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.

Best Direct Sow Flowers

Flower GardenLots of annual flowers take to seeding right in the ground.

We’ve made no secret that we intend to start more of our annual flowers indoors, under lights, to set in our landscapes once temperatures cooperate. And as we were putting together a list for an impending order, we realized that we should also consider the flower seed we’ll order to sow directly in the ground.

Direct seeding works well in places like borders or other patches where a number of plants are desired. And the best flowers for these borders are ones that germinate and mature quickly like cosmoszinnias, or marigolds. (more…)

Gearing Up For Starting Garden Seed

Growing SeedlingsNow’s the time to gather up what you’ll need for growing vegetable and flower seeds indoors.

We’ve been browsing through the seed catalogs that are trickling in, not all of them in the mail, and scribbling down names of some new choices we might try. Our big annual order, full of old favorites, will get sent in a couple weeks. But seeds aren’t the only thing we’ll need.

While we consider which seeds to order, we also take stock of what we’ll need to get them growing. We’ve talked a lot in the past about ways to keep your starts healthy and from getting too leggy. And those things are important. (more…)

Horitculture Programs: Good Grows Here

Senior Garden ProgramThe popularity of urban farming, garden therapy, and organic produce means more jobs and education.

This article about vocational training at Nebraska’s world-famous Boys Town — it’s the site of our favorite Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney movie — got us thinking about gardening programs designed to educate. Boys Town has always had roots in agriculture. I remember driving by there as a kid and seeing large greenhouses standing next to rows of corn and other crops. It fit right in among the surrounding farmland. (more…)

Designing A Flower Bed

Flower GardenWhat to consider when planning borders and flower garden designs.

Considering my outdoor landscape and making some changes wasn’t an official New Year’s resolution of mine. But it’s the one I’ve kept. I’ve thought about outdoor containers for decks, patios and walkways, maybe building an arbor and a trellis or two, and of course, making my lawn more water wise or getting rid of it completely. Now I’m ready to think about adding a flower garden or maybe a border along the fence or against the hedge.

Where to start? What’s to consider even before you start to think about where your flower bed might go? (more…)

The Art of Outdoor Container Growing

Growing in ContainersChoosing pots, plants and places to create beautiful landscapes with containers.

With a porch, a deck and a semi-covered patio, I’ve got as lot of good places for potted plants. I spent sometime this weekend going through some favorite books, getting ideas and reviewing principles that will not only improve my growing but also the aesthetic of potted plants. Here are some of the things that attracted me. Let’s hope they expand your thinking on container growing in the outdoor landscape just as they did mine.

Container Garden Idea Book put together by the editors of Fine Gardening magazine was one of the more browseable gardening books to come out in 2011.

It doesn’t really spend a lot of time discussing soil, drainage and moisture control, and what kind of pots to use for successful gardening. And that’s fine with me. I figure I know enough to grow climate-appropriate plants in containers. It’s the aesthetics that challenge me. I don’t have a good visual eye. Luckily, the Container Garden Idea Book helps me see how pots and plants come together for visual appeal. (more…)

Bitter Herbs: Dandelion and Other Garden Tonics

Dandelion GreensHow to grow bitter herbs, greens, and roots organically.

The seed catalogs are coming in and that gave me and my brother-in-law something to talk about over the holiday weekend. Since when did mega-seed selling Burpee stop selling dandelion seed? We couldn’t find it in the 2015 catalog. Brother-in-law went over to his shelf and pulled out the 2014 catalog. Nope. (Full disclosure: They do have dandelion listed online. Go figure.)

This seemed strange because growing bitter herbs, dandelion among them, is once again all the rage because of their reported health benefits. Besides dandelion’s super-rich vitamin content, it’s also — like most bitter plants — known to be a digestive aid and de-toxifier. It’s said to give a healthy boost to the immune system. Dandelions have something of a cult-following among gardeners, the health-conscious, and gourmets who cherish the greens in the same way they cherish radicchio, another bitter plant. (more…)

Butterflies, Bees, Organic Corn

Monarch Butterflies…and other good gardening news for the New Year.

Life under a daily barrage of bad and often frivolous news can be unsettling. The good things that happen are often over-shadowed by the sensational. But small things matter, too. In that spirit, here’s some uplifting news of interest to organic gardeners and a silver-lining spin on a story that otherwise might be thought downcast.

Monarchs on the rebound? Observers are seeing noticeably more monarch butterflies returning to their wintering grounds in western Mexico this year over last. “We’re encouraged,” Gloria Talavera, director of the official monarch butterfly reserve, told The New York Times. Talvera reports bunches of butterflies clinging to fir and pine trees. Recent years had seen a worrisome decline in butterfly numbers. (more…)

Pest Prevention, Soil Testing …

Garden Work…and other garden tasks we should have done this past year.

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger is not ready to start making New Year’s gardening resolutions just yet. But with the new year in mind and our ongoing resolve to be a better organic gardener year after year, we’ve gone back through our gardening journal and found problems that we might have solved, if only … well, you know the rest.

So, in the interest of growing better organically, here’s some things we could have done better last growing season. (more…)

Is the Christmas Cactus A Succulent?

Christmas CactusHow to grow this holiday favorite, and other cactus and succulents, indoors.

Our friends have pointed out that we seem fixated on poinsettia and holly this time of year. Looking back over our ever-growing gardening blog we’d have to agree. These same friends point out that a visit to our home shows that we give equal space, if not more, to another colorful indoor plant: the Christmas cactus.

We kept a wonderful Christmas cactus, started from a cutting by our grandmother, for years until, until…well, we’ll save that story for later. The Christmas cactus left behind!

But let’s get down to the matter at hand. Is it a cactus, as its name implies? Or a succulent? (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…)

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