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!
Almost absent of calories, yet chock-full of important vitamins and minerals, growing celery produces flavorful leafstalks for use in everything from salads to soups and casseroles. Celery requires long periods of warm, but not high temperatures and can be grown in home gardens in most parts of the country. It is not suited to humid climates.
Celery thrives in cool, moist locations. Select a planting site that receives at least one half day of sun and is rich in organic soil. A heavy feeder, celery does well planted after legumes.
How to Plant:
Seeds should be planted in flats in the early spring, and set out when the soil begins to warm. Set seedlings 6 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. (more…)
For many backyard gardeners, growing cauliflower can be a rather difficult task. This nutritious plant is very temperamental and requires undisturbed, continuous growth for the head, or flower, to develop. As a result, growing success is often influenced by several environmental factors, including temperature, insects and moisture. Some gardeners will even set a few cauliflower plants out every week, hoping that at least a few of them will get the proper weather conditions.
A cool season biennial which is grown as an annual, cauliflower requires full sun and regular water. The soil should be rich in organic matter and nutrients. To prevent insect and disease problems, avoid planting in spots where other brassicas have been grown the previous three years. (more…)
Crunchy and sweet, growing carrots is easy! A wonderful source of Vitamin A and anti-oxidants, they provide color and nutrition to a gardeners diet. Carrots grow best in cool temperatures (between 60-70˚F) and may be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring.
Select a garden site in full sun or very light partial shade and prepare the soil with ample amounts of mature organic compost. Carrots will reach perfection only when planted in deep, good-textured soil that is free of stones and debris. Plant the long varieties only if you can provide this type of soil. Choose shorter varieties if your soil is heavy or stony. (more…)
Easy to plant and delicious to eat, home gardeners growing cabbage are rewarded with abundant and dependable harvests. Extremely hardy, this member of the brassica family is a cool season biennial grown as an annual. Delicious raw or cooked, it’s excellent in slaws, salads, soups, or stir fried.
Cabbage requires regular water, full sun to partial shade, and fertile, well-drained soil. Plants thrive in soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. If possible, avoid growing cabbage in spots where other brassicas grew the previous three years.
Tip: Humus rich soil is the key to a great harvest. Add ample amounts of organic matter to the soil prior to planting. (more…)
Chock-full of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as calcium, phosphorous and iron, growing broccoli is popular with many backyard gardeners. Belonging to the cabbage or cole family, this popular dinner side dish tastes best fresh and is prized for its cool weather hardiness and ample production.
Broccoli is a cool season annual plant that requires full sun and regular water. It does best in loose, fast draining, fertile soils. Dig in a legume cover crop or 30 lbs. of compost per 100 square feet prior to planting. Since broccoli is a heavy feeder it thrives after a legume, such as peas. Rich, well ballanced soil will prevent many broccoli deficiencies.
Tip: Humus rich soil is the key to a great broccoli harvest. Add ample amounts of organic matter to the soil prior to planting. (more…)
A delicious addition to home gardens, growing beets is a great choice for fresh eating, roasting or canning. Both foliage and roots are edible and baby heirloom beets, with their earthy sweetness, are a culinary treat!
Beet tops or “greens” as they’re called are an excellent source of vitamin A and the roots are a good source of potassium, iron, vitamin C and fiber. Rich in flavor, chock-full of nutrition, and available in a variety of colors, it’s no wonder home cooks are serving up beets like never before.
Beets prefer a cooler climate and should be grown in well drained, loose textured soil for best results. Choose a site that gets full sun and dig down deeply (at least 10 inches) to promote good root development. Work in 15-20 lbs. of compost for every 100 square feet of soil. Beets also make an excellent raised bed crop, just make sure that they get plenty of water. (more…)
When it comes to variety and versatility, growing beans can’t be beat! Gardeners generally divide beans into three categories; shell beans, snap beans and dry beans. All varieties are easy to grow, and all need the same growing conditions – the prime one being plenty of warmth.
Plant heirloom bean seeds directly into rich, fast draining soil in spring after the soil has warmed. The plants require full sun and regular water. In general, bush beans mature faster and are less sensitive to drought and extreme temperatures than pole beans. Provide support for vines in the form of a trellis or pole.
How to Plant:
Begin planting one to two weeks after the last expected frost, when the soil temperature has reached at least 60 degrees F. Plant the seeds about one inch deep and 2-3 inches apart, in rows about 18-24 inches apart. Thin when the seedlings emerge so that bush varieties are five to six inches apart, pole beans six to eight inches. In humid climates, increase the distance between plants to allow good air circulation. Provide support for vines in the form of a trellis or pole. Bean seedlings need protection from slugs and snails. (more…)
One of the few perennial vegetable crops! Home gardeners are growing asparagus virtually everywhere in the United States, except Florida and the Gulf Coast, where conditions are too wet or too mild to satisfy its dormancy requirements.
Tender shoots are picked as young spears in the spring. Later in the season the foliage matures into a delicate fern which changes to a golden color in the fall. Plants can be productive for 15 or more years if given proper care.
Provide as much sun as possible and a sandy, fast draining soil for the plants. Poor drainage will cause the roots to rot. Keep the roots 12-18 inches away from fences and sidewalks. It loves plenty of water. Beds of asparagus will fill in over the years. Many gardeners with space imitations use asparagus as a border or hedge plant. (more…)
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 gorgeous! They grow to 5 feet across and almost as high with beautiful gray fuzzy foliage.
Each spring, mix compost into your growing area. Artichokes require sandy, fast draining soil and cool temperatures to thrive. They need regular water for an ample harvest, but if you just like the look of the plant and don’t want the thistles for your table, they will survive on very little water. Artichokes are susceptible to freezing and do best where the temperature remains constant year round.
How to Plant:
Plant artichokes in a location in full sun from bare root stock in January or from container grown stock later in the spring. To grow artichokes in cold winter climates, protect the root with several inches of straw mulch or better yet, grow them in large containers and move to a protected location when the temperature drops. (more…)
Native to the western Mediterranean, herb gardeners are growing thyme (Thymus) as a landscape plant as well as for culinary 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. In earlier days, it was also believed that a concoction of beer and thyme could cure shyness. Hardy plants grow up to 18 inches tall. Perennial.
Thyme prefers full sun to light shade and a well-drained, dry soil amended with plenty of organic compost. Keep it sheltered from cold winds. The plant may not survive severe winters unless covered or heavily mulched. It does very well in containers.
Tip: Use thyme in the rock garden to cascade over walls. It also attracts beneficial insects. (more…)