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.

Make Soil For Your Raised Beds

Raised Bed GardenStraw bale gardening and other tips to build the best soil for your raised beds.

Adding some raised beds to your garden this year? Great idea. I’ve seen it said that raised beds produce about four times the amount of produce as do row crops. Plants seem more vigorous there in early season, probably because the soil in a raised bed warms faster than that in the garden patch. As gardeners, we love early season growth.

None of this is true, of course, if the soil in your raised bed isn’t at its best. And that’s the great things about raised beds. You can dig them out and fill them as you like. Think of them as a controlled experiment in which you’re looking for just the right, airy mix of organic materials — including beneficial microbes and other living things — and naturally occurring nutrients like nitrogen and minerals. (more…)

Plant Now For New Spring Potatoes

New Potato HarvestHow to grow tender, young “new potatoes” right in your own garden.

“New potatoes,” those harvested small and early, are all the rage in America’s kitchens and for good reason. They’re often fork- sized (well, close), retain their shape when cooked up, and come out nice and tender. They’re also a touch sweet. They haven’t developed long enough for their sugars to turn to starch. And that makes them the perfect accompaniment to late spring- early summer meals when they go well with other early vegetables from your garden.

They’re also great for early season potato salads. (more…)

April Lawn and Garden Tasks

Early April GardenGet a good start on growing season with these spring-time, how-to yard and garden chores.

Is April the garden’s busiest month? Suddenly, there’s so much to do, like start putting a garden in. Many websites put up monthly task lists, often suited to their specific region. Here’s some April gardening tips and chores that have served this gardener well over the years.

Fertilize fall-planted garlic with a high-nitrogen source, like blood meal or bat guano. Got onion sets that over-wintered? Now’s the time to start hitting them with nitrogen boosts, maybe fish fertilizer, periodically until their tops go soft and wilt in the coming summer. (more…)

Selecting Nursery Plants

Nursery PlantsNot able to grow your own? Here’s how to choose the best vegetable and flower starts.

Your friendly Planet Natural Blogger, in anticipation of the season that may have already arrived, has been going through Jim Fox’s excellent 2013 book How To Buy the Right Plants, Tools & Garden Supplies (Timber Press), particularly the chapters on choosing healthy nursery plants. Seems with recent life complications — we all have them, from health to weather to a family move — a lot of people didn’t get their vegetables started at home this year.

That’s okay. There’s actually still time to start even tomatoes and pepper seedlings indoors if you can supply the perfect conditions to encourage growth. But there’s an easier way: buy plants from a reputable nursery. (more…)

How to Stratify Seeds and Improve Germination

Garden SeedsRefrigerate seeds before planting to improve germination.

It’s not always so simple as just sticking seeds in the ground. There are a number of techniques and treatments that encourage seeds to germinate. We’ve all soaked wrinkled-skinned pea and other big seeds to help loosen those skins and make water absorption easier. Or we’ve nicked hard skin seeds with a sharp blade or even a fingernail (scarification) for the same purpose.

Then there’s stratification, the act of simulating winter conditions — cold and moist — to prep seeds for their usual germination temperatures come spring. This can involve placing them in the refrigerator, usually in some kind of moist potting soil. Or it can mean storing seeds outside during winter in a sealed plastic bag or covered container, again with grow mix. (more…)

The Tools You Need To Garden

Yard & Garden ToolsHow to select and care for gardening tools.

Seems folks we talk to have been using their garden tools most of the winter and not for snow shoveling. For those who haven’t, it’s time to clean, sharpen, and oil, as well as check the handles and their attachment to the working end of the tool, if you didn’t do it last fall. We’ll be digging dirt soon.

Top quality, comfortable-to-use garden tools make the work of gardening a joy (“work” and “joy”:  no contradiction there). A good shovel or turning fork with an ageless ash handle and some family history behind it is both a functional tool and a source of pride. How do you describe the feeling you get watching your kid edge his garden patch with the spade your grandfather used? (more…)

Tips and Tricks For Spring Garden Planting

Spring PlantingHere’s how to get your vegetable garden off to a great, early start.

Even if much of the country is still locked in winter, many places are warming up to garden planting season. Here’s a roundup of tips and strategies to help insure those first seeds that go in your garden survive the variable conditions of spring.

Plan. You’ll want to carefully choose where you’ll sow the first seeds of peas, greens, and other garden crops. It makes sense you’ll want them in the best conditions. You’ll also want to look to the future, to when and where you’ll plant long season, heat-loving seeds and transplants of things like tomatoes and squash. Remember, too, that late June and July heat may cause your first crops, especially greens to go to seed. There’s a balancing act involved. (more…)

Rewilding Your Home Landscape

Native LandscapingGardening with nature in mind’s new buzz word.

What is “rewilding?” Valerie Easton’s Natural Gardener column in a recent issue of The Seattle TimesPacific NW Sunday magazine puts perspective to the Johnny-come-lately gardening term. The piece, called “In Harmony With Nature,” is sort of a celebration of rewilding which, she notes, only first appeared in the dictionary in 2011. She says, “I like to think that in the gardenesque sense of the word, rewilding represents a desire to meddle less and celebrate nature more.”

Less meddling sounds like less work to me. Needles to say, your mostly-industrious Planet Natural blogger likes the idea of less work. (more…)

Apples Lead New “Dirty Dozen” Pesticide Report

Produce GuideWhich non-organic fruits and vegetables to avoid, plus a “Clean Fifteen.”

The Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce — the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen — is always anticipated. Fruits dominate the top half of the list. Apples again are number one, then come peaches, nectarines, strawberries, and grapes, followed by celery, spinach, and bell peppers.

The rankings are based on a six-point evaluation that includes a percentage count of tested items found to have pesticides. 99% of apples tested and 98% of peaches were found to hold pesticides. The rankings also figure in the concentration of pesticides on each test piece. (more…)

Gardening with Chickens

Raising Backyard ChickensNatural fertilizer and pest control from the birds that give us eggs and companionship.

Our friend the gourmet cook likes to talk about the flavor of fresh eggs as opposed to those you might get from the supermarket. He became so obsessed with using eggs only days old, rather than weeks (or even months), ones produced by backyard chickens with a well-rounded diet that, well, he eventually got some birds of his own.

He’d give me a half carton of his cherished product when the laying cycle was at its peak and those backyard eggs were indeed excellent. Everything you look for in a good, truly naturally nourished egg is there, especially that rich, gooey flavor. He claims that not only are his quiches and other egg dishes better (his hard-boiled eggs are divine) but that his eggs are the key to his baking success. (more…)

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