Category Archives: Organic gardening

Organic Home Vegetable Gardens: Balance

There are a few basic principles which guide successful organic gardeners, and they are simple enough that a child can learn them easily, incidentally, getting your children involved can be another great benefit. Organic gardening principles are pretty simple and basic, in fact, they boil down to one thing: Balancing the elements. Balance is the key to many areas of life, we have to do it every day. We balance such things as work with family life, or relaxation and exercise, and how well we do that determines how well we get along in life. Gardening is no exception to this principle.

Balance in soil fertility and plant material

Balance in soil fertility is important for the healthy growth not only of the plants themselves, but also the soil microbes necessary for the continuation of proper soil structure and fertility. Organic growing involves the recycling of decaying plant material for soil structure and nutrients. Proper balance between the nitrogen needed for microbes to break down the decaying plant matter and the decaying plant matter itself must be maintained to continue the cycle.

Balance in variety

Variety in the insect world is needed. Insects that pollinate plants should be present in sufficient abundance pollinate the garden. Insects that eat other insects such as ladybugs, spiders, and the praying mantis perform pest control work. Some plant types ward off bugs with natural insecticides and repellents, and some, like sweet potatoes, even keep other plants and weeds away. Having a diverse selection makes success more likely.

Balance in varieties

Having the proper plant varieties, at the proper time, and in the proper places goes a long way toward the balance needed for successful organic produce production. Weak plants invite insects and disease, and plants grown out of season, or in an other situations that compromise their health will be susceptible.

Balance in soil moisture

Having the proper balance in soil moisture will aid in avoiding disease, fungus, and insects. Planting moisture loving plants at the bottom of a slope is much better than planting them at the top where water is likely to run off quickly. Moisture loving plants will languish in dry areas, and drought tolerant plants will usually suffer where there is a high level of water. Place your plants accordingly.

Balance in light

Light is important to plant growth and health. There are sun loving plants, and shade loving plants, and they should be placed accordingly. There is a good deal of variety in vegetables, so you can probably find something that will produce in almost every available spot that you choose to plant.

Balancing these factors is the key to organic home vegetable gardening. Proper balance of these elements will ward of disease, fungus, and insects, and provide optimum growing conditions for your garden plants. As in everyday life, balance is the difference between success and failure.

Organic Vegetable Gardening

Gardening Books

Organic vegetable gardening is not some magical, mystical process attainable by only a select few gardening guru’s or former hippies living in mud huts. Organic produce can be grown in the smallest spaces, and by common people, no matter what their demographic. Organic food offers many health advantages, and growing your own organic vegetables can save a bundle of green at the market.

Gardening can be a great way to promote family unity, family wealth, and family health. Especially if done organically. It can provide education and opportunities for the growth the children as well as the vegetables. Organic gardening can save you some money by supplementing the families groceries with a fresh supply, straight from the backyard, and can even provide extra cash and a lesson in capitalism if you want to set up a temporary curbside vegetable stand for your extras, or create better neighborhood relations if you give it away to the folks down the block. Good nutrition, education, self reliance, and financial well being, all from a little plot in your backyard, and some therapeutic labor. What’s not to like about that?

Organic gardening is good for you and your family because it involves connecting with your food, eating healthy food, and healthful family activity, not to mention the benefits to your pocketbook. There are a few things that you should consider before you get started:

Things to consider before you start:

  1. Find out what will grow in your area. You may want to grow citrus fruit and bananas, but if you live too far above the equator, you will find it difficult to succeed without some serious alterations. Plan your organic garden realistically with plants that grow well in your area. Find your region, and check your plants and seed to be certain that they will grow well where you live.
  2. Determine the amount of light available for growing. If your garden space is walled in by high buildings, or tall trees, you may need to consider plants that love shade, or need only a few hours of sunlight per day to thrive. Attempting to grow sun-loving plants in the shade can be frustrating.
  3. Decide how much space you will need for growing your organic garden, and how much space you actually have. Unless you have several acres available, growing a significant amount of most cereal grains will be out of the question. If grains are a must, consider corn grown in small blocks of space and shade loving crops between rows. There are ways to win the space war using containers and vertical gardening, So don’t let lack of space keep you from starting your garden.

Consider these ideas before you begin, draw up a plan including what plants you will use in what positions in your garden, get the supplies you need, and get started. There are very few problems you can’t overcome with the proper information and a little creativity.

Finding organic vegetable garden space

One of the biggest problems for most organic gardeners is finding space. You may have the knowledge, you may have the experience, you may have the tools and materials for a fantastic organic garden, but if you can’t find the space to get your plants in the ground or containers, your garden is just a dream. Don’t let the dream fade! There are many ways to find the space for your vegetables even if your space seems limited. You just have to think outside the box, and in more than one dimension.

Get rid of your lawn

If you have a lawn, get rid of it, or at least enough of it to grow your garden. Lawns are resource hogs, so why not make that space work for you and turn part of yours into a garden.

Well maintained lawns were once the domain of the wealthy, but at some point in the last half of the last century home lawns for middle class Americans became the standard. It is safe to say that Americans spend more on lawn care annually than on any other aspect of home maintenance.

Lawns require a lot of resources. These resources are in the form of water, fertilizer, pesticides, equipment and labor and the cost can be enormous. The average lawn size, front and back, is about a quarter acre. The average monthly cost for lawn care is somewhere in the neighborhood of $200.00 per month, or $2,400.00 per year. The average first time home buyer never considers this cost until the mowing starts.

Typically, 30 to 60 pounds each of nitrogen and phosphorous are applied to the home lawn in a year, along with an unmeasurable quantity of herbicide and insecticide, and irrigation amounts are somewhere around 60 inches per season, and labor time comes in at 10 hours or more per month during the growing season. All of this to have a pretty, green showplace for your neighbors to admire.

There is a way you can avoid some of these expenses, and even get a pay off. Yes, a pay off!

Simply get rid of that resource draining lawn and raise a garden in it’s place! Instead of spending all that time and money on growing grass, grow something that will save you money at the supermarket. It is good for the environment, good for your health, and good for your pocketbook.

You don’t even have to do it all at once. If you are afraid of suffering lawn withdrawal you can get rid of a section at a time. Once you get started, you will probably not stop until your lawn is all gone and your pantry all full!

Replace your landscape

Use the space that your landscape plants now occupy. Remove those old non productive shrub hedges and plant attractive peppers, cabbages, kale, squash, sweet potatoes or other plants in their place. In some parts of the country, there are native dwarf fruit trees that might be suitable replacements for standard landscape bed plants, and fruiting vines that could be trained on a trellis to add variety if you want to use perennials.

Use fruit and nut trees

Replace small to medium decorative trees with fruit trees. Fruit trees are attractive additions to home landscapes. If you are just starting to landscape a new place, instead of using the standard dooryard or shade trees, use a nut tree native to the area. The magnificent pecan tree makes both a great and attractive shade tree, and is the source of a delicious high oil, high protein nut perfect for human consumption. There are dozens of other choices, and one is just right for your area.

Patio gardening

Consider building a raised bed on part of your patio, or using your patio as a container garden. You can even build shelves or racks to increase available space. This is a great spot for a raised bed, or a cold frame which can also be a hot bed for extending your growing season at both ends of the calender. A pergola over the top can serve as a great arbor for fruit and vegetable vines, which brings me to my next suggestion:

Take your garden to new heights

Get out of the box, and start thinking of gardening on a different plane. Go vertical instead of just horizontal. Grow vine plants on a trellis, wire, arbor, or your fence. You can even line your wooden fence with racks and shelves for container plants. Think vertical, and grow your garden to new heights!

Find more vegetable garden information here!

I am sure you can think of other unusual ways of finding space, creating space, or making better use of available space for your gardening project, just don’t let conventionality get in the way of your healthy organic vegetable garden, and be sure to share your thoughts, ideas, tips, and suggestions on gardening in our comment section.

Companion Planting For Home Gardens

Companion Planting

Native Americans, and other early agrarian and semi agrarian societies developed farming techniques based on companion planting which still make sense today. Whether these developments occurred as a result of religious beliefs, or whether the religious beliefs used to explain the method were developed as a result of the technique and a need to develop ideas to perpetuate this knowledge is a source of debate among modern thinkers, but either way, the fact that the methods exist, and work, is not in question.

Similar practices have existed in other cultures, along with the pairing of foods that compliment each other in ways that science now understands as being necessary for the utilization of plant nutrients for the human body. Whether these combination came about for religious reasons, nutritional reasons, or agricultural reasons, or a combination of all may be a matter for cultural anthropology, but whatever the reason, the modern gardener can benefit from the practice in the same manner as his agrarian predecessors.

A Native American practice for home gardens

A common companion planting example is the method known as the “3 Sisters” technique. We are not able to assign a precise age to this practice, or an exact time period when the terminology, and religious significance came into being, but it seems to have been widespread in a variety of native American cultures since very early times.

Complimentary planting with the 3 Sisters method

The 3 Sister concept is very simple. Corn or maize is planted in a block for the purpose of self pollination. Vine, or pole beans are planted between the stalks, using the stalks for support, and squash are mixed into the garden providing a living mulch.

  • All the normal methods for soil preparation, like adding and incorporating organic matter should be done in advance.
  • Planting should begin after the danger of frost is past, and when night time low temperatures exceed 50 degrees.

The practice consists of:

  1. Planting the corn in mounds, or “hills” about 5 feet apart. 4 seed per hill is the standard.
  2. When the corn reaches a height of about 4 inches, the entire plot should be weeded carefully, and the beans should be planted, 4 per hill around the corn stalks.
  3. The squash should be planted at the same time as the beans, but centered between the hills of corn and beans, with 4 seeds per hill. The squash will need to be thinned to 2 per hill after they developed leaves.

Note that this 4 seed planting process is similar to the old folk saying; (my father still used it as a rule of thumb when I was young) “one for the mouse, one for the crow, one to wilt, and one to grow” or some of the hundreds of variations of the saying.

Ideally, the Corn will develop ahead of the beans, providing a natural trellis for the beans to grow onto. The beans, being legumes, will “fix” nitrogen into the soil for use by the other crops, and the squash, after they reach maturity, will provide ground cover, or shading to help prevent the growth of unwanted grass and weeds.

Companion nutrition

Nutritionally, the food from this garden is complementary as well, most notably, providing protein from the beans, complex carbohydrates from the grain, and mineral nutrients and oils from the squash for a balanced meal. Companion planting, and companion nutrition work well together.

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