were 47 cents each plus tax, so it cost me $35.87.

Next, with your lawn mower, shave the grass down to the lowest you can get it. Since you will not be digging up the landscape, you will need to cut the grass as close to the dirt as possible.

Your next step is to place down heavy duty plastic. I used a recycled product made from shredded plastic pop bottles. This is the base of your organic bed. It separates the landscape from virgin soil.

Once your plastic is laid out, covering all of the shaved grassy area, lay the first 4 sides of your retaining wall. This will hold the plastic down for you; eventually, it will kill the grass underneath it.

Carefully continue stacking your blocks until you reach three high on all sides. Your organic bed is ready for layering.

On top of the plastic, lay newspapers that you have opened up and wet thoroughly — use as many as possible. You can collect newspapers from recycling centers, churches, family and friends. Once your first layer of wet newspapers is in place, you will need to start adding your soil and stone.

For every 2 feet of garden, you will need to use one bag of peat stone, and two bags of play sand. In this example, I would need four bags of peat stone and eight bags of sand. Both of these are relatively affordable at Lowe’s for $1.78 and $2.25 respectively.

On top of your wet newspaper, layer in your stone first leveling it out as you go along, and then add 1 bag of sand for every 2 feet of garden. (saving back 4 bags for later layering)

At this point, you have 4 layers — the base plastic, the wet newspaper, the peat stone and the sand. It is now time to add dirt/soil.

Soil should be a mix of Miracle Gro Potting Soil, bagged top soil, and any food scraps like used coffee grounds, egg shells, etc.

For every 2 feet of garden (x3 for height), you will need four bags of soil mixture — eight bags of Miracle Gro, eight bags of top soil (both the largest bags you can find). Start by putting your top soil on top of the sand, leveling as you go. Then put Miracle Gro on top of that, also leveling it.

After you do the first two layers of soil, add in your coffee grounds and crushed egg shells and then add on the rest of the sand. You will continue layering until your raised organic bed is level (or slightly higher) than your retaining wall.

You are then all set to start planting and enjoy a fruitful harvest for years to come.