Ever since humans first began tilling soil, they have looked for ways to produce bigger, better food plants that will feed ever-growing families and communities. Recent agricultural developments have produced huge industrial gardens dedicated to one type of plant, resulting in land that has lost its natural diversity and been stripped of the nutrients necessary for plant growth. Without natural predators to live on the land, plant pests multiply at astonishing rates and set to work destroying these mammoth growing plots. Farmers attempt to compensate for nutrient and pest problems by adding chemical fertilizers and pesticides that keep plants growing even in less than ideal conditions so that fruits and vegetables can continue to populate supermarket shelves – but at what cost?
Chemically enhanced food plants produce huge, colorful fruits and vegetables that appeal to the eye, but deeper analysis reveals dangerous levels of residual toxic chemicals that find their way onto dining room tables across the country. Such plants sacrifice both taste and nutrition for the sake of super-production, contributing to the health problems that plague the nation. Urban organic farming is seeking to change all of that.
How Organic Gardening is Changing the World
Organic gardeners dedicate themselves to methods of food production that defer to nature by eliminating chemical gardening methods and respecting the needs of the soil. Organic urban farmers seek to bring organic gardening to backyards and patios by growing as much of their own fruits and vegetables as they can. In this way, they avoid supporting the huge food conglomerates that have monopolized the growing industry and also promote the health of both their families and the land around them.
Getting Started in Organic Urban Farming
If you’re new to organic gardening, it’s important to start small and master the technique before filling your yard with wide varieties of plants that may fail to thrive without knowledgeable care. Remember that every time you eat food from your own garden, even if it’s just one vegetable every day, you show your respect for the earth and contribute to the promotion of health and well-being for yourself and those around you. One of the best plants to start with is the humble tomato plant.
Growing Tomatoes in Your Organic Urban Garden
Tomato plants demand little in the way of specialized care and carefully chosen varieties will provide you with delicious fruit all summer long. Once you’ve tasted an organically grown tomato from your garden, you’ll never go back to the store-bought variety.
1. Prepare the Soil
Whether you plan to till your backyard or grow your tomatoes in a container, soil preparation provides the key to successful urban farming. Choose compost-based soils that include high organic content. Don’t try to skimp by using the soil already in your backyard, since many key nutrients have already been used by other plants.
2. Prepare the Growing Space
Your tomatoes will require continually moist soil, but won’t survive soggy compost that doesn’t drain. Choose a space that doesn’t retain water in order to keep your tomatoes from drowning. If you plan to grow your tomatoes in a container, choose one with adequate drainage holes in the bottom. You can prevent soil loss through the drainage holes by covering them with a coffee filter before adding soil.
Your tomatoes will also need plenty of sunshine in order to thrive. Young plants will need protection during the hottest part of the day, however, so consider providing some shelter to keep them from scorching.
3. Choose Your Plants
If you’re growing in containers, choose a variety that tends to bush as opposed to vining in order to keep the plants manageable. In addition, you’ll want to look for indeterminate varieties, meaning that they’ll produce fruit all season long rather than just once. Organic urban farmers should also consider growing heirloom tomato varieties, since they have been bred through many generations to resist disease and bloom prolifically.
4. Feed and Water Your Plants
Keep soil consistently moist but not soggy in order to grow happy tomatoes. Check your containers for moisture by feeling the soil. If the top two inches are dry, it’s time to water. Since you won’t be using chemical fertilizers on your tomato plants, you’ll need to add some organic compost and manure throughout the growing season to make sure your plants don’t strip the soil of nutrients.
5. Manage Your Plants
Even if you choose bushy varieties, tomatoes have a tendency to sprawl. Allow for this by giving each plant adequate space and by providing support in the form of a tomato cage or stake. Alternatively, you can use string to tie the plant up if it’s growing next to a fence or balcony railing.
Organic tomatoes will change the way you think about urban farming. Once you’ve mastered tomato growing in an urban setting, you can move on to other plants, rotating growing positions in order to promote disease resistance and soil nutrient retention.