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Another day in our garden in paradise!

A deep freeze stiffens the nation while the end of December bears comfortable, Southern California temperatures in Fallbrook. Fresh harvests of lettuce, greens, onions, carrots and beets gather together on tabletops underneath eyes filled with delight. Those caught in the gripping cold of the new winter resign themselves to imagine the freshly picked vegetables.

Two weeks ago, to maintain a constant yield of organic food, lettuce, Asian greens (bok choi, tatsoi and Napa cabbage), kale, collards, cabbages, broccoli, cauliflower, endives, celery, spinach, green onions and carrots were planted just before the rains. This is possible this time of year as gardens can be kept year round in this region of the country.

While many plants grow comfortably year round, it is best to match varieties to their native seasons. This keeps all things in symmetry and harmony, allowing for the best possible harvest. As season affects weather, so does weather change according to elevation and terrain. Valleys, for instance, freeze harder, thus placing a limitation on varietal choice. Higher elevations (though not too high), where frost occurs infrequently, are gifted with a larger selection of plants to choose from.

Organic gardening inspires a greater understanding of nature, as the art and science of gardening requires observation, reflection and meditation on all naturally occurring phenomena and processes. As the sphere of nature envelopes the gardener, the gardener becomes aware of the overwhelming wisdom of the environment, and the need to maintain a healthy and sustainable ecosystem. The School of Public Health at Harvard University linked low level exposure to pesticides to a 70 percent higher risk of succumbing to Parkinson’s Disease. Exposure to home pesticides may raise a person’s risk accordingly.

With the fear of contaminated food from large, inorganic farms constantly looming on the horizon, an organic approach to gardening eliminates the worry of chemically-laden foods sitting on table tops. Organic gardening includes the need for proper fertilization, weed control, mulching, pest control and soil building. Recommended fertilizers are more plant based and contain no pathogens or contaminates, allowing for a garden environment that is a source of vital health and joy.

Generally, garden soils need to be strengthened over time. Cover crops add organic matter to the soil to feed resident soil organisms that promote a healthy land. Lentils, garbanzo beans and oat groats, which purchased from bulk bins in large health food stores (organic is best), serve as excellent cover crops. Plant 75 percent beans and 25 percent oats on the garden beds and rake in. They germinate with ease in the early winter months, giving way to a tall, green, cover crop lasting a couple of months.

Cover crops are nature’s way of soil building, inspiring a symbiosis between positive bacteria, fungi, micorhizza, earthworms and other elements in soil which serve to break down plant material, releasing soil-bound minerals and building humus. These processes are alive, rational and wise, and cannot be duplicated or synthesized by humans. All of these processes assist in helping plants to convert solar energy into physical energy that allows life on Earth to exist.

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