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Don Trotter

Hello fellow Earthlings and welcome to the designer salad hotline. This is the first of a three part series on growing and caring for your cool season vegetable garden.

But first a little information on organic foods. In this era of genetic engineering, Dr. Frankenstein and his cronies, that work under enormous grants by big chemical companies are working to engineer hybrid plants that will grow and produce food under less than ideal conditions. These less than ideal conditions include growing food on soils that have been rendered toxic to most plants by excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. This Gardener has some scary concerns about food crops grown in toxic environments. What kind of nutrition will foods that are grown on toxic soils give to the animals that consume them? Since most of these "Frankencrops" are used for livestock feeding, how healthy is the meat that comes form these animals. I eat meat and enjoy it, however I'm frightened by the mentality of making crops that grow in toxic environments instead of healing the soils that were poisoned. Also, at what point does the food that is produced under these conditions become toxic just from being grown under these less than ideal conditions. Enough rhetoric... Support your local organic farmer and visit a farmers market in your area, the food is top quality and very good for you and your family. The alternative is to produce some of that food right there on your property, so let's go gardening...

Fall/ Winter in our mild climate is a time when we can grow some really great vegetables and it is also when some of our citrus and other fruits are getting ripe. There is practically no limit to the variety of food crops that you can grow in a cool season vegetable garden. But first that cool season garden needs a location.

Siting your veggie plot is a very simple process. Just find an area of the yard that has good sun exposure, just like the summer garden, and ample available water close by. In the winter the sun is quite low at our latitude so it is advised that you grow your taller crops such as pole beans and peas at the northern edge of the garden plot and your really short crops to the southern edge of the space to minimize shading of the garden. The next step is to prepare your soil for production of good, nutritious food.

The single most influential component of a successful vegetable garden is healthy soil. I know that a lot of you don't have the most fertile growing conditions on Earth, but we're about to change that... The following soil amending program for vegetable gardens is set up for a 10 foot by 10 foot space. If the size of your space is larger or smaller just do the math. 10'x10' is 100 square feet, if your site is 150 sqft. just add one and a half times this recipe.

1. Site the garden as discussed above

2. Choose the size of your future vegetable plot ( for purposes of this article mine is 10' x 10' )

3. If you don't have a rototiller you can rent one at one of the local equipment rental yards in the area. Make two passes on the vegetable garden site with the rototiller in a cross wise pattern.

4. Add the following soil amendments to the vegetable garden area by broadcasting the materials evenly over the entire garden space. 10 pounds Hoof and Horn Meal, 15 pounds Cottonseed Meal, 10 pounds Seabird Guano or Bat Guano, 20 pounds Bone Meal and 50 pounds of Fossilized Kelp "Kelzyme", or 25 pounds of Kelp Meal and 50 pounds of Gypsum.

5. Add 20 cubic feet of and organic compost or 15 cubic feet of organic compost and 50lbs of earthworm castings. Rototill the garden in a similar, crosswise fashion. Rake or shovel the soil level.

6. It is now time to water the soil thoroughly and then relax until next weekend giving your muscles time to heal and the soil time to digest. While you are healing, begin to make a list of your favorite veggies and see if they are in my column next week when we will be choosing our crops and planting them in our newly prepared garden. All of the materials that you have read about in this column are available at most garden centers. Kelzyme is available from Environmental Health Sciences 760.634.1066 ask for Doug.

Next time we'll begin the planting phase of our garden. Let's make this a family project and get the kids involved. It's educational, and organic gardening is the easiest way to raise environmental awareness . See you in the Garden!

Got questions? Fax the Doc at 760.632.8175 or Email him: email

Don Trotter's natural gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications.

Look for Don's book Natural Gardening A-Z from Hay House at bookstores everywhere and at all online booksellers and check out Don's columns in Hearst's Healthy Living Magazine coming soon.

Enjoy some of Dr. Curly's past gardening articles from our growers archive.

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