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!
By Planet Natural staff
And, ah, yes: ‘companion planting’; a topic laced with more folklore, hopefulness, bad information and just plain hype than just about any other in the gardening world. It’s said to have begun just as the world was going from BC to AD, when the oft-quoted Pliny the Elder wrote that the (highly toxic) plant rue was a “very friendly” companion to figs. – Mike McGrath, “The Truth About Companion Planting”
McGrath’s is not an uncommon position. Companion planting is a messy topic than needn’t be messy. It’s messy first because a lot of pseudo-scientific nonsense has been published on the topic, and second because even within the area of what makes sense, there’s a wide variety of approaches and techniques.
The basic idea behind companion planting is both simple and sensible: many plants grow better near some companions than they do near others or when alone. The devil is, as usual, in the details, in this case in the precise definition. (more…)
By Kate Gardner, Planet Natural
What is it?
The basic idea behind companion planting is both simple and sensible: many plants grow better near some companions than they do near others or when alone. By itself it will not work miracles, but applied in a well-maintained garden, it can produce startling results. It can drastically improve the use of space, reduce the number of weeds and garden pests, and provide protection from heat, wind, and even the crushing weight of snow. In the vegetable garden, all this adds up to the best thing of all: increased yield.
Most people think of companion planting in connection with vegetable gardens, but it can also be used when flower gardening and in full-scale fields. Some of the most familiar examples come from farming, where it’s a long-standing practice to sow vetch or some other legume in the fall after the harvest. This cover crop provides erosion control through storms, and supplies both nitrogen and organic material to the soil when it is plowed under in spring. (more…)
By Eric Vinje, Planet Natural
Propagating plants is an inexpensive and easy way to get new plants from plants you already have. This asexual means of reproduction produces a plant that is genetically identical to its parent.
There are a variety of plant propagation methods; from taking cuttings to layering to dividing and more. The technique you select will depend on the type of plant you wish to propagate and the amount of time and effort you want to put into it.
One of the most amazing things about plants is that every cell has the ability to duplicate all parts and functions of the plant. By taking a cutting of a leaf or stem and creating the right conditions, you can create an entirely new plant. (more…)
Sweet, cool and refreshing… there’s nothing like growing watermelon in your own backyard garden. A heat-loving annual, it can be grown in all parts of the country, but the warmer temperatures and longer season of southern areas especially favor this delicious plant. In cooler areas choose short-season varieties and do whatever it takes to protect them from frost.
Choose a location where your plants will get full sun and good air circulation. A gentle, south-facing slope is ideal. Watermelons can grow in many kinds of soil, but prefer a light, sandy, fertile loam that is well-drained. Add generous amounts of manure, compost and leaves to your garden and work the soil well prior to planting. Watermelons like lots of water. Keep the soil moist at all times. (more…)
While technically a fruit, growing tomato plants is a vegetable gardeners delight! Nothing beats the taste of fresh, vine ripened heirloom tomatoes from the home garden. Originating in Central and South America, tomato plants are grown in an ever increasing range of colors, sizes and shapes with the recent interest in heirloom cultivars fueling further interest.
Tomatoes are very deep rooted and don’t need nearly as much water as most people believe. They will do much better in the garden soil than in pots and require plenty of sun. Plant after the soil has warmed in the spring in rich, fast draining soil which has been amended with ample amounts of organic compost and calcium to prevent blossom end rot.
How to Plant:
Allow enough space (1-1/2 – 2 feet) between tomato plants to permit good sun penetration and air circulation. Plant the tomatoes deep in the soil, up to the first set of leaves or deeper. Roots will form all along the stem. Water deeply (long periods of time, once or twice a week) to encourage roots to grow down into the soil. Once the plants are established, start them on a biweekly fertilizer program. (more…)
Swiss chard is in the beet family but unlike the beet, which is grown for the edible root, chard is grown for the tender foliage. Vitamin rich and nutritious, home gardeners growing chard are rewarded with its succulent, mild-flavored leaves that can either be eaten raw or cooked like spinach.
Chard is best grown in soil that is rich in organic matter, fast draining and high in nitrogen. It requires full sun (but tolerates partial shade) and regular water. Work well composted manures or blood meal into the soil to boost nitrogen levels. Foliar applications with an all-purpose organic fertilizers and kelp 2-3 times during the growing season will boost production.
How to Plant:
Make your first plantings directly into the garden two to four weeks before the last expected frost. Sow seed 1/2 inch deep and 1-3 inches apart. Thin rows as plants mature and eat the tender shoots in salads. Chard is a prolific grower and can tolerate mild frosts. (more…)
Native to Central and South America, sweet potato is one of the most important food crops in tropical and subtropical countries. Growing sweet potatoes, a tender, warm-weather vegetable, requires a long frost-free growing season to mature large, useful roots.
Factoid: More than 40% of the national supply of sweet potatoes comes from North Carolina.
Sweet potatoes are not truly potatoes, but a thick root of a tropical vine. They need full sun, well-drained soil (preferably sandy loam) and plenty of room to thrive. Sweet potatoes are not heavy feeders, but they do require a good balance of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Work in a low nitrogen organic fertilizer before planting; too much nitrogen produces leafy growth at the expense of the roots.
How to Plant:
Plant in late spring when soil temperatures have warmed to 70 degrees. Set root bearing stems, called slips, 1 foot apart in rows spaced 3 feet apart. In raised beds, space plants 1-1/2 feet apart. Soak slips in compost tea for five minutes prior to planting to help reduce disease problems. Use row covers to add extra heat and keep out pests. (more…)
Squash, including zucchini, gourds and summer squash, are members of the cucumber (cucurbit) family and require the same planting conditions as pumpkins. Growing squash in the home garden is relatively easy providing you are patient enough to wait for warm weather. Squash will not germinate in cold soils and the plant is easily damaged by frost.
Note: Planet Natural offers are large selection of non-GMO, heirloom squash seeds. Best of all, they’re shipped free!
Squash are annual plants which do best in full sun (may require partial shade in hotter environments) and require ample amounts of water and soil rich in organic matter. Natural fertilizers, such as compost and manures, and other slow-release plant nutrients, are effective when tilled into the soil prior to planting. Do not plant in areas where other cucurbits have been cultivated over the past four years.
Tip: Use black plastic mulch to warm the soil, prevent weeds and increase yields. (more…)
A cool season annual, organic gardeners are growing spinach for its tasty and nutritious leaves. Chock-full of vitamins A and B-2, and rich in iron and calcium, it is one of the first greens up in the spring. Growing spinach in cool weather is the key to success.
Spinach requires full sun and regular water and should be planted in rich, fast draining soil. Before planting work in 10-15 pounds of compost per 100 sq. ft. to a depth of 8 inches. Work the soil thoroughly, taking care to break up any large clumps. Rocks should be removed from the growing area. Add a source of organic nitrogen, such as blood meal or alfalfa pellets, to promote rapid growth.
How to Plant:
Sow seed directly into the ground, 1/2 inch deep in early spring or late fall. Thin seedlings to 6 inches apart when they are 4-5 inches tall. Spinach likes water – keep the soil evenly moist but not wet. Constant moisture promotes rapid growth and helps prevents bolting. Mulching with compost will help deter weeds and prevent moisture loss. Fertilize with fish emulsion or other organic fertilizer when plants have four true leaves. (more…)
Initially cultivated for medicinal purposes more than 2,000 years ago, home gardeners today are growing rhubarb for its unique, tangy taste which is used in pies, tarts and sauces. A cool season, perennial plant, rhubarb is easy to cultivate, winter hardy and resistant to drought.
Rhubarb thrives in cool locations with full sun, or partial shade and plentiful water. In warmer climates, plants benefit from light shade but form longer, thinner stems. Rhubarb should be planted at the end of one side of the garden where it will not be disturbed since it may be productive for five years or more.
Soil requirements; fast draining soil with plenty of organic compost mixed in to improve nutrients and loose texture. Add a handfull of bone meal or seabird guano to your soil if it is lacking in phosphorous. Rhubarb requires some winter chill to thicken the stems and to develop a deep red color.
How to Plant:
Plant divisions of rhubarb in late winter or early spring. Make sure each division contains at least one bud. Set the tops of the divisions at the soil surface, space 3-4 feet apart in rows 6 feet apart. Mulch the garden area heavily with compost, leaves or straw to prevent weeds and conserve moisture. (more…)