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!

Artichokes

Growing ArtichokesA cool-season vegetable prized for it’s flavorful flower buds.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 100-150 days
Height: 3 to 6 feet
Spacing: 2 to 4 feet apart, 3 to 4 feet between rows

Native to the Mediterranean, growing artichokes (Cynara scolymus) requires cool nights and warm days. Aside from providing delicious, tender thistles for the table, the plants themselves are beautiful! Artichokes grow up to 5 feet across and almost as high with beautiful silvery-green foliage.

The amazing artichoke offers a superb nutty flavor and several health benefits. Tender globes are packed with vitamins C and K, minerals and dietary fiber. Artichokes are also on the USDA’s list of top anti-oxidant foods.

Fact: Castroville, California is known as the “Artichoke Center of the World” and celebrates an annual festival for the vegetable. In 1947 Marilyn Monroe was crowned Castroville’s first Artichoke Queen in 1947. (more…)

Thyme

ThymeA highly aromatic herb grown for its many culinary uses as well as a hardy ground cover.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 90-180 days from seed
Height: 4 to 12 inches
Spacing: 6 to 12 inches apart, 12 to 18 inches between rows

Native to the western Mediterranean, home gardeners are growing thyme (Thymus) as a landscape plant as well as for cooking purposes. With many varieties available on the market, it is one of the most versatile herbs and can be used to season any meat or vegetable dish. Thyme grows well in containers or along walkways where it can tolerate moderate foot traffic. Perennial. (more…)

Tarragon

TarragonTips and techniques for growing French tarragon.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 40-60 days from transplant
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows

A member of the daisy family, French tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) is the classic herb to accompany fish and poultry dishes. The long, narrow leaves borne on upright stalks are a shiny green. Greenish or gray flowers may bloom in the fall. Aromatic plants grow 1-2 feet tall and tend to sprawl out later in the season. Perennial.

Note: Tarragon reportedly aids in digestion and when made as a tonic is said to soothe rheumatism, arthritis and toothaches. (more…)

Stevia

SteviaNative to Paraguay and Brazil, Stevia is nature’s sweet secret.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 40-60 days from transplant, 90-100 days from seed
Height: 12 to 36 inches
Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows

Used widely in South America and the orient, home gardeners started growing stevia (Stevia rebaudiana) when the safety of artificial sweeteners came into question. Stevia leaves are 10-15 times sweeter than refined sugar. Best of all, it’s extremely low in calories and all natural. Plants grow 1-3 feet tall. Perennial, sometimes grown as an annual.

Fact: Stevia is a member of the Asteraceae family which makes it closely related to daisies and marigolds. (more…)

Sage

SageNative to the northern Mediterranean, sage has been grown since ancient times for its many culinary and medicinal uses.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 70-75 days from transplant, 90-100 days from seed
Height: 12 to 30 inches
Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows

A member of the mint family, culinary sage (Salvia officinalis) is a highly aromatic herb with a subtle, earthy flavor. It works especialy well with meats such as pork, lamb and poultry, and is often used in dressings or holiday stuffings. Use sparingly, as sage can be very strong and easily overpower a dish.

Sage is also highly regarded as a medicinal herb where it has been used over the years to cure a long list of ailments from broken bones and wounds to stomach disorders, shortness of breath and loss of memory. Pliny the Elder (23 – 79 AD), a Roman naturalist and philosopher, recomended using sage for intestinal worms, memory problems and snake bites. (more…)

Rosemary

RosemaryRemarkable for its fabulous flavor and good looks.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 60-75 days from transplant, 90-120 days from seed
Height: 12 to 48 inches
Spacing: 2 to 3 feet apart, 3 to 6 feet between rows

Native to the Mediterranean and favored by many home gardeners, growing rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is popular for its many culinary qualities. The aromatic and pungent leaves may be used fresh or dried and are traditionally paired with poultry, game, lamb and stews.

As an ornamental shrub, rosemary’s rich aroma and beautifil blue-green, needle-like foliage make it a perfect addition to borders or walkways. Plants grow well in containers with good potting soil and can be brought inside during winter months. Tender perennial shrub grows 1-4 feet tall. (more…)

Parsley

ParsleyHighly nutritious, parsley is much more than a common table garnish.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 65-90 days from seed
Height: 10 to 20 inches
Spacing: 6 to 12 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows

When growing parsley, home gardeners often select between two common varieties; flat leaf and curly-leaf. Which type you choose depends on your taste:

  • Flat leaf or Italian parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum) is similar in appearance to cilantro and offers a robust, full flavor. It is the preferred variety for cooking and is often used to add flavor to soups and stews.
  • Curly-leaf (Petroselinum crispum) is coarse with a dark-green flavor and chlorophyll kick. It is often used as a garnish or chopped and added to salads.

This popular culinary herb is an excellent source of vitamins A, E and C, and includes many minerals like iron and calcium. Parsley is also used as a natural breath freshener. Hardy plants grow 10-20 inches tall and make a remarkable border around gardens. (more…)

Oregano

OreganoBoth culinary and decorative, oregano is one of the most rewarding herbs to grow.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 80-95 days from seed
Height: 18 to 30 inches
Spacing: 12 to 18 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows

Available in several varieties and cultivars – with each offering its own unique flavor – growing oregano (Origanum) is popular with many home gardeners. Native to the Mediterranean, these attractive plants do well tucked in rock gardens and terraces and thrive in containers or pots.

Culinary oregano has a nice earthy flavor that makes it the perfect addition to many Italian, Spanish and Mexican dishes. Perennial plants grow 18-30 inches tall and are hardy to zone 5. (more…)

Mint

MintCool and refreshing, mint is a hardy perennial with a multitude of uses.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 75-90 days from seed
Height: 12 to 30 inches
Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows

Stand back! Mint (Mentha) produces quickly and can take over in ideal conditions. As a result, many home gardeners prefer growing mint in containers to keep it… well, contained. The plant is easy to grow and perfect for the beginning gardener.

One of the most popular of all herbs, mint — spearmint and peppermint – is known by its square stems, aromatic leaves and refreshing flavor. Plants are hardy perennials often attaining 3 feet in height.

Fact: The US produces 70% of the World’s peppermint and spearmint supply with almost half of the mint oil production being used for flavoring chewing gum. (more…)

Marjoram

MarjoramMagnificient marjoram, with its aromatic leaves and warm flavor, is available in many varieties.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 70-90 days from seed
Height: 12 to 24 inches
Spacing: 8 to 12 inches apart, 8 to 12 inches between rows

Herb gardeners growing marjoram (Origanum majoricum) enjoy its fragrant and flavorful leaves which are highly esteemed for seasoning. The aroma and flavor is similar to mild oregano, but noticeably sweeter.

Marjoram grows 1-2 feet tall and has square stems, gray-green leaves and small white flowers borne in clusters. Plants make an attractive ground-cover in the summer and do well indoors during winter months. Tender perennial, often grown as an annual. (more…)

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