Want the scoop on the latest gardening tips – both indoors and out — as well as in-depth news and information on issues important to natural growers and everyone else interested in a healthy, earth-conscious life style? Here’s where to dig up the details on everything from soil amendments and organic pest control to heirlooms and safe, natural lawn care.
For 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
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…)
Pesticides 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.
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…)
Getting Results From A Short Season
By Bill Kohlhaase, Planet Natural
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…)
Herbs have long been revered for both their medicinal and culinary value. They may cure colds, help you sleep and add flavor and zest to dinner. Fortunately for home gardeners, growing herbs is relatively easy. They thrive in just about any type of soil, do not require much fertilizer, and are not often bothered by insect or disease pests.
Defined as a plant without a woody stem that dies back at the end of each growing season, herbs were once considered a gift of the gods. Elaborate ceremonies and rituals celebrated their growth, harvest and use. Today, herbs are popular in many home gardens, where their leaves are utilized for flavoring and an entire plant may be used for medicinal purposes. (more…)
A beautiful garden takes time, effort, money and maintenance. Starting with a good garden plan can help cut down on all of those things. Thinking about your yard or garden before getting to work can create a unified area that accents your home and provides years of enjoyment. Consider the factors that will affect how your garden will grow — sunlight, shade, wind, drainage, access to water, foot traffic patterns — and the balance between lawn, shrubs, flowers and vegetables. A landscape analysis that considers these and other factors is an important first step in garden planning.
Start With A Map
Before you know what you want, you need to figure out what you have. Start by drawing a map of your yard with existing trees, shrubs, slopes, patios and whatever else is out there. The map can be as formal (a scale version on graph paper) or casual as your need for detail dictates, but the more accurate it is, the more thorough your garden plan will be. (more…)
Children love to play in the dirt. They like to search for earthworms and bugs. They like to create things. They like destroying things just as much. Watering plants, and anything else, brings great joy. Our little ones want to be part of the household and do some of the same things as mom and dad. Why not involve them in the garden?
Gardening with kids can be anything from planting seeds inside on a windowsill to caring for houseplants, to helping design and maintain a full-fledged garden. Big or small, growing projects teach kids to nurture seeds and plants — and thus themselves — and responsibility. They gain self-esteem and a deeper connection to the natural world. By prepping soil, sowing seeds and watching seedlings sprout, kids get important lessons in science and the environment without even knowing it. They might even want to eat the vegetables they tended to. (more…)
“To every thing there is a season…” Ecclesiastes
Garden care is a year-round activity, its rhythms dictated by seasonal conditions and local climates. April showers may bring spring flowers in temperate zones, late frosts and snow may continue at higher elevations while harvests of greens, peas and other vegetables may be well under way in the coastal south. Wherever you live, lawn and garden care is required throughout the year to a varying degree. The kind of attention and level of intensity depend on your growing zone and micro-climate conditions. Whether you are mulching, fertilizing, planting or harvesting, there is work to be done all spring, summer, fall and winter. A little planning and consideration to the longevity and health of your plants and soil will give you an enviable yard and garden to be enjoyed year round.
Spring may come shortly after the New Year to coastal California and the South, not until May and June in the higher elevations of the West. You know when it reaches your area; the days begin to warm and nights hover above freezing, trees and shrubs swell with buds, lawns green in the first rains. Start a garden journal that records last frosts and other weather conditions, planting dates and germination times; any and all information that will be useful to future gardening seasons. (more…)
Flower gardening can brighten up and enliven any landscape. It can turn an ordinary garden into a colorful showcase or create a border that pops. Whether you choose an easy to manage perennial or a particularly touchy annual, growing flowers is a rewarding addition to any yard, garden or border.
Selecting the right plants for your flower garden is often a matter of preference, but with so many species and varieties available it can be mind-boggling. Consider the following when designing a flower garden: hardiness, color, fragrance, height, time of bloom and size of plant. Do you want to attract hummingbirds, butterflies, or song birds? Or are you trying to create a work of beauty just for you?
It is also imperative to think about your growing space. Is it in full sun? Partial shade? Is your soil well-drained and loamy? Or will your plant roots have to fight through clay soil? (more…)
And, ah, yes: ‘companion planting’; a topic laced with more folklore, hopefulness, bad information and just plain hype than just about any other in the gardening world. It’s said to have begun just as the world was going from BC to AD, when the oft-quoted Pliny the Elder wrote that the (highly toxic) plant rue was a “very friendly” companion to figs. – Mike McGrath, “The Truth About Companion Planting”
McGrath’s is not an uncommon position. Companion planting is a messy topic than needn’t be messy. It’s messy first because a lot of pseudo-scientific nonsense has been published on the topic, and second because even within the area of what makes sense, there’s a wide variety of approaches and techniques.
The basic idea behind companion planting is both simple and sensible: many plants grow better near some companions than they do near others or when alone. The devil is, as usual, in the details, in this case in the precise definition. (more…)
The basic idea behind companion planting is both simple and sensible: many plants grow better near some companions than they do near others or when alone. By itself it will not work miracles, but applied in a well-maintained garden, it can produce startling results. It can drastically improve the use of space, reduce the number of weeds and garden pests, and provide protection from heat, wind, and even the crushing weight of snow. In the vegetable garden, all this adds up to the best thing of all: increased yield.
Most people think of companion planting in connection with vegetable gardens, but it can also be used when flower gardening and in full-scale fields. Some of the most familiar examples come from farming, where it’s a long-standing practice to sow vetch or some other legume in the fall after the harvest. This cover crop provides erosion control through storms, and supplies both nitrogen and organic material to the soil when it is plowed under in spring. (more…)