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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!

Growing Watermelon

WatermelonsSweet, cool and refreshing… there’s nothing like growing watermelon in your own backyard garden. A heat-loving annual, it 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…)

Growing Tomato Plants

Tasty TomatoesWhile technically a fruit, growing tomato plants is a vegetable gardeners delight! Nothing beats the taste of  fresh, vine ripened heirloom tomatoes from the home garden. Originating in Central and South America, tomato plants are grown 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 the 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 organic compost and calcium to prevent blossom end rot.

How to Plant:

Allow enough space (1-1/2 – 2 feet) between tomato plants to permit good sun penetration and air circulation. Plant the tomatoes deep in the soil, up to the first set of leaves or deeper. Roots will form all along the stem. Water deeply (long periods of time, once or twice a week) to encourage roots to grow down into the soil. Once the plants are established, start them on a biweekly fertilizer program. (more…)

Growing Chard

Swiss ChardSwiss chard is in the beet family but unlike the beet, which is grown for the edible root, chard is grown for the tender foliage. Vitamin rich and nutritious, home gardeners growing Swiss chard are rewarded with its succulent, mild-flavored leaves that can either be eaten raw or cooked like spinach.

Site Preparation:

Chard is best grown in soil that is rich in organic matter, fast draining and high in nitrogen. It requires full sun (but tolerates partial shade) and regular water. Work well composted manures or blood meal into the soil to boost nitrogen levels. Foliar applications with an all-purpose organic fertilizers and kelp 2-3 times during the growing season will boost production.

How to Plant:

Make your first plantings directly into the garden two to four weeks before the last expected frost. Sow seed 1/2 inch deep and 1-3 inches apart. Thin rows as plants mature and eat the tender shoots in salads. Chard is a prolific grower and can tolerate mild frosts. (more…)

Growing Sweet Potatoes

Sweet PotatoesNative to Central and South America, sweet potato is one of the most important food crops in tropical and subtropical countries. Growing sweet potatoes, a tender, warm-weather vegetable, requires a long frost-free growing season to mature large, useful roots.

Factoid: More than 40% of the national supply of sweet potatoes comes from North Carolina.

Site Preparation:

Sweet potatoes are not truly potatoes, but a thick root of a tropical vine. They need full sun, well-drained soil (preferably sandy loam) and plenty of room to thrive. Sweet potatoes are not heavy feeders, but they do require a good balance of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Work in a low nitrogen organic fertilizer before planting; too much nitrogen produces leafy growth at the expense of the roots. (more…)

Growing Squash

SquashSquash, including zucchini, gourds and summer squash, are members of the cucumber (cucurbit) family and require the same planting conditions as pumpkins. Growing squash in the home garden is relatively easy providing you are patient enough to wait for warm weather. Squash will not germinate in cold soils and the plant is easily damaged by frost.

Note: Planet Natural offers are large selection of non-GMO, heirloom squash seeds. Best of all, they’re shipped free!

Site Preparation:

Squash are annual plants which do best in full sun (may require partial shade in hotter environments) and require ample amounts of water and soil rich in organic matter. Natural fertilizers, such as compost and manures, and other slow-release plant nutrients, are effective when tilled into the soil prior to planting. Do not plant in areas where other cucurbits have been cultivated over the past four years.

Tip: Use black plastic mulch to warm the soil, prevent weeds and increase yields. (more…)

Growing Spinach

SpinachA cool season annual, organic gardeners are growing spinach for its tasty and nutritious leaves. Chock-full of vitamins A and B-2, and rich in iron and calcium, it is one of the first greens up in the spring. Growing spinach in cool weather is the key to success.

Site Preparation:

Spinach requires full sun and regular water and should be planted in rich, fast draining soil. Before planting work in 10-15 pounds of compost per 100 sq. ft. to a depth of 8 inches. Work the soil thoroughly, taking care to break up any large clumps. Rocks should be removed from the growing area. Add a source of organic nitrogen, such as blood meal or alfalfa pellets, to promote rapid growth.

How to Plant:

Sow seed directly into the ground, 1/2 inch deep in early spring or late fall. Thin seedlings to 6 inches apart when they are 4-5 inches tall. Spinach likes water – keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. Constant moisture promotes rapid growth and helps prevents bolting. Mulching with compost will help deter weeds and prevent moisture loss. Fertilize with fish emulsion or other organic fertilizer when plants have four true leaves. (more…)

Growing Rhubarb

RhubarbInitially cultivated for medicinal purposes more than 2,000 years ago, home gardeners today are growing rhubarb for its unique, tangy taste which is used in pies, tarts and sauces. A cool season, perennial plant, rhubarb is easy to cultivate, winter hardy and resistant to drought.

Site Preparation:

Rhubarb thrives in cool locations with full sun, or partial shade and plentiful water. In warmer climates, plants benefit from light shade but form longer, thinner stems. Rhubarb should be planted at the end of one side of the garden where it will not be disturbed since it may be productive for five years or more.

Soil requirements; fast draining soil with plenty of organic compost mixed in to improve nutrients and loose texture. Add a handfull of bone meal or seabird guano to your soil if it is lacking in phosphorous. Rhubarb requires some winter chill to thicken the stems and to develop a deep red color.

How to Plant:

Plant divisions of rhubarb in late winter or early spring. Make sure each division contains at least one bud. Set the tops of the divisions at the soil surface, space 3-4 feet apart in rows 6 feet apart. Mulch the garden area heavily with compost, leaves or straw to prevent weeds and conserve moisture. (more…)

Growing Radishes

RadishRelated to cabbage, kale, broccoli and cauliflower, home gardeners enjoy growing radish for its crisp, peppery root, which is easily planted from seed. Originally from China, radishes are the perfect crop for impatient young gardeners. It can be harvested and eaten in as little as 3 weeks from planting.

Note: Planet Natural offers a wide selection of heirloom radish seeds for your growing pleasure.

Site Preparation:

Radish grows best in the spring and autumn and will tolerate light winter frosts. It requires full to partial sun, ample water and rich, fast draining soil. Loosen soil to a depth of 8 inches and work in 10 pounds of compost per 100 square feet. (more…)

Growing Pumpkins

PumpkinsThis annual, warm-season vegetable is related to squash, gourds and melons. Growing pumpkins in the home garden can be a fascinating experience providing you have plenty of room – a single plant can cover over 500 square feet.

Note: In 1996, Harold Baird of Kinburn, Ontario grew four pumpkins – weighing 774, 686, 652, and 603 – on a single vine!

Site Preparation:

Pumpkins require full sun, ample water and plenty of room to grow. Choose a site that is protected from cool winds and work in large amounts of compost and aged manures. The soil should be tilled deep and over a large area – roots and vines can wander for 15 feet in any direction.

Tip: Old compost piles make great pumpkin patches. (more…)

Growing Potatoes

PotatoesA cool-season vegetable, growing potatoes offers home gardeners everything they could want – easy to cultivate, long storage and an enormous selection of varieties. Originally from South America, potatoes are the world’s favorite root crop.

Site Preparation:

Potatoes require sandy, fertile, fast draining soil. The tubers will become deformed in poor or rocky soil. Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and do not allow it to dry out. Water deeply as temperatures begin to rise. They require moderate levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and sulfur. Prior to planting, mix plenty of compost into your garden area.

How to Plant:

Plant potatoes in early spring for a summer crop, in late summer or early fall for a winter/spring crop in mild winter regions. Set tubers or seed potato pieces 2 inches deep, 1-1/2 feet apart. Add loose soil as the plant grows, taking care not to cover stems completely. Mulching with straw reduces pest problems and improves yields. (more…)

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