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!
A member of the Brassicaceae family, kale is related to broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. It is a cool season biennial that is grown as an annual and is harvested for its tender foliage. Reliable and quick to harvest, growing kale is relatively easy because cold weather doesn’t bother it. In fact, cold weather makes it taste…well, a whole lot better!
Kale grows best in full sun and cool moist soil that is enriched with compost. Incorporate a legume cover crop, or work in 30 pounds of compost per 100 square feet before planting. Kale requires moderate amounts of fertilizer rich in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
Tip: Before you grow your organic garden, grow your soil. Consider adding soil amendments, like alfalfa meal (5-1-2), rock phosphate (0-3-0), greensand (0-0-3) and kelp meal, to your garden to improve the structure of the soil and provide a slow-release mix of nutrients to plant roots. (more…)
A cinch to grow from zone 3 south, horseradish is known for its hot, mustard flavored roots. Mankind has been growing horseradish for centuries, Records indicate that the Egyptians cultivated this plant prior to 1500 B.C. It was also used by the Romans as an aphrodisiac. Although, what didn’t they use as an aphrodisiac?
Horseradish prefers rich, fast draining soil and full sun. However, the perennial will grow in almost all conditions, except deep shade or constant wetness. Prior to planting, choose a spot far removed from any other plants you care about. Horseradish spreads quickly and can soon take over your garden.
Tip: The best way to control horseradish’s rampant nature is to grow it in containers.
How to Plant:
Start by planting horseradish in the fall or very early spring. Set plants or root pieces 1-2 feet apart, with the crown – the top of the root and the start of the top growth – about 4 inches below the soil surface. Add a shovelful of compost to each hole and water thoroughly after planting. (more…)
One of the first cultivated fruits, there are written descriptions of growing grapes and making wine dating back thousands of years. Grapes have the reputation of being fragile and difficult to grow. In fact, many backyard gardeners are convinced that they are too tender to even consider trying to grow them, yet a variety of species will do well in regions of every state and in several Canadian provinces. Once established, well-tended grapevines can be productive for 40 years or more.
All types of grapes require a warm planting site in full sun, moderate water and pruning during the dormant season to control growth and produce abundant fruit. Consult with a nursery professional to select a variety that will do well in your area. The soil at the planting site should be loose, rich and deep. The roots of grape vines go deep into the earth. Amend to a depth of 24 – 36″ with organic compost to improve existing soil.
Tip: To lessen the chance for disease, make sure drying breezes are not obstructed by fences, shrubs or buildings. (more…)
A member of the onion family, garlic (Allium sativum) has been cultivated for thousands of years and was most likely brought to this country by European immigrants. Today growing garlic has become popular in many home gardens. The plant is valued for its pungent flavor and many health benefits.
Each spring, work plenty of compost into your growing area. Garlic thrives in all zones and does very well in raised beds, except in very dry areas. It requires full sun, sandy, fast draining soil rich in organic matter and regular water during the growing season.
How to Plant:
Plant garlic in spring in cold winter regions, in late fall in mild winter areas. To plant, break the bulbs apart into individual cloves, plant with the pointed end up, 1 inch deep in rows 1 foot apart. (more…)
Eggplant is a member of the Solanaceae family which includes tomatoes, peppers, ground cherry and potatoes. A warm season annual, growing eggplant is relatively easy and it is one of the prettier vegetables found in the home garden. Numerous varieties are available.
Eggplant should be planted in full sun and requires ample water and fertile soil with lots of organic matter. The plants are easily injured by frost and will not do well with long periods of cool weather.
Tip: Use plastic mulches to warm the soil and increase eggplant yields.
How to Plant:
Eggplants should be treated like tomatoes, the only difference being that eggplants like it warmer. Plant them from nursery stock, or starts, after the soil has warmed in the spring. Set plants 20-24 inches apart in raised beds or double rows 20-24 inches apart. Apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer throughout the growing period. (more…)
Cucumbers are one of the most popular plants in today’s home garden. Before you plant, consider how much space you can devote to growing cucumbers. The regular varieties require about 15 square feet per plant. However, they can still be grown in small gardens by training vines onto a trellis or wire fence. They may also be grown in containers.
Cucumbers require a planting site in full sun and even soil moisture. Mulch around plants to prevent soil from drying out between waterings. A straw mulch works best and will help keep them off the ground. Allow plenty of room for each plant, making sure that the soil is rich in organic matter and well drained.
How to Plant:
Cucumbers need warm soil and do not tolerate frost. Wait for warm spring days and soil temperatures above 60 degrees. Grow trellised plants 6-10 inches apart. When planted in hills and allowed to run, grow three plants to a 2 foot wide hill, with the hills spaced 6 feet apart. Apply an all-purpose organic fertilizer in early spring; then provide supplemental light feedings (side-dressings or foliar spray) monthly throughout the growing season. (more…)
Native to North and South America, corn (or maize) was cultivated some 4,000 years before Columbus first set foot in the New World. Today home gardeners know that the flavor of a fresh picked ear of heirloom corn delivered directly to a pot of boiling water is worth all the effort, fertilizer and space required for growing corn.
Corn requires full sun, ample water and deep rich soil to perform well. Prepare the planting site by working in generous amounts of compost. Corn needs to be well protected from frost.
Tip: Cover the growing area with plastic for two to four weeks prior to planting to warm the soil. (more…)
Almost absent of calories, yet chock-full of important vitamins and minerals, growing celery produces flavorful leafstalks for use in everything from salads to soups and casseroles. Celery requires long periods of warm, but not high temperatures and can be grown in home gardens in most parts of the country. It is not suited to humid climates.
Celery thrives in cool, moist locations. Select a planting site that receives at least one half day of sun and is rich in organic soil. A heavy feeder, celery does well planted after legumes.
How to Plant:
Seeds should be planted in flats in the early spring, and set out when the soil begins to warm. Set seedlings 6 inches apart in rows 2 feet apart. (more…)
For many backyard gardeners, growing cauliflower can be a rather difficult task. This nutritious plant is very temperamental and requires undisturbed, continuous growth for the head, or flower, to develop. As a result, growing success is often influenced by several environmental factors, including temperature, insects and moisture. Some gardeners will even set a few cauliflower plants out every week, hoping that at least a few of them will get the proper weather conditions.
A cool season biennial which is grown as an annual, cauliflower requires full sun and regular water. The soil should be rich in organic matter and nutrients. To prevent insect and disease problems, avoid planting in spots where other brassicas have been grown the previous three years. (more…)
Crunchy and sweet, growing carrots is easy! A wonderful source of Vitamin A and anti-oxidants, they provide color and nutrition to a gardeners diet. Carrots grow best in cool temperatures (between 60-70˚F) and may be planted as soon as the soil can be worked in early spring.
Select a garden site in full sun or very light partial shade and prepare the soil with ample amounts of mature organic compost. Carrots will reach perfection only when planted in deep, good-textured soil that is free of stones and debris. Plant the long varieties only if you can provide this type of soil. Choose shorter varieties if your soil is heavy or stony. (more…)