We have learned organic gardening methods from many sources . We were barely in our 20’s when my husband and I first started gardening in the late 70’s. Our first teacher was a horse trader from Kentucky, who taught Ron how to farm with Belgian draft horses. Ron also had gotten hold of a book called Back to Eden which taught about cover cropping, building up the soil with green manures and crop rotation. We also read The Good Life by Helen and Scott Nearing.
During our journey, in the early 80’s, in Northern California, we met a couple in their early 40’s, who gardened organically before organic was a popular term. They had an incredible work ethic and were always learning. We saw how beneficial fish emulsion was and purchased this stinky stuff by the 5 gallon bucket for $5 from a local fish hatchery. We spread manure and mulched .
We also canned, froze and dehydrated all the garden goods and local fruits. The only thing we didn’t learn in California was to extend our garden seasons with low or high tunnels ,but that would come later.
We loved California, but with two small children , we wanted a place of our own and California was out of our price range. We headed back to the southeast and eventually bought our first small farm in west Tennessee where we planted a small orchard, berries and extensive vegetable gardens which were worked up by horses.
About 10 years ago, we found Elliot Coleman’s books and devoured them. His book, The New Organic Grower , offered more extensive methods of crop rotation than we had practiced, new varieties of carrots and baby lettuces and we also learned about the low tunnels and high tunnels. We now have 3 active high tunnels and 1 large greenhouse on our farm, Herb and Plow, on the Cumberland Plateau.
Our next book was the Market Gardener by Jean Martin Fortier. We learned which were the best cash crops and better ways to keep the plants immune system up high while in production.
Our newest book to read is The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way by Micheal Phillips. We learned a much better method of pruning , mulching, and a pretty potent nutritional cocktail for berries and fruits. Most of the ingredients we were already using but he includes the use of mycorrhiza and led us to a better and more affordable mycorrhiza product than what we had been using before.