A natural approach: Moses Lake family’s organic garden thrives – Columbia Basin Herald

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MOSES LAKE — Gardeners are often drawn to the pastime from a desire to connect with the natural world around them and get back to their roots in a sense, and sustainable, organic, chemical-free gardening provides an opportunity for gardeners to interact with the environment without leaving as much of a footprint behind in the process.

Alicia and Josh Mohs of Moses Lake have been gardening for a little more than 10 years and said the hobby allows them to connect with nature. As vegetarians, there is a huge benefit to growing their own plants and vegetables. Josh Mohs said he doesn’t know any other way than organic gardening.

“You put seeds in the ground and you watch them grow,” Josh Mohs said. “I don’t think you need much else.”

The couple said they don’t use any chemicals or artificial components in their garden. Alicia Mohs said they don’t treat their soil with anything other than adding compost, which they produce themselves.

She said they only buy organic seeds and plant starts and try to pick up local seeds if they can. Azure Farms, Hudson Seed Company and Baker Seed Company are a few of the online vendors the couple buys seeds from.

“We like to buy from heirloom companies if we can, people that have been saving seeds for a long time,” Alicia Mohs said.

In addition to the organic seeds the couple purchase, they said there are plenty of “volunteer seeds” that pop up every year, often coming from leftover food scraps in the compost pile.

Without a ton of garden space in their yard, Josh Mohs said there are times where they will have to pick out some of the volunteer seeds that try to take over the area. Last year, he said there were “Jurassic Park-sized” tomato and zucchini plants that came out of nowhere, with one tomato plant about five feet tall and five feet wide.

“We get volunteer peach trees from the peach pits that go in the compost, we get volunteer squash all over that we have to kind of pick out sometimes because it takes over everything,” Josh Mohs said.

Josh Mohs said they’ve always done some basic composting, but started a dedicated compost bed last year. He said he’s amazed at how much organic matter they’ve gotten in the bed just from adding compost and turning the pile. The couple said they’ve noticed a much richer soil with lots of happy worms.

“Everything just seems happier,” Alicia Mohs said.

The couple have multiple garden beds in their yard, including a new, raised garden bed completed as a COVID shutdown project. Alicia Mohs said they are looking to do more planning and rotating plants between different areas next year, after letting things grow as they came up.

Alicia Mohs said they grow a variety of types of cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, peas and peppers, with some various herbs intermixed within the garden.

“We’ve done years where we do rows of the same, but in our old bed what we do is kind of a mixture, kind of like creating art,” Alicia Mohs said.

She said the couple plant a lot of pollinators in their garden to invite in bees and other bugs. With no chemicals or pesticides, Alicia Mohs said herbs are mixed into the garden to help keep some of the less-welcome pests away.

“I do intermix the herbs for that reason; chives, rosemary, oregano, lemon balm, to deter them,” Alicia Mohs said. “Keeping spiders is a big one. They trap other bugs that you might not want. Anytime I find a ladybug, I’ll move them into my garden. Finding the bugs that are helpful for the ones that are called pests, we just keep them all around.”

Ladybugs are helpful in keeping pesky aphids at bay in the summer. Josh Mohs said ladybugs can be bought in bulk and put in the garden, which the couple might try one day.

The couple said if they notice a plant isn’t doing well in the growing season, they’ll research the topic online and see if there is a natural method to remedy the ailment. Josh Mohs said if they see a tomato plant that isn’t doing well, most of the time they will just let it be.

“That was its journey for the year, not much we can do to change the course,” Josh Mohs said.

Alicia Mohs said one of the best tips she can give gardeners, organic or not, is to start seeds early, particularly things such as tomatoes and peppers. Other plants, she said it’s just easier to wait and put the seeds straight into the ground.

One of the biggest new changes this year is not tilling their garden to reduce the release of carbon into the atmosphere, but Josh Mohs said with such a little plot of land, their carbon footprint is probably minimal.

A benefit is preserving the natural micronutrients that build up in the soil.

“You have all the root systems and microorganisms and worm tunnels, so that earth is already kind of aerated and there’s a lot of space taken up by this natural habitat going on,” Josh Mohs said. “When you till, it releases the carbon and nutrients that are in there.”

For more information on organic and sustainable gardening, Alicia Mohs recommended a couple of films that helped encourage her to stick with what they’re doing: “The Biggest Little Farm” and “Kiss the Ground.”

Mint, pictured, and other herbs are scattered throughout Alicia and Josh Mohs garden to help deter some of the less-welcome bugs from making their home in the Moses Lake garden.

Alicia Mohs plants some new things in the small garden area in front of her home in Moses Lake.

Josh Mohs stands near the new raised garden bed he and his wife put in during the past year with their compost bin at the end of the garden at their home in Moses Lake.

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