Organic Gardens

Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic gardens. 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 to this blog, so please check back often. Also, you can search existing messages for answers or post a new message for others to reply to at our Organic Garden Forum page.

Why Grow Organic? Taste.

Organic ProduceThere are many reasons to eat organically. Better taste is one.

Your friendly Planet Natural blogger, always hungry to learn about cooking, saw the Dan Barber installment of the new Netflix documentary series Chef’s Table. The series profiles a different, high-profile restaurant chef each of its six episodes. Barber, a long-time champion of the farm-to-table, sustainable-agriculture movement, is the co-owner and executive chef at New York City’s Blue Hill, an upscale restaurant with a sister location in the country, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, 30 miles north.

The interviews in the documentary make it clear that Barber is solidly behind organic growing and for all the expected reasons. But he doesn’t dwell on the dangers presented by conventionally grown crops or the amount of chemicals and pesticides poured into the environment, although that gets mentioned too. Instead he talks about the importance of soil to flavor. (more…)

Start an Organic Asparagus Patch

Asparagus BedNothing says spring like steamed, green spears of organic garden asparagus.

When I was a kid, we had an asparagus bed out at the far end of the backyard. It was already there when my parents bought the place, thus saving us the two to three years of waiting after planting before taking the first harvest. The plants were so big that in the fall, after the spears had grown tall and sent out thin, fern-like seed branches, we kids would burrow into the center of the patch to hide.

The best part of growing asparagus came in the spring when the first spears emerged, often beginning before we’d put in our vegetable garden. Most kids didn’t like asparagus but I did — maybe it was all the butter I’d slather on — and going out to harvest enough spears for dinner added to my appreciation. If memory serves, cutting asparagus from the ground was the first time I was allowed to use a knife. (more…)

Succession Planting Increases Small Garden Production

Multiple PlantingsHow to maximize crop yields from small space vegetable gardens.

At different times in our gardening life, small plots have forced us to take growing space seriously. It was in a small backyard corner space that we first tried square-foot gardening. We started succession plantings — raising one crop then, after its harvest, immediately replacing it with another — in a couple raised beds in a California front yard.

While square-foot vegetable gardening has been one of our staples no matter where we lived, succession planting becomes a more complicated proposition the further north you go. We have cousins down south that brag they’re growing different crops in succession all year long. In the midwest, we once got three crops in, if memory serves, greens and radishes, followed by bush beans, followed by turnips that came out of the ground sometime after the first hard freeze. (more…)

Legume Inoculants Increase Yields, Keep Plants Healthy

Garden Pea PlantNitrogen-fixing bacteria and organic compost for peas, beans, and healthy soil.

Now that we’re well into pea planting season and bean planting isn’t far behind, we’ve been considering the practice of inoculating pea and bean seeds with nodule-forming, nitrogen-fixing Rhizobium bacteria, commonly known as legume inoculant.

We’ve inoculated our peas and beans every year for so long that we take for granted the nitrogen that it will return to the garden and the growth benefits to our plants. Those years we forgot to order or otherwise just didn’t have inoculant enough to go around have shown us the difference. Nitrogen may be invisible but its presence can be seen in better growth and soil health. (more…)

Organic Artichokes For the Garden

ArtichokesGrowing artichokes as edibles or ornamentals at home.

Artichokes, once the domain of cool, coastal climates and inland areas of moderate temperatures, are moving into gardens where they’ve never be seen before. Even Utah (PDF) is growing artichokes.

It may be that warmer, longer summer seasons are encouraging gardeners in zones previously not suitable to growing artichokes to try their luck. But there are other factors at play as well.

One of the reasons is the popularity of recently available heirlooms that are offered next to the classic “Green Globe” variety. Restaurants and gourmet growers are offering types of artichokes that were unknown not long ago. (more…)

Grow, Enjoy Rhubarb

Rhubarb PlantHealthy, delicious recipes from a dependable, cool-weather, garden perennial.

Our correspondent in Northwest Washington’s Skagit Valley, home to family farms, organic growers, nurseries and a surprisingly rich country dining scene, reports that farm markets and country produce stands were open over the weekend with two products: asparagus and rhubarb.

Of all the early season crops, these two are often the most anticipated and the first to harvest. (more…)

Springtime Care of Roses

Springtime RosesPruning and fertilizing of rose bushes rewards with rich, sumptuous blooms.

April is the time in many places to get your rose bushes prepared for the growing season. The spring pruning and feeding of roses is rewarded with vigorous new growth and blossoms.

Even if you live in an area where roses are showing signs of green growth and budding — and that happened early in some parts of the country this year — it’s not too late to clean them up a bit. Giving a rose bush shape and removing second-year growth (and older if your plants have been neglected) not only help strengthen the plant but increase it’s flower power in years to come. (more…)

Make Soil For Your Raised Beds

Raised Bed GardenStraw bale gardening and other tips to build the best soil for your raised beds.

Adding some raised beds to your garden this year? Great idea. I’ve seen it said that raised beds produce about four times the amount of produce as do row crops. Plants seem more vigorous there in early season, probably because the soil in a raised bed warms faster than that in the garden patch. As gardeners, we love early season growth.

None of this is true, of course, if the soil in your raised bed isn’t at its best. And that’s the great things about raised beds. You can dig them out and fill them as you like. Think of them as a controlled experiment in which you’re looking for just the right, airy mix of organic materials — including beneficial microbes and other living things — and naturally occurring nutrients like nitrogen and minerals. (more…)

Plant Now For New Spring Potatoes

New Potato HarvestHow to grow tender, young “new potatoes” right in your own garden.

“New potatoes,” those harvested small and early, are all the rage in America’s kitchens and for good reason. They’re often fork- sized (well, close), retain their shape when cooked up, and come out nice and tender. They’re also a touch sweet. They haven’t developed long enough for their sugars to turn to starch. And that makes them the perfect accompaniment to late spring- early summer meals when they go well with other early vegetables from your garden.

They’re also great for early season potato salads. (more…)

April Lawn and Garden Tasks

Early April GardenGet a good start on growing season with these spring-time, how-to yard and garden chores.

Is April the garden’s busiest month? Suddenly, there’s so much to do, like start putting a garden in. Many websites put up monthly task lists, often suited to their specific region. Here’s some April gardening tips and chores that have served this gardener well over the years.

Fertilize fall-planted garlic with a high-nitrogen source, like blood meal or bat guano. Got onion sets that over-wintered? Now’s the time to start hitting them with nitrogen boosts, maybe fish fertilizer, periodically until their tops go soft and wilt in the coming summer. (more…)

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