Organic Gardens

Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic garden. 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 articles to this section, so please check back often. Also, you can share tips and ask questions over at our Organic Gardening 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. It’s a way of making the places where your children and pets play as safe as they can be. It’s a sign of respect to both your fellow humans and the environment as a whole. (more…)

Growing Holly for the Holidays

Winter HollyFind the right kind of holly for your landscape and grow it!

We love the ever-green, natural plants associated with the holidays: the firs and pine trees celebrated in song, the poinsettia, mistletoe  (actually a parasite that attaches itself to trees from which it draws water and nutrition). But our favorite, despite the fact that no presents go under it, is holly.

We had a large holly bush growing against the south side of one of our out-buildings when we lived on a small hippie homestead in the Pacific Northwest. Partially shaded a couple hours each day by two very large Douglas firs that were several yards away, the bush grew up to the roof and supplied a bounty of sprigs and red berries each year without any care from us. (more…)

Growing Pea Shoots

Organic Pea ShootsGrow your own pea, sunflower and other shoots for the kitchen table.

Your friendly, gourmet-minded Planet Natural blogger likes to keep up on cooking and restaurant trends when planning next year’s garden. Why else would we have tried growing radicchio not so many years ago? (Since then, it’s become a favorite, though it needs a little growing attention.)

This year, we’ve taken note of how many restaurant salads, especially at restaurant’s that feature organic, locally sourced foods, add pea tendrils to their salads. Those curling lengths of green add visual interest to a bowl of greens as well as adding something of a snap pea flavor to the cornucopia of tastes that come with mixed green and mesclun salads.

Of course, you don’t have to wait until spring to grow pea shoots for your salads. You can do it indoors and within weeks have a bumper crop of curly, tasty tendrils to add to salads or use as plate decorations. Like growing sprouts, growing shoots indoors makes a wonderful family project, one in which your kids will probably be glad to take part. (more…)

GMO Vote, Leaf Mold, High-Tech Farming … And Pie!

High-Tech TractorShort-takes on natural gardening topics we’re following.

As we enter a new month, your (mostly) timely, inquisitive Planet Natural blogger takes a minute to catch up on a handful of issues.

–Oregon GMO Labeling Vote: The final vote count is in and Oregon Initiative 92 to label products that include genetically modified ingredients is so close that a recount, scheduled to start December 2, has been called. Initial reports from The Oregonian on the day after the election had the measure failing narrowly. That margin — 812 votes or 0.05% of the total — turned out to be closer than imagined and now the race is too close to call. This is encouraging news, no matter what the final tally shows. Corporate forces, as usual in these votes, vastly outspent the pro-labeling side and the closeness of the Oregon vote suggests that they’ll even have to spend more to spread their misinformation. (more…)

The Best Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie…might just be made from squash.

Squash pie. My grandmother didn’t make them — rhubarb pie was her specialty — but I knew households where women did. Those households almost always, as I remember, had gardens with winter squash patches.

Well, squash pies, sometimes masquerading as pumpkin, are all the rage this year. And butternut squash is the favorite choice, as this big-stuff newspaper video or this featured recipe from America Public Media’s popular radio program Splendid Table demonstrate.

Your desert-loving Planet Natural blogger wouldn’t say anything against pumpkins. But I would say something against canned pumpkin fillings. Canned fillings are often tasteless, little more than a bulky way to carry the sweet and spice flavor we associate with pumpkin pie. (more…)

How to Start Your Own Organic Garden

Tomato GardeningStarting and maintaining an organic garden is not very different from a regular one. Using common tools and planting processes, you can experience high yields of crops right in your own backyard. Knowing which plants grow best in your particular region and climate can help ensure your garden’s success. Exercising natural pest solutions for gardens can protect the integrity of your crops and your soil’s potential for another productive yield the following year. Read these tips to learn how to get started with your organic garden.

Getting Started

When choosing a space to plant your garden, it’s important to select an area that is open, arid, and is exposed to at least 7 hours of sunlight a day. Planting in natural ground has many benefits, including providing the nutrients providing for a great yield. If, however, your soil isn’t in optimal condition or you live in an area with little to no soil, you may try a raised bed or a container garden. You’ll have to do a fair amount of more planning with raised beds and container gardens, because they will likely require more work to maintain optimal conditions for growing plants. (more…)

It’s A Small (Farm) World: Organic Growers In Russia

Russian Farm MarketRussian ban on imported meat, milk and produce spurs farm-to-table revolution.

Your friendly, neighborhood Planet Natural Blogger, like pretty much everyone with an organic garden in the backyard, supports locally-grown, small farm, sustainable agriculture. We buy a lot of organic grains, vegetables, fruits and meats because, well, we simply can’t raise anything close to our yearly needs of everything in our yard’s growing space. We like to buy them from responsible, nearby farmers as much as possible. But there are seasons — like the one we’re in now! — where that isn’t always possible, excluding things like meat, milk, eggs and root vegetables. Everything else comes from elsewhere. (more…)

Gardening With Kids

Child GardenerGardens can be a great place to cultivate a meaningful and fun learning experience for children. It’s a natural match. Gardening can offer children an opportunity to learn the life cycle process, by which plants are grown, as well as responsibility, caretaking, independence, and environmental awareness. Introducing children to gardening is a great way to increase their awareness of where food comes from and the importance of the environment in everyday life.

Gardening Basics

One of the most important things to determine when starting a garden is the location. Ideally the garden should be placed in an area where it will receive maximum sunlight. It is also important to determine the soil quality of the area and assess what needs to be added to the soil chemistry to maximize growth potential. The soil should be dug six to ten inches. Layering the soil with some kind of organic material will help to strengthen it. Drawing up a plan of the garden is another way to help make the most of the garden’s potential. Tallest plants should be at the north end of the garden, while permanent plants should be on the sides. For those who don’t have a lot of space to garden, containers are another option for growing plants. Containers can be made from materials such as plastic or clay, and must have adequate drainage to avoid root rot. Plants grown in containers should be planted in a ready to use potting soil and watered frequently. Some basic gardening tools to have handy are rakes, hoes, spades, trowels, and watering cans. (more…)

Late Season Bulb Planting

Flower BulbsTips for planting your favorite fall bulbs.

Your friendly Planet Natural Blogger is on the record saying that, depending how severe your winters, the best place to store any extra spring-blooming bulbs you might have is in the ground. Bulbs generally don’t store well inside and even those you carefully pack in containers of sawdust or peat moss and kept in the garage or basement (if it’s cool enough) aren’t all going to make it. Those that do will be something other than the bulbs you started with.

The common wisdom on planting bulbs in fall — tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinths, crocus, and others — is that they should be planted at first frost. Some hardy bulbs, like the crocus colchicum, take to earlier planting than others, They need at least five weeks before the ground freezes hard to develop. In some northern and high elevation areas, that five-weeks is drawing to a close. Timing your planting, of course, depends on your particular conditions. (more…)

Growing Pumpkins For Fun and Pie

Pumpkin PatchPumpkins are easy to grow organically.

My grandfather used to say that a jack-o-lantern was a waste of a good pumpkin. He grew a pumpkin patch at the end of his garden that would spread out over the rough lawn that bordered it. The next year he’d move it to the other side. He’d get a handful of fruits each year and he didn’t want any of them to go to Halloween carving (see “grandma” below).

Grandpa loved pie and he especially loved pumpkin pie which he ate absent whipping cream or any other adulteration. Grandma was celebrated for her pie crusts, though we often wonder what her great grandchildren would think of the cube of lard that was always in the back of the refrigerator. No matter what time of day grandpa took a piece of pie — including as a bedtime snack — he washed it down with a cup of coffee. He seemed immune to caffeine. (more…)

Grow, Eat Shell Beans

Shell BeansHeirloom “cooking beans” are nutritious, delicious, and easy to raise.

Our correspondent writes in to say the most beautiful things he saw at the last farmers market this fall were the large bowls of heirloom shell beans in colors and patterns he’d never seen before. He bought a couple of the four offered: two cups of the surprisingly popular Jacob’s Cattle, each bean big and colored like a Hereford, and a cup or so of brilliant, unusually black and white, yin-yang patterned “Calypso.”

Interest continues to grow in what our great grandmothers called “cooking beans,” dried shell beans that often require soaking and long cooking times, a process that many time-squeezed home cooks forego in favor of pre-cooked, canned beans. (more…)

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