Healthy vegetable gardens do more than provide a beautiful area in your yard. They repay your labor with nutritious food and a healthy varied diet. Vegetable gardeners are in tune with the environment, giving back to the soil what they take from it. Abundant vegetable gardens start with healthy, rich soil. Compost and mulch contribute to that natural wealth.
About 11,000 years ago, the first farmers began to select and cultivate desired food plants in the southwest Asian Fertile Crescent – between the ancient Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Although we believe there was some use of wild cereals before that time, the earliest crops were barley, bitter vetch, chick peas, flax, lentils, peas, emmer, and wheat. About 9,000 years ago, Egyptians began to grow wheat and barley. About the same time, farmers in the Far East began to grow rice, soy, mung, azuki, and taro.
Then, about 7,000 years ago, ancient Sumarians established the first organized agricultural practices that made large-scale farming possible. Of particular note, they established irrigation as a way to nurture crops where none were possible before. Vegetable gardeners today use many of the same techniques established in early history. But today’s vegetable gardeners have millennia of experience behind them. Trial and error today is success or failure at the margins. Failure is not disaster.
As in centuries passed, a successful vegetable gardener cultivates the garden before planting for three main reasons: to eliminate weeds, to distribute air and nutrients throughout the soil, and to conserve moisture. Preparation of the soil is the single most important step in assuring abundant harvests.