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 Snapdragons

SnapdragonIn ancient times snapdragons (Antirrhinum Majus) were thought to have supernatural powers and offer protection from witchcraft. They were also believed to restore beauty and youthfulness to women. Growing snapdragons provides months of color ranging from pale pastels to vibrant reds and oranges. They are a favorite flower for cutting and fragrance. Native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Plants grow 1-3 feet tall. Self-seeding annual.

Site Preparation:

Snapdragons thrive in the cooler temperatures of late spring and do best in sunny locations with rich, well-drained soil. Plants will not flourish where temperatures are high for long periods of time. Blooms will tolerate some frost. Under favorable conditions, snapdragons will self-sow in the garden.

How to Plant:

May be grown from cuttings or from seed. If planting from seed, sow indoors on the surface of the soil for 8 weeks before last frost. Seeds will germinate in 10-20 days. For best results, sow in vermiculite and water from below. Plant outdoors after last frost. Pinch back young plants after 4-6 leaves have appeared to encourage a bushy habit and apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer for optimum plant health. Spent flowers should be picked often to encourage more blooms. If blooms become scarce, cut back plants drastically, then feed and water generously. Plants may need to be staked when young. (more…)

Growing Daisies

Shasta DaisyHome gardeners everywhere are growing daisies. The simple white flowers with yellow button centers are a symbol of purity and are perfect for cutting. Easy to grow, they are a favorite for beginner flower gardeners and are effective when planted in small groups. Perennial, 2-3 feet tall.

Site Preparation:

Daisies like rich, fast draining soil, ample water and lots of sunshine. However, they are hardy and will tolerate poor soil conditions and partial shade. Work some old animal manure or compost into the soil to help promote abundant blooms.

How to Plant:

Easy to grow from seed, division or nursery stock. Plant directly into the soil 1/8 inch deep when a light frost is still possible. Seeds will germinate in 10-20 days and plants will bloom the following year – after one seasons growth. Apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer early in the season to promote strong, sturdy growth. (more…)

Growing Roses: The Queen of Flowers

Rose Gardening

Home gardeners have been growing roses for well over 2,000 years. Loved for their beauty and fragrance, they are cultivated for a variety of landscape effects or for cutting. The members of the genus Rosa are prickly stemmed shrubs with a wide range of heights and growing habits. There are as many as 150-200 species and thousands of varieties, from miniatures (6 inches to 2 feet tall) to climbers that may grow 20 feet or more. Perennial.

Site Preparation

Roses like a good, well-drained soil and will grow best in protected spots with ample water and full sun. Plants require at least 8-10 hours of sunlight per day for optimum growth.

Tip: If you have a choice between morning or afternoon sun, it’s probably best to choose morning. This will help dry morning moisture from foliage quickly and prevent many plant diseases. (more…)

Growing Petunias

PetuniasNative to South America, the first petunia (Petunia multiflora) specimen was collected by an explorer at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata and was white in color. The original varieties were hardy plants that had trailing 2-3 inch stems and incredible scents. These scents have been lost in many of the modern-day varieties. Fortunately many of the heirloom varieties are still available to gardeners interested in growing petunias. The trailing types are suitable for growing in hanging baskets. Plants grow 10-18 inches tall. Self-seeding annual.

Site Preparation:

Petunias require full sunlight to thrive, but will tolerate some shade. The more shade they receive, the fewer flowers they’ll produce. Soil should be average to rich and well-drained. Prior to planting work a shovelful or two of organic matter, such as compost or well-aged manure, into the soil. This helps condition the soil, which improves drainage, and will also increase the ability of lighter soils to hold water and nutrients. (more…)

Growing Pansies

PansiesOne of the most widely grown of all garden flowers, pansies (Viola x wittrockiana), also known as violas, will bloom in a variety of colors all summer long and thrives in cool, wet spring time conditions. Excellent in containers, rock gardens, borders or edging. Plants are short lived in hot environments. Self-seeding perennial (grown as an annual in the North), 4-10 inches tall.

Site Preparation:

Pansies thrive in cool, rich, moist, well-drained soil. They prefer partial shade, but will tolerate full sun where summers are cool. Add plenty of compost, or other organic matter, to the soil prior to planting to help retain moisture, and prevent plants from wilting during the heat of the day. (more…)

Growing Nasturtium

NasturtiumA fast growing annual plant that reseeds itself freely. Home gardeners are growing nasturtium (Tropaeolum) for their colorful flowers and attractive foliage. The flowers and leaves are edible and make a peppery addition to salads, pastas or used as a garnish. Hardy annual, 12-14 inches tall.

Site Preparation:

Nasturtiums prefer full sun and average moist soil, but beware; once established it may be hard to eradicate. In hot climates plant in partial shade.

How to Plant:

Sow outdoors one week after last frost 1/4 inch beneath the surface of the soil. Nasturtium seeds germinate in 7-12 days. Some of the taller climbing varieties will need support. Pinch off the spent blooms to extend the flowering season. (more…)

Growing Morning Glory

Morning GloryA favorite! Home flower gardeners are growing morning glory (Ipomoea) for their vibrant colors, including purples, reds, pinks and blues. This vining plant is often found covering old wire fences where their delicate flowers greet you with the morning sun. Reliably self-seeds each year. Plants grow to 15 feet if given proper support. Self-seeding hardy annual.

Site Preparation:

Choose a planting site that has full sun and moist average soil. Working some compost or old animal manure into the soil will help.

How to Plant:

Morning glory is easy to grow from seed. Plant outdoors 1/2 inch deep after the last frost. Keep moist while germinating. Seeds will germinate in 5-21 days. Seeds can be slightly chipped and soaked in warm water for 24 hours before planting for better results. Thin plants to 4-6 inches apart. Provide support so the plants can climb. If you have trouble getting morning glory started, make sure the planting site is in full sun and that the seedlings never dry out until they become established. Provide organic fertilizer rich in phosphorous two or three times during the growing season. (more…)

Growing Marigolds

Growing MarigoldsMarigolds (Tagates erecta) are a hardy annual plant ranging in color from pale yellow to deep orange and rust. There are many varieties of this popular garden favorite from miniature to giant. Growing marigolds in and around vegetable gardens can also help prevent insect damage.

Site Preparation:

Marigolds like 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 marigolds tremendously. Keep the soil moist, but not wet.

How to Plant:

Sow marigold seed directly in the ground and cover with about 1/4 inch of soil. Water thoroughly. Thin to 8-18 inches apart after they have sprouted. Marigolds can also be started early indoors for transplanting outdoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date. (more…)

Growing Lupine

Growing LupineA spring-time favorite, growing lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) provides flower gardeners with a brilliant array of colors. Plants have stiff, erect flower spikes of 1-4 feet that emerge from horizontal foliage. Flowers are similar to those of peas or sweet peas, and grow in large, crowded racemes of deep blue, purple, yellow, pink or white. Found growing wild throughout most of the northern United States. Short-lived perennial.

Site Preparation:

Easy to grow, lupine thrives in cool, moist locations. It prefers full sun to light shade and average soils, but will tolerate sandy, dry soil. Plants develop long taproots, so loosen the soil to a depth of 12-20 inches, using a roto-tiller or garden fork. They will not grow in clay.

Tip: For dramatic results, mass lupines in the border or scatter them throughout the cottage garden (see Flower Gardening 101). (more…)

Growing Lilies

Garden LiliesOne of the most beautiful summer-flowering plants, home gardeners are growing lilies (lilium) for their exquisite trumpet-shaped blooms. Stems are strong, upright and unbranched, 1-6 feet tall. Flowers are large, beautifully colored in both bold and pastel shades, and often fragrant. May be grown individually in formal or naturalistic settings or en mass. Small species make excellent container plants, and all are a perfect addition to any border. Blooms from late spring through early autumn, depending on species.

Site Preparation:

Plants thrive in full sun or partial shade and prefer moist, well-drained soil and excellent air circulation. Most lilies perform poorly in extreme heat. (more…)

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