Let There Be Plant Light

Indoor Plant LightingIndoor plant lights let you shine a light where and when the sun don’t shine. They allow you to extend the growing season; have a year-round supply of fresh flowers, vegetables and herbs; as well as give your seedlings a head start before you can plant them outside.

There are almost as many kinds of grow lights for sale as there are different light spectrums. Everything from a simple $5 incandescent lamp to a sophisticated system using high intensity discharge (HID) lamps can help.

Here’s a rundown on what is available, how much it costs as well as the pro’s and con’s of different types of plant lighting:

Incandescent. Incandescent lamps lay at the low end of the pricing spectrum for plant lights. A good 150 watt bulb will only set you back about $5. You can get such bulbs from a local hardware store or a large nursery. An incandescent lamp can keep a small house plant growing, but isn’t necessarily your best bet for starting a large garden indoors. (more…)

Indoor Plant Care

Growing HouseplantsIndoor plants add color, texture and warmth to the home. They allow year-round access to gardening and can even improve air quality. Many houseplants are easy to grow, but they must be given appropriate care in order to thrive. Since your plants were probably started in a greenhouse — grown under ideal conditions — moving them into your home takes a bit of adjustment on their part.

Proper watering and lighting are the most important components of indoor plant care, but humidity and temperatures also play a role. The trick is to try to mimic the climate of the place that plant came from.

Tropical plants thrive in warm, humid environments, while cacti and succulents prefer hot, dry climes. Of course, your home can’t be everything to every plant, but you can take plant needs into consideration when choosing plants. And, with a few tricks, you can convince your green friends that they are living in their ideal environment. (more…)

Greenhouse Gardening 101

Greenhouse GardeningSo, you want to grow year round? Or maybe extend your gardening season? Interested in growing plants that normally don’t survive in your neck of the woods? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then a greenhouse might be for you.

Hobby Greenhouses

A backyard greenhouse kit can provide a stable, warm environment where plants can be grown all year. They can also be used to get a jump start on the growing season, where plants, like tomatoes and peppers, are planted early and later moved out to the garden. Whatever your reason for wanting a greenhouse, there are several types, styles and costs for almost anyone who wants to start gardening under glass — or polycarbonate, for that matter! (more…)

Indoor Gardening 101

Indoor Tomato GardenWhen the winter blahs set in and your dreaming of fresh greens from your summer garden, consider growing indoors. Not only do plants cleanse your household air (read about Greens That Clean) and improve the aesthetics of any indoor space, they can provide your family with a wealth of yummy, organic foods.

City dwellers, or those without a good gardening spot in the yard, may find growing indoors especially useful. Plants don’t need to take up much space — a windowsill is fine if that’s all you have. For others, the indoor garden may become starter plants for an outdoor garden come spring.

Getting Started

Space
An indoor garden can take up as much or as little space as you are willing to give it. Growing plants of all kinds, even tomato gardening can be done on a windowsill or on a table.

Larger growers, or the more dedicated may want to set up a table or bench specifically for the garden. Find an area with a tile or linoleum floor to catch the inevitable drops of water, or place a tarp under your table. (more…)

Watermelon

WatermelonsSweet, cool and refreshing… there’s nothing like growing watermelon in your own organic garden.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 70-90 days
Height: 1 to 2 feet
Spacing: 3 to 10 feet apart, 6 to 8 feet between rows

A heat-loving annual, watermelon can be grown in all parts of the country, but the warmer temperatures and longer season of southern areas especially favor this delicious plant. In cooler areas choose short-season varieties and do whatever it takes to protect them from frost.

Site Preparation

Choose a location where your plants will get full sun and good air circulation. A gentle, south-facing slope is ideal. Watermelons can grow in many kinds of soil, but prefer a light, sandy, fertile loam that is well-drained. Add generous amounts of manure, compost and leaves to your garden and work the soil well prior to planting. Watermelons like lots of water. Keep the soil moist at all times. (more…)

Tomato Plants

Tasty TomatoesNothing beats the taste of a fresh, vine ripened heirloom tomato grown in your own garden.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 50-90 days
Height: 3 to 8 feet
Spacing: 18 to 36 inches apart, 3 to 4 feet between rows

While technically a fruit, growing tomato plants is an organic gardeners delight! Originating in Central and South America, tomatoes are available in an ever increasing range of colors, sizes and shapes with the recent interest in heirloom cultivars fueling further interest (see History of Tomatoes).

Site Preparation

Tomatoes are very deep rooted and don’t need nearly as much water as most people believe. They will do much better in garden soil than in pots and require plenty of sun. Plant after the soil has warmed in the spring in rich, fast draining soil which has been amended with ample amounts of garden compost and organic calcium to prevent blossom end rot. (more…)

Swiss Chard

Swiss ChardEverything tastes better when it’s homegrown and Swiss chard is no exception. Here’s how to grow it organically.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 50-65 days
Height: 1 to 2 feet
Spacing: 6 to 18 inches apart, 12 to 18 inches between rows

An excellent source of vitamins A, K and C, as well as several minerals, home gardeners growing Swiss chard are rewarded with its succulent, mild-flavored leaves that can either be eaten raw or cooked like spinach. Easy to grow and perfect for edible landscapes or a container. Frost and heat tolerant. (more…)

Sweet Potato

Sweet PotatoesA tender warm-weather vegetable, sweet potatoes are grown from slips (root sprouts) not seed.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 70-140 days
Height: 1 to 3 feet
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart, 3 to 4 feet between rows

Native to Central and South America sweet potato is an important food crop in tropical and subtropical countries. Here in the United States, home gardeners growing sweet potatoes require a long frost-free season to mature large, useful roots.

More than 40% of the national supply of sweet potatoes comes from North Carolina. (more…)

Squash

SquashHome gardeners are growing squash for its abundant yields of scrumptious fruit and edible blossoms.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 60-120 days
Height: 1.5 to 3 feet
Spacing: 18 to 30 inches apart, 3 to 4 feet between rows

Squash, including zucchini, gourds and summer squash, are members of the cucumber (cucurbit) family and require warm soil temperatures to do well. Squash will not germinate in cold soil (70˚F or less) and the plant is easily damaged by frost.

Planet Natural offers are large selection of non-GMO, heirloom squash seeds. Best of all, they’re shipped FREE! (more…)

Spinach

SpinachA cool season annual, organic gardeners are growing spinach for its delicious and nutritious, dark green leaves.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 40-60 days
Height: 6 to 12 inches
Spacing: 3 to 4 inches apart, 12 to 18 inches between rows

Chock-full of vitamins A and B-2, and rich in iron and calcium, spinach is one of the first greens up in the spring with cool weather being the key to its success. Warm temperatures and longer days will quickly trigger spinach to go to seed (bolt). (more…)

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