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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!

Growing Marjoram

MarjoramHerb 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. Plants grow 1-2 feet tall and have square stems, gray-green leaves and small white flowers borne in clusters. Perennial, often grown as an annual.

Site Preparation:

May be grown in pots, containers or herb gardens. Plants prefer full sun and will grow in any type of soil and with very little water, however it will thrive in fast draining, sandy soil.

Tip: Sweet marjoram attracts beneficial insects and butterflies to the garden.

How to Plant:

Start indoors 6-8 weeks before the last frost. Sow seeds just beneath the surface of the soil. Seeds will germinate in 10 days. Plant out after the danger of frost has past. Space plants 8 inches apart in all directions. Begin harvesting 5-6 weeks after transplanting outdoors, or when plants are growing vigorously. No fertilizer is necessary for this hardy plant. (more…)

Growing Lovage

LovageNative to southern Europe, growing lovage (Levisticum officinale) was very popular during the Middle Ages when it could be found in almost every kitchen garden. The leaves, stems and seeds of the plant all taste like celery. The most popular usage today is in soups and salads. Very hardy and much easier to grow than celery. Perennial with shiny, dark green leaves.

Site Preparation:

Lovage prefers full sun to light shade and a rich, moist, well-drained soil. Before you plant, consider how much space can be devoted to growing this herb. Mature plants will reach 4-6 feet high, which makes it the perfect backdrop for any garden. Grows well in large containers, too!

Tip: Lovage attracts a large number of beneficial insects. (more…)

Growing Hyssop

HyssopNative to Europe, Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) was used as early as the seventh century as a purifying tea and for medicine. The herb is said to cure all manner of ailments from head lice to shortness of breath. Today home gardeners are growing hyssop for its leaves, which are used to flavor green salads, soups, liqueurs and stews. Attractive plants have woody stems, small pointed leaves, and spikes of small pink, red and blue-purple flowers. There also are forms with pink or white flowers. Hardy perennial grows 2-3 feet tall.

Site Preparation:

Hyssop prefers full sun to partial shade and dry, well-drained soil. Prior to planting work in plenty of organic matter, such as compost, or aged animal manure. It is also helpful to add a light application of organic fertilizer to the planting hole. Hyssop grows equally well in containers.

Note: This perennial is often used as a border plant in herb gardens and is extremely attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. (more…)

Growing Dill

DillAttractive and flavorful, home herb gardeners are growing dill (Anethum) for its seeds and feathery foliage commonly used with fish and fowl. Its large fragrant heads are great for making dill pickles, spicing up summer salads or as a unique addition to flower bouquets. Foliage is abundant and long-lasting. Self-seeding annual grows 3-4 feet tall.

Site Preparation:

Prefers full sun, regular water and rich well drained soil. Loosen soil to a depth of 8-12 inches and work in a handful or two of organic fertilizer. Plants grow vigorously and will readily volunteer each year from dropped seeds. Dill is frost-tolerant but will not do well in prolonged freezing temperatures. (more…)

Growing Chives

ChivesA member of the Allium family, most home gardeners are growing chives for the mild, onion-flavored leaves, although the plants also produce attractive and edible purple flowers in the spring. They are easy to plant and make attractive borders around herb gardens. Plants grow to 1-1/2 feet tall and self-sow readily. Perennial in zones 3-9.

Site Preparation:

Each spring, work aged compost into your garden plot. Chives grow well in full sun, ample water and rich, sandy soil. The plant will tolerate frost but not prolonged freezing temperatures. They are frequently grown as annuals in climates with winter temperatures below 32 degrees F.

How to Plant:

Chives grow easily from seed planted directly in the ground or from divisions. Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep in early spring. Seed germinates best at 70 degrees F. with germination usually occurring in 14 days. Chive plants are usually not thinned, but left to grow in bunches. (more…)

Growing Borage

BorageBeautiful blue star-shaped flowers hang in clusters. The leaves are covered with stiff white hairs and appear to be almost woolly. Bees love the bright flowers and rely on borage (Borago officinalis) as a nectar source, literally covering the plants some days. The flowers are great for floating in cool drinks at summer parties. Plants grow 2-3 feet tall and self-sow readily. Annual.

Site Preparation:

Container gardens, herb gardens and organic gardens all work well for growing borage. It prefers full sun, but will tolerate partial shade, and rich, moist soil. Choose a site that is well protected from wind as it is easily blown over and work in plenty of organic matter prior to planting.

How to Plant:

Easily grown from seed. Borage can be started indoors 3-4 weeks before the last frost or direct seeded just after the danger of frost has passed. Plant seeds just beneath the surface of the soil and thin seedlings to at least one foot apart. Trim back occasionally to keep them tidy and more upright. (more…)

Growing Basil

BasilNative to Mediterranean climates, home herb gardeners are growing basil (Ocimum basilicum) for its luscious flavor and wonderful aroma. Excellent fresh or dried, the classic large-leaved variety is a favorite in Asian and Italian cuisine. Fragrant plants grow 18-24 inches and are very productive. Annual.

Site Preparation:

Basil thrives in soil gardens or containers and prefers full sun, regular water and fast draining, rich soil. Work in plenty of aged animal manure or compost prior to planting.

How to Plant:

Sow seeds outdoors when the soil is warm and the temperature does not drop below 65 degrees F. Can be started indoors 4-6 weeks before planting out. Space plants 4-6 inches apart in all directions. Plant seeds just beneath the surface. Seeds germinate in 5-30 days, so keep moist. An application of organic fertilizer once or twice during the growing season will help promote sturdy growth. At the end of summer, allow the plants to go to seed to attract beneficial insects and bees. (more…)

Growing Zinnias

Growing ZinniasEasy to plant from seed, growing zinnias is very rewarding with their full, rich colors and abundant blooms. Available in a wide variety of sizes, from miniatures to giants, and colors, from white to orange to pink and multicolored, zinnias will satisfy any flower-lover for several months every summer.

Site Preparation:

Zinnia is an annual warm season plant that likes full sun and a rich, well-drained soil. They are easy to grow, however, and will tolerate average to slightly poor soils. Generous amounts of compost and organic matter will improve the health of your zinnias tremendously. Keep the soil moist, but not wet.

How to Plant:

Zinnias can be started early indoors for transplanting outdoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date, or they can be seeded directly into the flower bed after all danger of frost has passed. Sow directly into the soil and cover with about 1/4 inch of soil. Water thoroughly. Thin to 6-12 inches apart after they have sprouted. (more…)

Growing Sweet Peas

Sweet PeasA great climber that’s perfect for fences and trellises! Home flower gardeners are growing sweet peas for their fragrant scent and interesting blossoms. Easy to plant from seed, they add a splash of color to any garden, especially in cooler, wet climates.

Site Preparation:

Sweet peas like a rich, well-drained soil but will tolerate various conditions. Soak seeds in water for 2-6 hours before planting to improve germination. Sow directly into the soil, about 4-6 inches apart and cover with 1/2 inch of soil.

How to Plant:

Sow sweet pea seeds as soon as the soil can be worked for summer bloom. The seed casings are hard, so soak overnight for best germination. Sweet peas like full sun and cool weather, so they can tolerate wet soil and wet climates well. Water regularly during dry conditions to keep them blooming. Fertilize a couple times during the season with an all-purpose fertilizer. (more…)

Growing Sunflowers

SunflowerRemarkably fun and very hardy — perfect for kids! Home gardeners are growing sunflowers for their full, rich sunset colors and large blooms. Easy to plant from seed, they are available in sizes ranging from miniatures at 1-2 feet tall (good for edging) to 20 feet tall with 2 foot diameter blooms. They germinate easily and are fascinating and rewarding to watch, and provide fun seeds to harvest at the end of the summer, making them the ideal seed for children.

Site Preparation:

Sunflowers like a good, well-drained soil and will thrive in areas with full sun. It is not recommended to plant them in sandy soil, however, as they need a strong soil to support their tall, top-heavy plants.

How to Plant:

Sunflowers are very easy to direct-seed. Sow after danger of frost has passed, about 4-6 inches apart with 1/2 inch of soil covering them. If started indoors, use peat pots or pots made of newspaper that can be planted directly into the soil. (more…)

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