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!

We continually add articles to this section, so please check back often. Also, you can share tips and ask questions over at our Organic Gardening Forum page.

Cabbage

CabbageHome gardeners growing cabbage are rewarded with abundant and dependable harvests.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 70-120 days
Height: 1 to 2 feet
Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows

Easy to grow and delicious to eat, this extremely hardy member of the brassica family is a cool season biennial grown as an annual. A taste treat — whether raw or cooked — it’s excellent in slaws, salads, soups or stir fried!

Packed full of vitamins and a healthy supply of minerals, cabbage is an excellent source of nutrition. The leafy vegetable also contains copious amounts of antioxidants, which prevent or slow cell damage and are known for their cancer fighting properties. (more…)

Broccoli

BroccoliA hardy garden vegetable that grows best in cool temperatures and rich soil.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 70-100 days from seed, 55-75 days when grown from transplants
Height: 2 to 3 feet
Spacing: 18 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows

Chock-full of vitamins A, B, and C, as well as calcium, phosphorous and iron, growing broccoli is popular with many home 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.

Fact: Broccoli is native to the Mediterranean where it is believed to have evolved from a wild cabbage plant. (more…)

Beets

BeetsRich in flavor, chock-full of nutrition and available in a variety of colors, it’s no wonder home gardeners are growing beets like never before.

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 55-70 days
Height: 1 to 2 feet
Spacing: 3 to 6 inches apart, 1 to 2 feet between rows

A delicious addition to home gardens, beets are 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 are called are an excellent source of vitamin A and the roots are a good source of potassium, iron, vitamin C and dietary fiber. This pallet pleasing superfood is also packed with anti-oxidants which are known for their cancer fighting properties and ability to prevent or slow cell damage. (more…)

Beans

BeansPlanting and growing beans at home offers variety, flavor and versatility.

Sunlight: Full sun
Maturity: 45-75 days
Height: 1 to 4 feet
Spacing: 2 to 4 inches apart, 18 to 24 inches between rows

Gardeners generally divide beans into three categories; shell, snap and dry. All varieties are easy to grow and tolerate a wide range of weather conditions. As a result, beans are a dependable plant that yield an abundance of pods in most backyard vegetable gardens.

Beans are one of the few crops that actually enrich the soil — add nitrogen back — making them perfect for organic gardens. Try planting nitrogen-loving, leafy greens like kale, spinach or cabbage in areas where beans were planted before.

Site Preparation:

Plant 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. (more…)

Asparagus

AsparagusOne of the few perennial vegetable crops!

Sunlight: Full sun to partial shade
Maturity: 1-3 years from crowns
Height: 5 to 8 feet
Spacing: 12 to 24 inches apart, 2 to 3 feet between rows

Home gardeners are growing asparagus everywhere in the United States except where conditions are too mild — Florida and the Gulf Coast  — to satisfy its dormancy requirements. The perennial plant does well in backyard beds and thrives in raised bed gardens.

Tender shoots are picked as young spears early 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 years or more and delicious spears are packed with vitamin C, B-vitamins, iron, potassium and calcium. (more…)

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…)

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