Organic Gardens

Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic gardens. 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 to this blog, so please check back often. Also, you can search existing messages for answers or post a new message for others to reply to at our Organic Garden Forum page.

Early Season Fruit Thinning

Pear TreeThinning emerging apples, peaches and other fruits early in the season improves size, quality and future blooming.

A friend who grew up on an acreage tells us how his favorite apple tree — he doesn’t remember what kind — produced clusters of small, under-sized apples. Some of the fruit developed brown spots, probably apple scab from the way he describes it. His story made us wonder: why was this his favorite apple tree? (Answer: it was the furthest away from the house and offered him a shady, quiet place to escape his younger siblings and read, either sitting on the ground against the trunk or up in its welcoming branches.) (more…)

Using Fish and Seaweed Fertilizers

Using Fish EmulsionNutrient-rich fish and seaweed fertilizers make the garden grow.

Many of us are reaching that point in the gardening season — two weeks after plants emerge from the soil — when we’re ready to apply the first round of fertilizer. To a lot of us, that means applying fish fertilizer.

Now a lot of our gardening friends don’t think we’re in our right mind when we let our enthusiasm for fish fertilizers show. They’ll ask, why would you want to mess with that smelly stuff when there’s a granular, organic, slow-release nutrient formula that will pretty much do the same thing and with half the effort?

The answer, of course, can be found in the results. (more…)

Planting Strawberries in the Home Garden

Growing StrawberriesPlanting and caring for your strawberry patch.

After you’ve chosen the perfect site for your new strawberry patch, after you’ve worked its soil to be full of well-drained organic material and decided which row method you’re going to use and which cultivar you’ll grow (see “disease resistance” below); you’re ready to plant.

Planting strawberries at the proper depth is important for their survival and longevity as well as their productivity. Before you get ready to set your plants, trim away all runners and any blossoms from them. Roots longer than five inches should also be trimmed. (more…)

Starting a Strawberry Patch

Strawberry PlantsGrowing a strawberry patch takes good soil and advanced planning.

This is the time of year that strawberries flood our supermarkets, filling us with expectations of fresh juicy fruits and pies. Sadly, a lot of those strawberries are commercial varieties, meant to ship and maintain shelf life. Neither juicy nor full of that good, old-fashioned flavor, they’re seldom good for fresh eating and take more than a cup of sugar to make themselves worthy for a decent pie.

On the other hand, smaller strawberry growers are opening up their roadside stands and those berries, depending on the grower, tend to be the real thing. The problem with good, small-producer strawberries is that they often sell-out on a day-to-day basis and are available for only a short time near the end of spring. (more…)

Why Grow Organic? Taste.

Organic ProduceThere are many reasons to eat organically. Better taste is one.

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger, always hungry to learn about cooking, saw the Dan Barber installment of the new Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table. The series profiles a different, high-profile restaurant chef each of its six episodes. Barber, a long-time champion of the farm-to-table, sustainable-agriculture movement, is the co-owner and executive chef at New York City’s Blue Hill, an upscale restaurant with a sister location in the country, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, 30 miles north.

The interviews in the documentary make it clear that Barber is solidly behind organic growing and for all the expected reasons. But he doesn’t dwell on the dangers presented by conventionally grown crops or the amount of chemicals and pesticides poured into the environment, although that gets mentioned too. Instead he talks about the importance of soil to flavor. (more…)

Start an Organic Asparagus Patch

Asparagus BedNothing says spring like steamed, green spears of organic garden asparagus.

When I was a kid, we had an asparagus bed out at the far end of the backyard. It was already there when my parents bought the place, thus saving us the two to three years of waiting after planting before taking the first harvest. The plants were so big that in the fall, after the spears had grown tall and sent out thin, fern-like seed branches, we kids would burrow into the center of the patch to hide.

The best part of growing asparagus came in the spring when the first spears emerged, often beginning before we’d put in our vegetable garden. Most kids didn’t like asparagus but I did — maybe it was all the butter I’d slather on — and going out to harvest enough spears for dinner added to my appreciation. If memory serves, cutting asparagus from the ground was the first time I was allowed to use a knife. (more…)

Succession Planting Increases Small Garden Production

Multiple PlantingsHow to maximize crop yields from small space vegetable gardens.

At different times in our gardening life, small plots have forced us to take growing space seriously. It was in a small backyard corner space that we first tried square-foot gardening. We started succession plantings — raising one crop then, after its harvest, immediately replacing it with another — in a couple raised beds in a California front yard.

While square-foot vegetable gardening has been one of our staples no matter where we lived, succession planting becomes a more complicated proposition the further north you go. We have cousins down south that brag they’re growing different crops in succession all year long. In the midwest, we once got three crops in, if memory serves, greens and radishes, followed by bush beans, followed by turnips that came out of the ground sometime after the first hard freeze. (more…)

Legume Inoculants Increase Yields, Keep Plants Healthy

Garden Pea PlantNitrogen-fixing bacteria and organic compost for peas, beans, and healthy soil.

Now that we’re well into pea planting season and bean planting isn’t far behind, we’ve been considering the practice of inoculating pea and bean seeds with nodule-forming, nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium bacteria, commonly known as legume inoculant.

We’ve inoculated our peas and beans every year for so long that we take for granted the nitrogen that it will return to the garden and the growth benefits to our plants. Those years we forgot to order or otherwise just didn’t have inoculant enough to go around have shown us the difference. Nitrogen may be invisible but its presence can be seen in better growth and soil health. (more…)

Organic Artichokes For the Garden

ArtichokesGrowing artichokes as edibles or ornamentals at home.

Artichokes, once the domain of cool, coastal climates and inland areas of moderate temperatures, are moving into gardens where they’ve never be seen before. Even Utah (PDF) is growing artichokes.

It may be that warmer, longer summer seasons are encouraging gardeners in zones previously not suitable to growing artichokes to try their luck. But there are other factors at play as well.

One of the reasons is the popularity of recently available heirlooms that are offered next to the classic “Green Globe” variety. Restaurants and gourmet growers are offering types of artichokes that were unknown not long ago. (more…)

Grow, Enjoy Rhubarb

Rhubarb PlantHealthy, delicious recipes from a dependable, cool-weather, garden perennial.

Our correspondent in Northwest Washington’s Skagit Valley, home to family farms, organic growers, nurseries and a surprisingly rich country dining scene, reports that farm markets and country produce stands were open over the weekend with two products: asparagus and rhubarb.

Of all the early season crops, these two are often the most anticipated and the first to harvest. (more…)

Page 2 of 3412345...102030...Last »