Organic Gardens

Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic gardens. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labor, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that the produce you are eating was grown free of chemicals, pesticides and herbicides. Growing organically produces healthy, more diverse ecosystems which are better able to resist significant pest damage… naturally!

We continually add to this blog, so please check back often. Also, you can search existing messages for answers or post a new message for others to reply to at our Organic Garden Forum page.

Organic Gardening Guru – How to Grow Organically

Organic Gardening GuruKnowledge is the key to successful organic gardening. Planet Natural has compiled much of the information you’ll need – from the basics of getting started to finding organic solutions to specific problems – here.

The Dirt on Growing Organically

Organic gardening, once seen as something practiced only by health nuts and hippies, is no longer a fad. Everyone wants the food we serve to our families as well as our environment to be safe and healthy. This desire for safety – wanting to do no harm to our families and the world around us– is the central reason people grow organically. The more we learn about chemical herbicides and pesticides, the more we see the effects of synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified crops, the more we realize that we must protect ourselves from them. Growing organically is a way of taking control, an attempt to make the foods you serve full of the good things your family needs, and free of the things they don’t. (more…)

Gardening Reality Check

Cabbage ProblemsNo one said gardening is a bed of roses.

Your enthusiastic Planet Natural blogger writes a lot about the joys of gardening, how it enriches our lives, provides us exercise, and gives us measures of success. Sometimes those measures don’t exactly come in heaping spoonfuls.

Frustration and disappointment are part of gardening, too. Setbacks, mistakes, and out-and-out failure are part of every growing season. Gardening doesn’t promise you a rose garden.

This early in the gardening season (June before the solstice), after everything’s been sown and transplanted, gardeners face a dose of reality. Not every plant we set out survives to give us beautiful blossoms or a bountiful harvest. (more…)

Take Action To Save Pollinators

Bee PollinationPlants that bring bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to your garden can help save them.

It’s the time of year when air-borne pollinators are buzzing and humming and hovering all over our gardens. Honey bees are working the purple orbs atop chive stalks, wild bees are crawling the first pale, stem-bound blossoms of a potted rosemary plant, hummingbirds are working trumpet-shaped azalea blossoms, and various-sized and colored wasps are busy visiting flowers of all sorts blooming in our yards and landscapes.

Earlier in the season, the bees were all over our apple blossoms. Not long from now, they’ll be in the pea blossoms while butterflies will be tracing twisted, sunlit paths above our heads. They’ll all be doing the work of pollination, the natural process so important to the plants that feed us and bring us beauty. (more…)

Gardening and the Five-Gallon Bucket

5 Gallon BucketChores, container gardens and other uses for 5 gallon buckets.

After our post on garden tools, a friend mentioned that we’d left out an important one: the five-gallon bucket. “Gardeners are doing things with buckets that we can’t imagine,” he enthused. “It’s truly the tool of a thousand uses. And there are uses still out there that no one has yet dreamed.”

He might be exaggerating. But buckets of all sorts are utility tools, good for carrying, mixing, and picking up. And if they’re used, food-grade 5 gallon buckets (no one needs to tell you to stay away from those that held paint or other toxic materials), then you’re making a contribution to sustainability by keeping those buckets out of the landfill. (more…)

Early Season Fruit Thinning

Pear TreeThinning emerging apples, peaches and other fruits early in the season improves size, quality and future blooming.

A friend who grew up on an acreage tells us how his favorite apple tree — he doesn’t remember what kind — produced clusters of small, under-sized apples. Some of the fruit developed brown spots, probably apple scab from the way he describes it. His story made us wonder: why was this his favorite apple tree? (Answer: it was the furthest away from the house and offered him a shady, quiet place to escape his younger siblings and read, either sitting on the ground against the trunk or up in its welcoming branches.) (more…)

Using Fish and Seaweed Fertilizers

Using Fish EmulsionNutrient-rich fish and seaweed fertilizers make the garden grow.

Many of us are reaching that point in the gardening season — two weeks after plants emerge from the soil — when we’re ready to apply the first round of fertilizer. To a lot of us, that means applying fish fertilizer.

Now a lot of our gardening friends don’t think we’re in our right mind when we let our enthusiasm for fish fertilizers show. They’ll ask, why would you want to mess with that smelly stuff when there’s a granular, organic, slow-release nutrient formula that will pretty much do the same thing and with half the effort?

The answer, of course, can be found in the results. (more…)

Planting Strawberries in the Home Garden

Growing StrawberriesPlanting and caring for your strawberry patch.

After you’ve chosen the perfect site for your new strawberry patch, after you’ve worked its soil to be full of well-drained organic material and decided which row method you’re going to use and which cultivar you’ll grow (see “disease resistance” below); you’re ready to plant.

Planting strawberries at the proper depth is important for their survival and longevity as well as their productivity. Before you get ready to set your plants, trim away all runners and any blossoms from them. Roots longer than five inches should also be trimmed. (more…)

Starting a Strawberry Patch

Strawberry PlantsGrowing a strawberry patch takes good soil and advanced planning.

This is the time of year that strawberries flood our supermarkets, filling us with expectations of fresh juicy fruits and pies. Sadly, a lot of those strawberries are commercial varieties, meant to ship and maintain shelf life. Neither juicy nor full of that good, old-fashioned flavor, they’re seldom good for fresh eating and take more than a cup of sugar to make themselves worthy for a decent pie.

On the other hand, smaller strawberry growers are opening up their roadside stands and those berries, depending on the grower, tend to be the real thing. The problem with good, small-producer strawberries is that they often sell-out on a day-to-day basis and are available for only a short time near the end of spring. (more…)

Why Grow Organic? Taste.

Organic ProduceThere are many reasons to eat organically. Better taste is one.

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger, always hungry to learn about cooking, saw the Dan Barber installment of the new Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table. The series profiles a different, high-profile restaurant chef each of its six episodes. Barber, a long-time champion of the farm-to-table, sustainable-agriculture movement, is the co-owner and executive chef at New York City’s Blue Hill, an upscale restaurant with a sister location in the country, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, 30 miles north.

The interviews in the documentary make it clear that Barber is solidly behind organic growing and for all the expected reasons. But he doesn’t dwell on the dangers presented by conventionally grown crops or the amount of chemicals and pesticides poured into the environment, although that gets mentioned too. Instead he talks about the importance of soil to flavor. (more…)

Start an Organic Asparagus Patch

Asparagus BedNothing says spring like steamed, green spears of organic garden asparagus.

When I was a kid, we had an asparagus bed out at the far end of the backyard. It was already there when my parents bought the place, thus saving us the two to three years of waiting after planting before taking the first harvest. The plants were so big that in the fall, after the spears had grown tall and sent out thin, fern-like seed branches, we kids would burrow into the center of the patch to hide.

The best part of growing asparagus came in the spring when the first spears emerged, often beginning before we’d put in our vegetable garden. Most kids didn’t like asparagus but I did — maybe it was all the butter I’d slather on — and going out to harvest enough spears for dinner added to my appreciation. If memory serves, cutting asparagus from the ground was the first time I was allowed to use a knife. (more…)

Succession Planting Increases Small Garden Production

Multiple PlantingsHow to maximize crop yields from small space vegetable gardens.

At different times in our gardening life, small plots have forced us to take growing space seriously. It was in a small backyard corner space that we first tried square-foot gardening. We started succession plantings — raising one crop then, after its harvest, immediately replacing it with another — in a couple raised beds in a California front yard.

While square-foot vegetable gardening has been one of our staples no matter where we lived, succession planting becomes a more complicated proposition the further north you go. We have cousins down south that brag they’re growing different crops in succession all year long. In the midwest, we once got three crops in, if memory serves, greens and radishes, followed by bush beans, followed by turnips that came out of the ground sometime after the first hard freeze. (more…)

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