Thursday, May 28, 2009

Organic Pest Control

Organic Pest Control With Critters

As human illness may often be prevented by healthful conditions, so pests may be kept away by strict garden cleanliness. Heaps of waste are lodging places for the breeding of insects. I do not think a compost pile will do harm, but unkempt, uncared-for spots seem to invite trouble.

Now for the main goal of this post, to point out the critters that you want in the garden, the ones that eat the pest, along with some ideas on how to invite them to watch over your garden.

Earth worms: The constant stirring up of the soil by earthworms is an aid in keeping the soil open to air and water. Soil that lacks drainage and air is more prone to insects and disease.

Fowls of the Air: Many of our common birds feed upon insects. The sparrows, robins, chickadees, meadow larks and orioles are all examples of birds who help in this way.

Insects: Some insects feed on other and more harmful insects. Ladybugs do this good deed and if you don't have them you usually can buy a bag of them at the local garden center. The ichneumon-fly helps too. NOTE: You can buy Ladybugs by Clicking Here.

Toads: Toads are wonders in the number of insects they can consume at one meal. The toad deserves very kind treatment from all of us.

Each gardener should try to make her or his garden into a place attractive to birds and toads. A good birdhouse, grain sprinkled about in early spring, a water-place, are all invitations for birds to stay a while in your garden.

If you wish toads to stay, fix things up for them too. During a hot summer day a toad likes to rest in the shade. By night he is ready to go forth to eat.

How can one "fix up" for toads? Well, one thing to do is to prepare a retreat, quiet, dark and damp. A few stones of good size underneath the shade of a shrub with perhaps a carpeting of damp leaves, would appear very fine to a toad.

Will cover more tips later.

Happy gardening,

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Soil

The Soil

The chances are that you will not find a spot of ideal garden soil ready for use anywhere upon your place. But all except the very worst of soils can be brought up to a very high degree of productiveness especially such small areas as home vegetable gardens require.
Large tracts of soil that are almost pure sand, and others so heavy and mucky that for centuries they lay uncultivated, have frequently been brought, in the course of only a few years, to where they yield annually tremendous crops on a commercial basis.

So do not be discouraged about your soil. Proper treatment of it is much more important, and a garden patch of average run-down, or "never-brought-up" soil will produce much more for the energetic and careful gardener than the richest spot will grow under average methods of cultivation.
The ideal garden soil is a "rich, sandy loam." And the fact cannot be overemphasized that such soils usually are made, not found. Let us analyze that description a bit, for right here we come to the first of the four all-important factors of gardening food. The others are cultivation, moisture and temperature.

"Rich" in the gardener's vocabulary means full of plant food; more than that and this is a point of vital importance it means full of plant food ready to be used at once, all prepared and spread out on the garden table, or rather in it, where growing things can at once make use of it; or what we term, in one word, "available" plant food.

Practically no soils in long- inhabited communities remain naturally rich enough to produce big crops. They are made rich, or kept rich, in two ways; first, by cultivation, which helps to change the raw plant food stored in the soil into available forms; and second, by manuring or adding plant food to the soil from outside sources.
"Sandy" in the sense here used, means a soil containing enough particles of sand so that water will pass through it without leaving it pasty and sticky a few days after a rain; "light" enough, as it is called, so that a handful, under ordinary conditions, will crumble and fall apart readily after being pressed in the hand. It is not necessary that the soil be sandy in appearance, but it should be friable.
"Loam: a rich, friable soil," says Webster. That hardly covers it, but it does describe it. It is soil in which the sand and clay are in proper proportions, so that neither greatly predominate, and usually dark in color, from cultivation and enrichment. Such a soil, even to the untrained eye, just naturally looks as if it would grow things.

It is remarkable how quickly the whole physical appearance of a piece of well cultivated ground will change.

Happy gardening,

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More on Garden Location

Garden Location

In deciding upon the site for the home vegetable garden it is well to dispose once and for all of the old idea that the garden "patch" must be an ugly spot in the home surroundings. If thoughtfully planned, carefully planted and thoroughly cared for, it may be made a beautiful and harmonious feature of the general scheme, lending a touch of comfortable homeliness that no shrubs, borders, or beds can ever produce.

With this fact in mind we will not feel restricted to any part of the premises merely because it is out of sight behind the barn or garage. In the average moderate-sized place there will not be much choice as to land. It will be necessary to take what is to be had and then do the very best that can be done with it. But there will probably be a good deal of choice as to, first, exposure, and second, convenience.

Other things being equal, select a spot near at hand, easy of access. It may seem that a difference of only a few hundred yards will mean nothing, but if one is depending largely upon spare moments for working in and for watching the garden and in the growing of many vegetables the latter is almost as important as the former this matter of convenient access will be of much greater importance than is likely to be at first recognized. Not until you have had to make a dozen time-wasting trips for forgotten seeds or tools, or gotten your feet soaking wet by going out through the dew-drenched grass, will you realize fully what this may mean.

But the thing of first importance to consider in picking out the spot that is to yield you happiness and delicious vegetables all summer, or even for many years, is the exposure. Pick out the "earliest" spot you can find a plot sloping a little to the south or east, that seems to catch sunshine early and hold it late, and that seems to be out of the direct path of the chilling north and northeast winds.

If a building, or even an old fence, protects it from this direction, your garden will be helped along wonderfully, for an early start is a great big factor toward success. If it is not already protected, a board fence, or a hedge of some low-growing shrubs or young evergreens, will add very greatly to its usefulness. The importance of having such a protection or shelter is altogether underestimated by the amateur.

Happy gardening,

Garden Pests

Garden Pests

If we could garden without any interference from the pests which attack plants, then indeed gardening would be a simple matter. But all the time we must watch out for these little foes little in size, but tremendous in the havoc they make.

There are two general classes of insects known by the way they do their work. One kind gnaws at the plant really taking pieces of it into its system. This kind of insect has a mouth fitted to do this work. Grasshoppers and caterpillars are of this sort. The other kind sucks the juices from a plant. This, in some ways, is the worst sort. Plant lice belong here, as do mosquitoes, which prey on us. All the scale insects fasten themselves on plants, and suck out the life of the plants.

Sometimes we are much troubled with underground insects at work. You have seen a garden covered with ant hills.

This question is constantly being asked, 'How can I tell what insect is doing the destructive work?' Well, you can tell partly by the work done, and partly by seeing the insect itself. This latter thing is not always so easy to accomplish. I had cutworms one season and never saw one. I saw only the work done. If stalks of tender plants are cut clean off be pretty sure the cutworm is abroad.

What does he look like? Well, that is a hard question because his family is a large one. Should you see sometime a grayish striped caterpillar, you may know it is a cutworm. But because of its habit of resting in the ground during the day and working by night, it is difficult to catch sight of one. The cutworm is around early in the season ready to cut the flower stalks. When the peas come on a bit later, he is ready for them. A very good way to block him off is to put paper collars, or tin ones, about the plants. These collars should be about an inch away from the plant.

Of course, plant lice are more common. Those we see are often green in colour. But they may be red, yellow or brown. Lice are easy enough to find since they are always clinging to their host. As sucking insects they have to cling close to a plant for food, and one is pretty sure to find them. But the biting insects do their work, and then go hide. That makes them much more difficult to deal with.

Rose slugs do great damage to the rose bushes. They eat out the body of the leaves, so that just the veining is left. They are soft-bodied, green above and yellow below.

A beetle, the striped beetle, attacks young melons and squash leaves. It eats the leaf by riddling out holes in it. This beetle, as its name implies, is striped. The back is black with yellow stripes running lengthwise.

Then there are the slugs, which are garden pests. The slug will devour almost any garden plant, whether it be a flower or a vegetable. They lay lots of eggs in old rubbish heaps. Do you see the good of cleaning up rubbish? The slugs do more harm in the garden than almost any other single insect pest.

You can discover them in the following way. There is a trick for bringing them to the surface of the ground in the day time. You see they rest during the day below ground. So just water the soil in which the slugs are supposed to be. How are you to know where they are? They are quite likely to hide near the plants they are feeding on. So water the ground with some nice clean lime water. This will disturb them, and up they'll poke to see what the matter is.

Beside these most common of pests, pests which attack many kinds of plants, there are special pests for special plants. Discouraging, is it not?

Beans have pests of their own; so have potatoes and cabbages. In fact, the vegetable garden has many inhabitants. In the flower garden lice are very bothersome, the cutworm and the slug have a good time there, too, and ants often get very numerous as the season advances. But for real discouraging insect troubles the vegetable garden takes the prize.

If we were going into fruit to any extent, perhaps the vegetable garden would have to resign in favour of the fruit garden.

A common pest in the vegetable garden is the tomato worm. This is a large yellowish or greenish striped worm. Its work is to eat into the young fruit.

A great, light green caterpillar is found on celery. This caterpillar may be told by the black bands, one on each ring or segment of its body.

The squash bug may be told by its brown body, which is long and slender, and by the disagreeable odour from it when killed. The potato bug is another fellow to look out for. It is a beetle with yellow and black stripes down its crusty back.

The little green cabbage worm is a perfect nuisance. It is a small caterpillar and smaller than the tomato worm.

These are perhaps the most common of garden pests by name. Will cover more later.

Happy gardening,


Choosing SEEDS

Choosing SEEDS

Any reliable seed house can be depended upon for good seeds; but even so, there is a great risk in seeds. A seed may to all appearances be all right and yet not have within it vitality enough, or power, to produce a hardy plant.

If you save seed from your own plants you are able to choose carefully. What blossoms shall you decide upon? Now it is not the blossom only which you must consider, but the entire plant. Why? Because a weak, straggly plant may produce one fine blossom. But just as likely as not the seeds will produce plants like the parent plant.

So in seed selection the entire plant is to be considered. Is it sturdy, strong, well shaped and symmetrical; does it have a goodly number of fine blossoms? These are questions to ask in seed selection.

If you should happen to have the opportunity to visit a seedsman's garden, you will see here and there a blossom with a string tied around it. These are blossoms chosen for seed. If you look at the whole plant with care you will be able to see the points which the gardener held in mind when he did his work of selection.

In seed selection size is another point to hold in mind. Now we know no way of telling anything about the plants from which this special collection of seeds came. So we must give our entire thought to the seeds themselves. It is quite evident that there is some choice; some are much larger than the others; some far plumper, too. By all means choose the largest and fullest seed. The reason is this: When you break open a bean and this is very evident, too, in the peanut you see what appears to be a little plant. So it is. Under just the right conditions for development this 'little chap' grows into the bean plant you know so well.

This little plant must depend for its early growth on the nourishment stored up in the two halves of the bean seed. For this purpose the food is stored. Beans are not full of food and goodness for you and me to eat, but for the little baby bean plant to feed upon. And so if we choose a large seed, we have chosen a greater amount of food for the plantlet. This little plantlet feeds upon this stored food until its roots are prepared to do their work. So if the seed is small and thin, the first food supply insufficient, there is a possibility of losing the little plant.

You may care to know the name of this pantry of food. It is called a cotyledon if there is but one portion, cotyledons if two. Thus we are aided in the classification of plants. A few plants that bear cones like the pines have several cotyledons. But most plants have either one or two cotyledons.
From large seeds come the strongest plantlets. That is the reason why it is better and safer to choose the large seed.

There is often another trouble in seeds that we buy. The trouble is impurity. Seeds are sometimes mixed with other seeds so like them in appearance that it is impossible to detect the fraud. Pretty poor business, is it not? The seeds may be unclean. Bits of foreign matter in with large seed are very easy to discover. One can merely pick the seed over and make it clean. By clean is meant freedom from foreign matter. But if small seed are unclean, it is very difficult, well nigh impossible, to make them clean.

The third thing to look out for in seed is viability. We know from our testings that seeds which look to the eye to be all right may not develop at all. There are reasons. Seeds may have been picked before they were ripe or mature; they may have been frozen; and they may be too old. Seeds retain their viability or germ developing power, a given number of years and are then useless. There is a viability limit in years which differs for different seeds, anywhere on average from 3-5 years.

From the test of seeds we find out the germination percentage of seeds. Now if this percentage is low, don't waste time planting such seed unless it be small seed. Immediately you question that statement. Why does the size of the seed make a difference? The reasonis, when small seed is planted it is usually sown in bulk. Most amateurs sprinkle the seed in very thickly. So a great quantity of seed is planted. And enough seed germinates and comes up from such close planting. So quantity makes up for quality.

But take the case of large seed, like corn for example. Corn is planted just so far apart and a few seeds in a place. With such a method of planting the percent of germination is most important indeed.

Small seeds that germinate at fifty percent may be used but this is too low a percent for the large seed. Suppose we test beans. The percentage is seventy. If low-vitality seeds were planted, we could not be absolutely certain of the seventy percent coming up. But if the seeds are lettuce go ahead with the planting.

Well, choose your seeds wisely, but get planting, the season is upon us.

Happy gardening,

Friday, May 8, 2009

Raised Bed Garden Mounds

Raised Bed Garden Mounds

Raised beds are one of the best ways to garden for the home gardener. They allow you to do concentrated gardening, square foot gardening, companion planting, mulching, etc... They're easy to build and relatively cheap. But if you're looking for the cheapest and easiest way to do raised beds and you have the room for it, then raised bed mounds are the way to go.

Raised bed garden mounds have all the same benefits of framed beds, but with now cost for materials. You simply create raised beds without the box. Now because there's no frame, it's suggested that you keep them no wider than 3ft across, but as for length, there is no limit.

Here's how to build, first roto-till the ground.

Then I usually set up some stakes with a string line to keep the beds straight or in this photo we just used the fence as a marker. Once marked, just shovel the dirt to center.

Try to form a bed about 3ft wide with a 2ft path between beds. Then just level the top off, the sloping sides are good because they give more surface area to warm the soil (which helps in colder climates) and the experts say that they mimic the natural environment in drainage.

For the walking paths you can lay down old newspapers and cover with straw as seen here. this helps keep the weeds down in the paths and also helps with water retention. Other things you can use are wood chips, I've seen people use old rugs or tarps, pine needles, I even know of person who uses old conveyor belts that they use at gravel pits (he gets them for free when they wear out).

Here's a few raised garden bed mounds all done and laid out.

Another thing you can do is lay down a breathable black plastic over the mound and just cut holes in it where you plant. Now weeds and water retention is great.

Here's some raised garden bed mounds early in the season with all kinds of growth.

Here's what they look like in late in the season with all kinds of veggies.

Time to go put in a few more plants in.

Happy gardening,


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Raised Bed Vegetable Planting Schedule

Raised Bed Vegetable Planting Schedule

My last post talked about plant friends and foes, which plants like to be neighbors and even thrive around each other, and which ones don‘t.
Now let’s talk about when to plant. Here’s a general list of what months to plant certain plants in, although the last frost date for your specific area is more exact. You can usually fined this date out by contacting your local county extension office or talking to other local gardeners. The key is to get your plants or seeds in the ground as soon as possible without damaging them, so you can get the longest possible harvest.

Here's the Key for the list below:
  • S = means sow the seed into the ground

  • H = means harvest time

  • SI = means sow the seed indoors for later transplant into the ground

  • HG = means harvest the greens

  • i.e. SHH = means sow and harvest, harvest
So here's a list of plants with the months they should be planted:



Bush Bean-***---***----SSS---SSS----SHH---HHH----HHH---HHH

Pole Bean-***----***---SSS----SSS----SHH---HHH----HHH---HHH



Brussels Sprout-***---SSS-----SS------***----***-------***----HHH


























This list not all inclusive, but does cover some of the most popular vegetable plants. I personally like to have a printed out copy of this list when I plan out my garden each year. This way I can make sure I‘m getting the plants in the ground a soon as possible to get the longest growing season possible. Also, I can make sure I‘m replanting crops for the next harvest to create "succession planting" (as one comes out another goes in) for the highest yields.

Happy gardening,


Monday, May 4, 2009

Organic Vegetable Gardening - Friends and Foes

Organic Vegetable Gardening - Friends and Foes

My last post talked about plant families, which is a great way to start your planting, but once you understand basic families, there are families that like to be neighbors and even thrive around each other. Learning which plants are friends and which plants are foes is the way to take your garden planting to the next level.

The other benefit is that in organic gardening you want to produce a natural environment where your plants thrive and are strongest against insects and disease, putting them with other plants that help their growth is one way to achieve this.

So here is a list of the Friends and Foes:


FRIEND---basil, nasturtium, parsley, tomato
FOE------garlic, onion

Bush Bean
FRIEND---beet, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celeriac, celery, chard, corn cucumber, eggplant, leek, marigold, parsnip, pea, potato, radish, rosemary, strawberry, sunflower
FOE-----Basil, fennel, kohlrabi, onion family

Pole Bean
FRIEND---carrot, cauliflower, chard, corn, cucumber, eggplant, marigold, pea, potato, rosemary, strawberry
FOE-----basil, beet, cabbage, fennel, kohlrabi, onion family, radish, sunflower

FRIEND---bush bean, cabbage family, corn, leek, lettuce, lima bean, onion, radish
FOE-------mustard, pole bean

FRIEND---beet, bush bean, carrot, celery, chard, cucumber, dill, kale, lettuce, mint, nasturtium, onion family, oregano, potato, rosemary, sage, spinach, tomato
FOE-------pole bean, lima bean, snap bean, strawberry

Brussels Sprout
FRIEND ---beet, bush bean, carrot, celery, cucumber, lettuce, nasturtium, onion family, pea potato, radish, spinach, tomato
FOE--------kohlrabi, pole bean, strawberry

FRIEND---beet, bush bean, carrot, celery, cucumber, dill, kale, lettuce mint, nasturtium, onion family, potato, rosemary, sage, spinach, thyme, tomato
FOE-------pole bean, strawberry


FRIEND---bean, brussels sprout, cabbage, chive, leaf lettuce, leek, onion, pea, pepper, red radish, rosemary, sage, tomato
FOE-------celery, dill, parsnip

FRIEND---beet, bush bean, carrot, celery, cucumber, dill, kale, lettuce, mint, nasturtium, onion family, potato, rosemary, sage, spinach, tomato
FOE-------pole bean, strawberry

FRIEND---bush bean, cabbage family, leek, parsley, pea, tomato
FOE-------carrot, parsnip

FRIEND---beet, bush bean, cabbage, cantaloupe, cucumber, morning glory, parsley, pea, potato, pumpkin, squash

FRIEND---bush bean, cabbage family, corn, dill, eggplant, lettuce, nasturtium, pea, radish, sunflower, tomato
FOE-------potato, sage

FRIEND---bush bean, pea, pepper, potato

FRIEND---beet, bush bean, cabbage, celery, cucumber, lettuce, nasturtium, onion, potato, spinach, tomato
FOE-------pole bean

FRIEND---beet, bush bean, celery, cucumber, lettuce, nasturtium, onion, potato, tomato
FOE-------pole bean

FRIEND---beet, bush bean, carrot, celeriac, celery, onion, parsley, tomato
FOE-------bean, pea


Lima Bean
FRIEND---beet, radish

FRIEND---beet, cabbage family, carrot, kohlrabi, leek lettuce, parsnip, pepper, strawberry, spinach, tomato, turnip
FOE-------asparagus, bean, pea, sage

FRIEND---asparagus, corn, tomato

FRIEND---bush bean, garlic, onion, pea, pepper, potato, radish
FOE-------caraway, carrot, celery

FRIEND---bean, carrot, celery, chicory, corn, cucumber, eggplant, parsley, potato, radish, spinach, strawberry, sweet pepper, turnip
FOE-------gladiolus, onion family

FRIEND---carrot, eggplant, onion, parsnip, pea, tomato
FOE-------fennel, kohlrabi

FRIEND---bush bean, cabbage family, corn, eggplant, horseradish, marigold, parsnip, pea
FOE-------cucumber, pumpkin, raspberry, rutabaga, squash family, sunflower, tomato, turnip

FRIEND---corn, eggplant, nasturtium, radish

FRIEND---bean, beet, cabbage family, carrot, corn, cucumber, leaf lettuce, melon, nasturtium, parsnip, pea, spinach, squash family, sweet potato, tomato

FRIEND---nasturtium, onion family, pea

FRIEND---cabbage family, celery, legumes, lettuce, onion, pea, radish, strawberry

FRIEND---celeriac, celery, corn, dill, melon, nasturtium, onion, radish

FRIEND---bean, lettuce, onion, pea, spinach
FOE-------cabbage family

FRIEND---asparagus, basil, bush bean, cabbage family, carrot, celery, chive, cucumber, garlic, lettuce, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onion, parsley, pepper, marigold
FOE-------pole bean, dill, fennel, potato

FRIEND---onion family, pea

This is by no means every plant, but it covers some of the most popular vegetable garden plants. I personally like to have a printed out copy of this list when I plan out my garden each year. That way I can make sure I am creating the optimal growing environment.

Happy gardening,

Friday, May 1, 2009

Organic Vegetable Gardening - Plant Families

Organic Vegetable Gardening - Plant Families

Raised bed gardening allows for condensed planting or planting in close proximity. This is beneficial in that it allows for more production from a smaller space, it conserves water and chokes out weeds. The issue is that one needs to make sure the plants that are planted together don't hinder each others growth. I'll talk about specific plants in my next post, but for a general rule follow Plant Families.

Most relationships of plants within a plant family are generally either positive or at least neutral, one exception to this rule is in the tomato family. Tomato family plants include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and egg plants. While tomatoes and potatoes grow well next to peppers and egg plants, tomatoes and potatoes do not grow well next to each other.

With that said, here are some of the main plant families for vegetable gardening:

Plant Family-------Vegetable/Herb

Beet-----------------Spinach, swiss chard

Buckwheat----------Red orach, rhubarb

Cabbage------------Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage, horse radish, kohlrabi, mustard, pak choi, radish, rutabaga, turnip

Carrot--------------Celery, cilantro, coriander, dill, fennel, parsley, parsnip

Cucumber----------Gourd, melon, summer squash, winter squash



Mint----------------Basil, marjoram, oregano, sage

Morning Glory------Sweet potato

Onion---------------Asparagus, chive, garlic, leek, scallion

Pea-----------------Bean, peanut

Sunflower----------Artichoke, endive, Jerusalem artichoke, lettuce, radicchio, tarragon

Tomato-------------Egg plant, peppers, potato (remember exception), tomatillo

This list is by no means all inclusive, but gives you a general idea, to get you started with your planting. For more information on plant families or a specific plant not listed hear, do a little research at your local library or on the Internet.

Happy gardening,