Vegetable Gardening 101

Organic VegetablesIf the thought of a ripe, juicy tomato makes your mouth water, or imagining snapping a crisp pea makes your fingers itch, then vegetable gardening is for you. Everyone knows that home grown veggies and fruits taste a million times better than the varieties purchased at the grocery store. So, go ahead and grow your own — it’s easy to do.

Planning Your Garden

Whether you are starting a new garden or improving an existing one, it’s best to start with a plan. A well-planned vegetable garden will not only be more successful, it will be better organized and easier to manage. Consider the following: (more…)

Tomato Gardening 101

Tomato GardeningEveryone knows that homegrown tomatoes taste an order of magnitude better than ones that come from the grocery stores’ shelves. They are fresher, juicer, sweeter and just plain delicious. Tomatoes grown for supermarkets are bred for their firmness, hardiness, ability to withstand travel and even color. That also makes them bland, mealy and not very tasty.

So, consider growing tomatoes on your own; there are plenty of varieties to choose from and you can grow them until they are perfectly ripe and delicious.

Tomato Garden Essentials

Sunshine
More than anything, tomatoes need sun. Full sun, for that matter and no less than 8-hours per day. If your garden plot receives less than ideal amounts of sunshine (and the warmth it provides) you can still grow beautiful tomatoes, but will have to improve conditions for them to thrive.

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Theme Gardens: Now there’s an idea!

Butterfly GardenYou may not know the term “theme gardens,” but you’d recognize one if you saw one. A Japanese garden is a theme garden. So is an herb garden, and a rose garden, and a rock garden. A garden with only shades of blue has a theme, as does a maze, or a garden with a dozen fountains, or one with a little gnome behind every second bush. Any garden organized around some unifying idea is a theme garden.

Clearly, there’s an infinite range of choices, for theme gardens can be arranged around types of plant (such as gardens growing roses, growing herbs, and even growing vegetables) or around colors, shapes, or the type of visitors you wish to attract, such as butterflies, honeybees or birds. Other options include a country, a historical period, or an ethnic group. Examples of ethnic gardens include the Japanese garden mentioned above, or the African American Garden described by the DuSable Museum of African American History, an Italian garden, or the Native American garden grown by an elementary school in Illinois (see link below).
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Sustainable Gardening: It’s All The Rage!

Organic VegetablesPrinciples and Practices for the Organic Gardener

By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural

Sustainability is a movement that embraces all facets of human endeavor. “Sustainable” means to perpetuate existence as well as to provide sustenance and nourishment. Today, the word is attached to everything from forestry to ceiling tile.

Sustainability is most often associated with the environment and specifically to our landscapes and gardens. What is a sustainable garden? It is an organic garden taken a step further. Following organic gardening practices will sustain soils and plants while it nourishes and sustains your family, both physically and aesthetically. Organic gardening also points us towards other gardening practices that pursue the goal of sustainability by conserving resources.

Sustainability isn’t a commodity as much as it is a lifestyle. It has immediate as well as long-term rewards. Generally, sustainability is forward-thinking, looking ahead to secure a future for you and yours, getting things to last, making things better than you’ve found them. When one chooses to preserve and protect resources, to make as little negative impact on the earth as possible, to nurture the planet as well as those around us, one has chosen the path of sustainability.
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Growing More In Less Space

Vertical Vegetable GardeningIntensive or square foot gardening uses space more efficiently than traditional methods. Instead of wasted room between rows of crops, the garden area is maximized — that way you get the most vegetables, fruits and flowers in the smallest amount of growing space.

Even if you have plenty of room in your backyard, intensive gardening can require less work while still providing lots of heathy plants. Usually there is less weeding involved since plants are spaced closer together and every bit of garden space is cultivated throughout the entire growing season. However, because there is less room between crops, weeding will need to be done by hand or with smaller garden tools — there will not be enough room for machinery. Another drawback — to some people — is that because plants are always growing, they are not all ready to harvest at the same time.

Raised Beds

A raised bed is simply when the level of the soil is higher than the surrounding ground. The Ohio State University Extension has listed several benefits of gardening in a raised bed. A few of these benefits are: (more…)

Rose Gardening 101

Rose GardenRoses are one of the most popular plants in flower gardens and landscapes. From delicate tea roses to voluptuous Grandiflora blooms, roses delight all the senses. Roses also have a reputation for being difficult. But like anything, rose gardening is easy… if you know the tips and tricks of the trade.

Select a Site

Before planting your rose garden take some time to determine the best site. If possible, check out the site at different times during the day and different times during the year.

• Find a place with rich, well-drained soil. If this doesn’t sound like any spot in your yard, amend the soil with compost before planting.

• Roses prefer slightly acidic soil (6.0-6.5 pH is best). Don’t know your soil’s pH? Get a pH test kit and find out.

• Be sure your rose site will get plenty of water. Plan to install a drip irrigation system or use a garden hose to water regularly (see Drip Irrigation for Home Gardens).

• Roses need at least 8-10 hours of sun a day, so choose a site away from shade-inducing trees or houses. (more…)

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Vegetable GardensFor centuries, people have been organic gardening in raised beds. Since these are merely garden beds where the soil level is higher than that on the paths around them, it may not be obvious what advantages they offer — except to gardeners with bad backs, that is, who don’t have to stoop as far to tend plants. Actually, though, raised bed gardening improves drainage, uses space more efficiently, increases yield, and simplifies the control of weeds and pests. These are things that benefit all gardeners, including those whose backs are in excellent condition.

Advantages of Raised Beds

Improved Soil
The soil in raised beds is usually superior to that in row gardens in part because it never gets stepped on (much less subjected to the weight of machines) and therefore does not get compacted. Beyond that, filling beds usually becomes an opportunity to get high-quality soil and to fine-tune the mix of fertilizer and amendments. This is a more affordable (and therefore attractive) prospect than it might at first seem since none of these additions get wasted on or in paths: all the good stuff goes into the beds themselves. (more…)

Playing Plant Jeopardy

Plant JeopardyMr. Trebeck, I’ll Take Frost Protection for $500

Are your plants jeopardized by a short growing season and the possibility of frost just about any time of the year?

That’s the situation we face in Montana where Planet Natural is based. To avoid an Old Man Winter shakedown that wreaks-havoc on your garden in the early spring or late fall, consider playing our organic gardening based version of the popular television game show Jeopardy! There are no expensive prizes or cruises to win, but you’ll learn a lot and find ways to extend the seasons for your plants.

Season Extenders for $500 anyone?

Here’s a list of phrases. Reply with a question that the phrase “answers.” After you’ve played, we have a score card at the end so you can see how you did. All the questions have to do with the topic of frost protection and offer ways to prolong the growth season for your plants. Good luck, Contestants! (more…)

Organic Gardening 101

Garden StandPesticides on our produce, genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) in our food… how do we protect our families? Grow your own. Here’s everything you need to get started, the basics on how to organic garden, so you can enjoy the benefits of this healthy family activity and a harvest of tasty, bountiful, organically-grown vegetables straight from your own backyard.

Why Organic?

Organic gardens are gaining in popularity as people realize the many benefits to themselves, the environment and other living creatures. Organic gardening simply means not using synthetic or chemical fertilizers, insecticides or pesticides. Instead, organic gardeners stick to fertilizers made from animal or vegetable by-products and get creative when dealing with unwanted pests — often utilizing beneficial insects or plants that deter the unwelcome visitors. (more…)

High Altitude Gardening

Garden TomatoesGetting Results From A Short Season

Gardening at elevations of 5,000 feet and higher in America’s mountainous west presents unique challenges. The high country gardener must pay careful attention to the weather and its effect on growth to be successful. A little knowledge regarding climate and growing seasons, soil conditions, moisture and pest control — knowledge that all gardeners should posses no matter where they garden — will result in minimal failures and maximum success.

My own high altitude gardening knowledge came hard. Back when all of us wannabe hippies soured on the urban commune and decided it was time to get back to nature we, of course, struck out for the hills. The high, mountainous country of the American West, as it had for generations of Americans, represented freedom, a fresh start and a return to nature. Live off the land! Grow your own vegetables! Become self-sufficient!

Our desire for a life in concert with the land was superseded only by our ignorance. Even those of us who’d had farm experience in the Midwest and had raised vegetables with our parents and grandparents had no idea of the growing challenges at high altitude. We soon found out. (more…)

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