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!
A 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.
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…)
Vegetable gardeners are growing peppers at an astonishing rate. Currently, they are second in popularity only to tomatoes and why not? They are prolific producers, come in all shapes, colors and sizes and range in taste from sweet to downright fiery. Peppers, including ornamental varieties, are members of the solanaceae family.
Most peppers are annual plants, lasting only one season. They require full sun, fast draining soil and regular water. Peppers grow best when temperatures are warm and need substantial heat to set fruit. They tolerate drought, but do best in soil that is evenly moist but not soggy. Prior to planting, mix plenty of compost into your garden area.
These popular garden vegetables do well in moist, not wet, soils. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses can be used to direct water right to the plants’ roots. This will also keep the leaves dry, which helps prevent many fungal diseases. (more…)
A frost-hardy, cool-season vegetable, home gardeners are growing peas wherever a cool season of sufficient duration exists. To enjoy garden peas at their best, pick the pods when they are plump, then shell and eat the sweet, juicy seeds immediately.
Peas are a cool season crop and should never be planted in wet soils or soil that retains water. A sandy, fast draining soil is best. Select a location in full sun and provide support in the form of a trellis or unused tomato cage. Do not grow peas in the same spot more than once every five years. Peas do best when temperatures are between 60-75 degrees F. Each spring, mix plenty of compost into your garden area. (more…)
By Willi Evans Galloway, Organic Gardening Magazine
Root vegetables are all the rage! The chefs at all the hippest restaurants are cooking with roots, because they embody the flavors of the earth, sun, and rain. Gardeners know that carrots, beets, and other roots are easy to grow in well-worked, organic soil. Try growing parsnips in your garden this spring, and you’ll enjoy the homegrown taste throughout next winter. Parsnips taste sweeter after frost and don’t suffer if you leave them in the ground until you’re ready to eat them. Now, that’s my idea of cool.
Tip: Eat parsnips to keep those pesky winter pounds off and the sniffles at bay. One 9-inch root has an abundance of fiber (6 grams!), 2 grams of protein, and more than one-third the daily allowance of vitamin C. And they store easily, so you can enjoy homegrown all winter. (more…)
Easy to cultivate with a long storage life, home gardeners are growing onions more than any other vegetable! Records indicate that they were grown in Ancient Egypt, and eventually arrived in Rome and became known as the word onion (from the Latin word UNIO, which means large pearl).
Onions grow best in full sun and deep, fertile well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Work in a generous amount of compost prior to planting. Onions are shallow rooted and need constant moisture near the surface.
Onions form bulbs in response to day length. If you choose a type inappropriate for your area, it may make small premature bulbs or not bulb up at all. Long-day varieties, Sweet Spanish included, need 14-16 hours of daylight and are grown in northern climates. Short day varieties, Bermuda included, need 10-12 hours of daylight. These start making bulbs early in the year. Select an onion that is suited to your zone for best results. (more…)
Sweet and succulent, melons, such as cantaloupe and honeydew, can be a challenge in to grow in areas colder than zone 4. A warm season crop, they require hot, relatively dry summers and steady heat for at least 2-4 months. Growing melons in colder climates can be rewarding, but requires short season varieties and plenty of frost protection.
Choose a warm site that gets plenty of sun, such as along a south-facing building or wall. Make sure that the area is protected from strong winds as melons are vulnerable to cool temperatures. The planting area should be well drained and loose textured with lots of organic matter. Each spring, work plenty of compost into your growing area.
Tip: Use black plastic to warm the soil 2-3 weeks prior to planting heat-loving crops. After all risk of frost has passed, simply cut holes in the plastic sheet and plant seeds or seedlings through the holes. (more…)
A cool season, fairly hardy, annual, vegetable gardeners are growing lettuce for its edible foliage, which is 90% water, but offers plenty of vitamins A and B. A member of the Asteraceae family, it has been cultivated for ages, perhaps longer than any other vegetable crop. Young lettuce leaves are delicious in salads.
Lettuce will require partial shade in warm climates, rich, sandy soil and regular water. Work the soil thoroughly (break up any clumps and remove debris) prior to planting. If using seeds, rake the surface smooth. Transplants can tolerate a rougher planting bed. Dig in plenty of compost and soil amendments rich in nitrogen to promote good leaf development.
Tip: Consider adding kelp meal to planting beds. It’s chock-full of micro-nutrients and is especially good for supplying trace minerals to crops that will be consumed. (more…)
A member of the Brassicaceae family, kale is related to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. It is a cool season biennial that is grown as an annual and is harvested for its tender foliage. Reliable and quick to harvest, growing kale is relatively easy because cold weather doesn’t bother it. In fact, cold weather makes it taste…well, a whole lot better!
Kale grows best in full sun and cool moist soil that is enriched with compost. Incorporate a legume cover crop, or work in 30 pounds of compost per 100 square feet before planting. Kale requires moderate amounts of fertilizer rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Tip: Before you grow your organic garden, grow your soil. Consider adding soil amendments, like alfalfa meal (5-1-2), rock phosphate (0-3-0), greensand (0-0-3) and kelp meal, to your garden to improve the structure of the soil and provide a slow-release mix of nutrients to plant roots. (more…)
A cinch to grow from zone 3 south, horseradish is known for its hot, mustard flavored roots. Mankind has been growing horseradish for centuries, Records indicate that the Egyptians cultivated this plant prior to 1500 B.C. It was also used by the Romans as an aphrodisiac. Although, what didn’t they use as an aphrodisiac?
Horseradish prefers rich, fast draining soil and full sun. However, the perennial will grow in almost all conditions, except deep shade or constant wetness. Prior to planting, choose a spot far removed from any other plants you care about. Horseradish spreads quickly and can soon take over your garden.
Tip: The best way to control horseradish’s rampant nature is to grow it in containers.
How to Plant:
Start by planting horseradish in the fall or very early spring. Set plants or root pieces 1-2 feet apart, with the crown – the top of the root and the start of the top growth – about 4 inches below the soil surface. Add a shovelful of compost to each hole and water thoroughly after planting. (more…)
One of the first cultivated fruits, there are written descriptions of growing grapes and making wine dating back thousands of years. Grapes have the reputation of being fragile and difficult to grow. In fact, many backyard gardeners are convinced that they are too tender to even consider trying to grow them, yet a variety of species will do well in regions of every state and in several Canadian provinces. Once established, well-tended grapevines can be productive for 40 years or more.
All types of grapes require a warm planting site in full sun, moderate water and pruning during the dormant season to control growth and produce abundant fruit. Consult with a nursery professional to select a variety that will do well in your area. The soil at the planting site should be loose, rich and deep. The roots of grape vines go deep into the earth. Amend to a depth of 24 – 36″ with organic compost to improve existing soil.
Tip: To lessen the chance for disease, make sure drying breezes are not obstructed by fences, shrubs or buildings. (more…)