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!
Native 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.
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…)
Squash, 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!
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…)
A 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.
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…)
Initially 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.
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…)
Related 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.
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…)
This 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!
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…)
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…)