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(Some of this same information and more can be found in "No Farms, No Food: A Manual for Black Survival" found at http://muhammadfarms.com/Works.htm )

Gardening grows...

By Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin (1/3/09)

Gardening grows an appreciation for God

Gardening grows discipline by forcing you to keep to a schedule

Gardening grows the ability to plan for the future

Gardening grows submission to the laws of nature

Gardening grows character

Gardening grows toughness of resolve

Gardening grows scientific analysis

Gardening grows problem solving skills

Gardening grows common sense wisdom

Gardening grows a mathematical approach to living

Gardening grows muscles

Gardening grows increased sensitivity to touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing and fatigue

Gardening grows relationships between family and neighbors

Gardening grows compliments from others

Gardening grows a sense of security from hunger and want

Gardening grows a community spirit

Gardening grows self confidence

Gardening grows hope in a better next season

Gardening grows awareness of other creatures who like your crop

Gardening grows acceptance that animals and weeds are smart

Gardening grows a sense of humor

Gardening grows paying attention to the weather, the seasons and the time

Gardening grows an understanding of cause and effect, input to output, and returns to effort

Gardening grows insight into the relationship between the past, the present and a better future

Gardening grows an attachment to the earth

Gardening grows disdain for concrete and steel

Gardening grows a feeling of self-reliance

Gardening grows a habit of being productive

Gardening grows satisfaction in a job well done

Gardening grows a charitable attitude

Gardening grows a link to our ancestors who were mostly farmers

Gardening grows your possibility of genetic memory recall

Gardening grows respect for the farmer and all of those who sweat

Gardening grows knowing what "real" is

Gardening grows a desire to be free in deed

Gardening grows good food


When one grows ones own food on ones own land then one can be sure of its safety. What is "organic gardening"? The word organic simply means "...of, relating to, or containing carbon compounds". Most people think of organic meaning safe. However, many of the chemicals used in agriculture are non-organic but safe, and some of the organic or naturally occurring compounds used by "organic farmers" are not safe. In general, organic versus non-organic gardening or farming is a function of the time one is willing or able to spend in the process. In other words "organic" means "sweat".

To grow a crop you need soil fertility which can be augmented by different means. You need to fight the weeds that will choke or take nutrients from your crop and you need to fight the insects and disease that might attack your crop. You may choose to augment the soil or fight the pests by hand or with chemicals. For home gardening purposes weeds can be controlled by hand or with a hoe. One can use composted lawn clipping or table scraps for fertilizer and one can simply knock off the bugs by hand. However, we will try and give more detailed information on various techniques so that one can make the tradeoff between your time, capital, volume of output desired and appearance of the crop. This manual is not designed to make you the best gardener, but it will go far to get you started on the path to gardening for survival.


Garden Location

Garden site selection is very important. When possible, locate the garden in full sunlight. near the house, on good soil and near a water supply. A manageable garden can be a plot measuring 50 feet by 25 feet.

Sunlight: Most vegetables need full sunlight for growth and development. Plant leaf crops, such as broccoli, turnips and spinach, in areas likely to be in partial shade. Don't plant any vegetables in complete shade.

Don't plant near large hedges, hedgerows, or trees. They not only create too much shade, but they compete with the garden for moisture and nutrients.

Nearness to the House: Locate the garden near the house so it can be observed regularly. Being close to your garden will help you notice insect, disease, and weed problems and take necessary measures to control them before they can cause serious damage. A convenient location will also allow you to spend short periods of spare time tending to garden chores or harvesting the fruit.

Garden soil: When looking for a garden site, keep in mind that the exact soil type is less important than factors such as high fertility, good internal drainage, ease of tilling, good moisture-holding capacity, and deep topsoil. Try to avoid areas infested with Johnson grass, nut grass, and other troublesome weeds, areas with rock ledges, and areas underlain by a hardpan or hard shale.

If an area of ground is always bare, it probably does not receive enough sunshine or the soil has some serious disease, nutrient deficiency or large ph imbalance. Get a soil sample and take it to your local County Extension office to get it analyzed.

Water supply: You will get only moderate results if you try to grow a garden without watering it as needed. Mulches and organic matter will improve the soil's moisture-holding capacity and reduce evaporation loss. However, they will not guarantee an ample supply of moisture at all times. If possible, locate the garden near a good water supply so that it can be watered as needed.

Select The Crops

While you will want to select vegetables that provide a good supply of vitamins and minerals, be sure to plant vegetables that your family likes. However, the size of your garden and the suitability of certain types of vegetables to your area will limit the crops you choose. Remember that large-growing crops, such as corn, in a small garden cuts down on the number of other vegetables. This is why you should also be in contact with other Black farmers to supplement what you can grow on limited space with other crops that may be more suitable to grow over extensive acreage such as corn and wheat. The crops that can yield the most output from a limited availability of space are tomatoes, eggplants, okra and bell peppers.

If you plan to can or freeze surplus produce, be sure to choose varieties that process well. Information on canning and freezing vegetables is located in another section of this manual.

Make A Map

Make a map of your proposed garden sometime during the winter. Gather seed catalogs and variety recommendations, then put the garden plan or paper. Include the kinds of vegetables to be planted, distance between rows, distance between plants (see Spacing), amount of fertilizer to use, and time of planting. A sample garden plan in provided below and a planting chart giving information on each crop is provided in the back of the manual. This chart also tells you how many ounces of seeds or number of plants you need to plant per 100 foot row. You may also order seeds from us. We specialize in harvesting and distributing non-genetically engineered seed that will reproduce a live seed.

Plant perennial crops (crops that persist for several years), such as asparagus, strawberries, or other small fruits to one side so they will not interfere with the preparation of the rest of the garden each season. Plant tall-growing plants on the north side so they will not shade the other plants.

Arrange the rows according to the planting dates of various crops. Thus, only a narrow strip needs to be prepared for the early plants; the rest of the garden may be prepared as needed.

Keep all space fully occupied throughout the growing season. In the deep south it's possible to have vegetables growing every month of the year. By intercropping (planting another kind of vegetables between the rows of an earlier maturing kind), you can make better use of available space. Plant late crops (those normally transplanted after danger of frost has passed) between rows of early peas, lettuce, spinach, and the like.

List garden chores to do each month; with a garden map and a garden calendar it will be easier to carry out the various jobs on time.


The equipment you will need largely depends upon the size of your garden. If you have a small garden of a few hundred square feet, a hoe, an iron rake, a spading fork, a round nose shovel, and a duster or a sprayer may be adequate. In larger gardens you may need additional tools such as a wheel cultivator or a garden tiller. Be sure that your equipment is reliable and in good repair. Prepare and repair in the off-season or during inclement weather; mother nature does not leave much room for error.

If you intend to have a very large garden or a cooperative garden, then you might need the services of a tractor. There may be farmers in your area who will do the plowing for you for a minimal fee. Seek them out. You may find them through your local county extension office or through a farmer organization such as the Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association (state chapter contacts are given in back of manual).

You also need several stakes and string or rope to mark off rows. For irrigation, you need a garden hose and sprinkler or drip tubing and hardware, which is more efficient but more expensive.

Keep A Record

Enter the name of each variety, the seed source, the date planted, and the date harvested. Write down your evaluation of the crop also. Keep records on chemicals used, fertilizer applied, and anything of personal interest. All of these notes will help you plan next year's garden a little more efficiently. Involve the children, especially in the record keeping and analysis phase of your garden enterprise. This could become a valuable learning experience in your child's development into a future scientist.

Soil Testing And Liming Recommendations

Soil testing is an important practice for the home gardener. Soil test results indicate the soil fertility and the amounts of fertilizers that should be added to obtain good plant growth. A soil test also determines the pH of your soil, which is the basis for liming recommendations.

Most vegetables grow best in a slightly acid soil, with a pH around 6.0 to 6.5. In more acid soil of pH 4.5 to 5.5, vegetables grow very poorly. Dolomitic lime is recommended to neutralize acidity because this form of lime also supplies magnesium, a plant nutrient that is often deficient in some soils. For best results lime should be applied three to six months before planting the crop. A good time to apply lime is in the fall before soil preparation.

Soil Preparation and improvement

Fall preparations will ensure the proper soil conditions for early spring planting. Chop residual litter and turn the soil in the fall, burying the litter in the bottom of the furrow. Burying litter will help control diseases and speed up decomposition.

For cool season or early spring crops to be planted in January, February or March, a good practice is to prepare beds or ridge the rows in the fall. By following this practice, the tops of the beds or ridges will dry off for early plantings.

Add Organic Matter

Add organic matter to the soil when possible. It improves soil tilth, conserves soil moisture and helps root development. Organic matter in garden soils decomposes rapidly because of continued cultivation and high temperatures. Making compost is an ideal way to restore this organic matter. Good compost can be made from straw, hay, leaves, manure, sawdust, grass clippings and weeds. Certain additives can speed decomposition and add fertility to the compost.

Bacteria are needed to decompose the organic materials into a form that can be utilized by the plant. Bacteria also need nitrogen. Some will be obtained from the contents of the compost heap but you want to put as much nitrogen as you can into the soil, so it is a good idea to supplement this. A little farmyard manure is a great benefit. If this is not available you can buy organic activators from most garden centers. The process can be a bit acid and it helps to add a light sprinkling of ground limestone or egg shells every foot or so as the heap builds up.

Manure, leaves and other materials can also be added directly to the garden and worked into the soil during fall garden plot preparation. Some municipalities have materials such as leaves and shredded limbs available at nominal costs for your garden use.

Organic vs Chemical Fertilizers

A fertilizer is a substance that is added to soil to help plants grow. Fertilizers contain nutrients that are essential for plant growth. Some fertilizers are made from organic waste, such as manure or sewage. Others are manufactured from certain minerals or from synthetic compounds produced in factories.

Green plants produce the food they use for growth. They produce it by means of the process of photosynthesis. To make this food, plants require large amounts of nine chemical elements - carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, sulfur, calcium, and magnesium. Air and water provide most of the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that green plants need for growth. The other elements must come chiefly from the soil.

The elements plants receive from soil are normally provided by decaying plant and animal matter and dissolved minerals. But sometimes soil does not have enough of these substances, resulting in a need for fertilizer. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are the elements in which soil is most frequently deficient.

Manufacturers produce mineral fertilizers from certain minerals or synthetic substances. Nitrogen fertilizers, the most widely used mineral fertilizers, are produced mainly from ammonia gas. Manufacturers use ammonia in making such liquid fertilizers as anhydrous ammonia and aqua ammonia. They also use it in producing solid fertilizers, such as ammonium sulfate, ammonium nitrate, ammonium phosphate, and an organic compound called urea.

Phosphorus fertilizers, also called phosphates, are made from the mineral apatite. Finely ground apatite may be applied to soil as a solid fertilizer called rock phosphate. Potassium fertilizers come largely from deposits of potassium chloride.

Organic fertilizers are made from a variety of substances, including manure, plant matter, sewage waste and packing house wastes. These fertilizers contain a smaller percentage of nutrients than do mineral fertilizers. Therefore, they must be used in larger quantities to obtain the same results.

Mineral fertilizers are more concentrated which provides for easier handling and spreading. However, over utilization of such fertilizers without the addition of organic materials can lead to the destruction of soil texture and a long term poisoning of the soil. The over utilization of mineral fertilizers has caused environmental problems when these minerals have found their way into our lakes and streams. Organic fertilizers release their nutrients more slowly and are less likely to leach out into the ground water. However, one can still use too much horse, cow or chicken manure and cause the same ill effects caused by mineral fertilizers.

Mineral fertilizers are sold by their grade, such as 6-12-12 or 5-10-15. These numbers refer to the percent of nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, respectively. In 100 pounds of 6-12-12 there are six pounds of total nitrogen (N), 12 pounds of available phosphorus (P2O5), and 12 pounds of soluble potash (K2O), totaling 30 pounds of plant nutrients. The other 70 pounds consist of other nutrients, fillers and, sometimes, conditioners. The most commonly used grades are 10-10-10, 6-12-12 and 5-10-15.

Organic fertilizers include a variety of materials, each serving a different function. Thus blood meal is high in nitrogen and is useful for a quick-growing leaf crop such as spinach. Bone meal, on the other hand, is high in phosphorus and is therefore useful as a general fertilizer to promote flowering and fruiting.

Below is a table giving the type of organic material along with its percent nutrient content:

Material % Nitrogen % Phosphorus % Potassium


Blood meal 15 1.3 0.7

Bone meal 4 22 0.2

Cow manure (fresh) 3 0.2 0.4

Cow manure (old) 0.6 0.4 0.4

Dried blood 12-14 2.5 0.5

Fish meal 10 3.0 0

Hoof and horn 13 1.5 0

Horse manure (fresh) 0.4 0.2 0.4

Horse manure (old) 0.7 0.5 0.6

Leaf mold 0.5 0.2 0.3

Poultry manure 2 1.8 1.4

Rock phosphate 0 20 0

Rock potash 0 0 11

Seaweed 1 0.5 0.3

Straw 0.6 0.3 0.9

Sheep manure 0.7 0.4 0.3

Used hops 1 0.8 0.3

Used mushroom compost 0.6 0.3 0.8


Plant Fertilization

Different plants require more or less additional fertilizers. Below is a chart which classifies vegetables into three categories depending on fertilizer requirements.



Cabbage Artichoke Pepper Southern peas

Celery Asparagus Pumpkin

Irish potato Beans, all types Radish

Lettuce Beet Rhubarb

Onion Cantaloupe Swiss chard

Sweet potato Carrot Watermelon

Tomato Corn, sweet Greens (turnip,

Cucumber broccoli,

Eggplant cauliflower,

Herbs spinach)


Peas, English




Fertilizer Application

For most efficient fertilizer use apply one-third to one-half of your fertilizer in bands three inches to either side of the row and slightly below the seed level at planting, and the remainder applied in two to three side dressings at two- to three- week intervals after the plants are well-established.

Banding a portion of the fertilizer is beneficial in getting the plants off to a good start. However, applying too much fertilizer in the band or placing it too near the seed or young plants may severely damage the root systems.

Side dressing refers to the practice of placing fertilizer in the soil beside your plants. It provides additional plant food, which is usually needed during the growing season.

Liquid fertilizers can be applied as a supplemental source of nutrients during the growing season. These can be made by putting some compost or manure into a burlap sack and soaking this in a bucked of water for a couple of weeks, occasionally agitating it. Water the resulting liquid onto the ground around the plants. A foliar feed, sprayed on the leaves, can be made from seaweed extract.

Prepare Soil Early

If the garden soil was not plowed or spaded in the fall, turn the ground in the spring as soon as it is dry enough to work. A good test is to mold a handful of soil into a ball. If the ball isn't sticky but crumbles readily when pressed with the thumb, the soil is in good condition to be worked.

Plow or spade the soil to a depth of seven or eight inches. turn under as much organic residue, such as manure, leaves, compost and old straw, as possible. If a large amount of undecomposed organic matter is to be turned under, sprinkle some form of nitrogen, such as ammonium nitrate, over it before turning it under.

Harrow or rake spring-plowed or spaded soil soon after turning it. This practice will maintain good soil texture and prevent excessive drying. It may be necessary to harrow again just before planting to ensure good soil conditions. For small-seeded crops, a finely pulverized surface ensures easier planting, better germination and a more even stand.

Plant On Schedule

Planting a garden is more than a one-day job. Schedule each planting; then follow your schedule as closely as possible. Such crops as turnips, lettuce, cabbage, English peas, carrots, beets and Irish potatoes are planted far ahead of the frost-free date. Others, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and okra, are planted after all danger of frost has passed.

We have found that planting according to the phases of the moon can be helpful at ensuring proper germination. Most almanacs have a section which gives recommended times of planting for different categories of crops. Almanacs can be picked up from book stores or local seed distributors.

Marking The Rows

You may find it helpful to use a heavy cord stretched the length of the row to aid in planting. By using four stakes and a piece of string or cord twice the length of the garden, the gardener can mark off two rows at once and save considerable time.

Row width may vary according to types of vegetables planted. Check the chart in back of manual for recommended row widths, spacings and planting depths.

Some crops are planted in drills. A drill is a single row of plants spaced more or less evenly. A hill is a cluster of plants, not a mound of soil. Most crops are best planted in drills, although some widely spaced crops such as squashes and melons may be easier to cultivate and to care for if they are planted in hills.

To open a row to plant large-seeded crops such as beans, peas and sweet corn, walk backwards, stepping on the cord and dragging the corner of the hoe blade along the string, thus making a small furrow, or use a small plow. For small-seeded crops, the end of the hoe handle works fine. Some gardeners will use a planter for this job. A number of small push-type planters are available.

Firmly press (but do not pack) the soil around the seed with the flat blade of the hoe, the wheel of a garden plow or with your foot. When planting in very dry soil, it is a good idea to water the area after planting to ensure germination. If drought conditions continue, more water may be needed in a few days.

Always sow the seed a little thicker than the plants will finally stand. This practice will allow for those seed that fail to sprout and for plants that may be killed when they are very young by diseases, birds, cutworms or cultivation errors.

When possible use a layer of straw mulch one-half to one inch thick on the top of beds planted to very small seed. The mulch prevents packing of the soil around the seeds when they are watered and protects the young seedlings when they first emerge. A mulch is especially helpful during drought periods when repeated watering may be necessary to get good germination and seedling emergence.

When the plants are well-established, thin out extra ones so they will not be crowded. Do the thinning before the plants get too tall but not until they have helped to eliminate competing weeds.

Weed Control

Weeds compete for moisture and fertilizer, so they must be controlled. This control can be achieved by cultivating, mulching or using herbicides. However, it is not recommended or necessary to use herbicides in the home garden, since the area to be controlled is not extensive.

Start cultivation in the garden soon after the plants are up. Early cultivation will help give the plants a head start on the weeds. Use a sharp hoe or a cultivator equipped with knife- type blades that skim just under the surface. There is no need for deep cultivation, which often causes more moisture loss, cuts roots and requires more labor.

It is a good idea to cultivate young plants often to keep weeds from getting started. If a garden soil is properly prepared and is in good physical condition, the only benefit derived from cultivation is weed control.


A mulch of straw, dried lawn clippings, leaves, sawdust, or pine straw will help conserve moisture and keep down weeds. To be effective, the mulch must be applied between the rows and around the plants. Mulch should not be applied to the garden too early in the spring because the soil needs to warm up. Mulch will block the sunlight and the soil will remain cool and retard plant growth. Of course applying a black plastic mulch has the opposite effect on soil temperature.

A black plastic mulch can be placed on top and sides of the bed, leaving the middles open for watering. Use black plastic only where the garden site is level enough to permit flooding the middles with water. Use straw in the middles to suppress weed growth and eliminate the need for cultivating.



The garden requires a moisture supply equal to about one to 1 1/2 inches per week during the growing season. Watering should be done often enough to keep the moisture level fairly uniform. On medium and heavy soils an application of about one inch per week should be adequate in the absence of sufficient rain. On light sandy soils two or three applications of 1/2 inch each ma be needed. Actual amounts needed will vary depending on soil types, stage of growth of the plants, amount of rainfall and temperature.

If the ground is sufficiently level, run water in the furrows until the soil is completely soaked. If the soil is very sandy or the surface too irregular for the furrow method, sprinkles or porous irrigating hose can be used. Keep in mind, however, that any watering practice that wets the foliage increases disease damage, especially if the foliage remains wet for extended periods. Use sprinklers in the morning or early afternoon.


Cucumbers, cantaloupes, pumpkins, squash, and watermelons bear male and female flowers on each plant. Pollen must be transferred from the male flower to the female flower for normal fruit set and growth to occur. The pollen on these plants are sticky and not, therefore, wind born. Therefore, it is necessary that sufficient numbers of bees visit your garden to carry out the pollination process.

Cultural tips

Pole beans, cucumbers and tomatoes provide higher quality and greater quantities of fruit if they are staked or trellised. Do not underestimate the yield potential of these crops, so be ready to adequately dispose of them as they ripen.

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