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The Good W.O.R.D. in Gardening:

Wide Rows, Organic Methods, Raised Beds, Deep Soil


An "acronym" is a word formed by the initial letters of other words placed in order. The acronym "W.O.R.D." is a great way to remember the four basic ideas that guide you in garden planning:


W . . . for Wide Rows.


A garden should be about three or four feet wide. Years ago, most gardens were planted in rows of about one-foot each. But now we know that wide rows are better. And it's best to never, ever walk on the dirt where plants are growing, or will soon grow.

The more space you give plants in loose, fertile soil, the larger their root systems will spread out, and the larger the vegetables and flowers will be.

With wide rows, you can plant more plants, so that increases your harvest.

If you plant plants in narrow rows, with walkways between the rows, you waste a lot of growing space, you may waste water on the walkways, and your feet will compact the soil, making it poor quality in the future should you decide to use it to grow plants.

Plus, in wide rows, you can plant more plants together, and they will shade out weeds and keep moisture from evaporating.


O . . . for Organic Methods.


An "organic" garden is one that takes advantage of nature, instead of man-made methods and products, to grow better vegetables and flowers.

Rather than purchasing man-made fertilizers and pest control products, an organic gardener makes compost out of things that people used to throw away - grass clippings, raked leaves, vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds - to not only reduce the amount of garbage you throw away, but to greatly improve the soil in your garden.

Organic gardeners love earthworms because they make the soil better for plants, so they don't use harsh chemicals in the garden that can kill worms.

They use natural products like sulfur to fight off beetles. Instead of poisoning rabbits and raccoons that want to raid their garden plants, they build simple little fences to protect their crops and keep the critters out.

Instead of spraying chemicals on bugs that might make the vegetables unsafe to eat, they simply pick the bugs off and squash them, or they grow plants that attract birds to the garden to eat the bugs for them, or they plant plants with a certain smell that the bugs hate, to keep them away naturally.

An organic gardener will plant plants with plenty of space between them so that the air can circulate, and prevent diseases that so often come from crowded gardens. That way, harsh chemicals in fungicides and other man-made products don't have to be used.

Instead of using man-made plastic on the soil to keep weeds down, they use things like wet newspaper covered with straw or shredded bark mulch, that won't let weeds sprout but still let the "ecosystem" in the ground interact with the air and the rain.

Being an organic gardener is great for the Earth, a great chance to work on your problem-solving skills, and a lot of fun when you get to eat and enjoy what you've worked so hard to grow.


R . . . for Raised Beds.


Building a box out of wood and filling it with compost and perhaps some rotted manure and soil-loosening substances may cost you some time and money the first year. But over the years, you'll get paid back many times over.

Your soil doesn't get pushed down by people's feet walking over it.

Plant roots can get oxygen more easily because the soil isn't compacted.

The soil can drain easily after a rain instead of drowning the roots in puddles because the soil is pushed together and won't drain.

It is tons easier to pull up crops that grow underground, such as potatoes and beets, because the soil is nice and loose.

You can plant in raised beds earlier in the spring, and later in the fall, because they warm up faster than the plain ground in the spring, and stay warm longer than the plain ground in the fall.


D . . . for Deep Soil.


If you can dig deep in your garden soil, and add compost and other soil improvements to raise up your garden beds, you might be able to create a growing habitat for plant roots that is as many as 18 inches deep.

It is amazing how much bigger a plant's root system will grow if it simply has deep enough loosened soil in which to grow.

Think how much better it would be for root vegetables, like carrots, if they could grow straight down in loosened soil for 18 inches, rather than one inch or six.

If you try to grow carrots in soil that you haven't loosened up, you may end up with carrot BRICKS! They'll grow sideways, rather than straight down.



(A great resource book on these four concepts is The Vegetable Gardener's BIBLE by Edward C. Smith.)


By Susan Darst Williams • • Planning 11 © 2010



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