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!

Companion Gardening: Fact or Fiction

Companion PlantsAnd, 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 gardening 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 garden 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…)

Companion Plants

Companion PlantingThe 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…)

Plant Propagation 101

Plant PropagationPropagating plants is an inexpensive and easy way to get new plants from plants you already have. This asexual means of reproduction produces a plant that is genetically identical to its parent.

There are a variety of plant propagation tools and methods; from taking cuttings to layering to dividing and more. The technique you select will depend on the type of plant you wish to propagate and the amount of time and effort you want to put into it.

Cuttings

One of the most amazing things about plants is that every cell has the ability to duplicate all parts and functions of the plant. By taking a cutting of a leaf or stem and creating the right conditions, you can create an entirely new plant (see Plant Anatomy Basics). (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…)

Rhubarb

RhubarbA cool season perennial plant, rhubarb is easy to grow, hardy and resistant to drought.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 50-60 days
Height: 2 to 4 feet
Spacing: 3 to 4 feet apart, 4 to 6 feet between rows

Initially cultivated for medicinal purposes more than 2,000 years ago, home gardeners today are growing rhubarb for its tangy stems which are used in pies, tarts and sauces. Plants require cool weather to thrive and do not do well in warmer climates — growth slows when temperatures exceed 80˚F. Rhubarb is rich in vitamins A and C, iron and dietary fiber.

Note: The leaves of this plant are poisonous if ingested; use the stems only and compost the leaves. (more…)

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