Kitchen gardening – which vegetables to grow in summer

Today i am going to proportion an important subject Kitchen gardening – which vegetables to develop in summer. Here are some of the greens which can be grown in summer in lahore, karachi, peshawar and different similar climates. The perfect time to plant those greens is from February 15 to March 31. But you’ll be able to plant/sow them any time between March and May relying upon the type of vegetable.

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For seeds, combine outdated manure or leaf compost & soil in 1:4 and for seedling transplant or mature vegetation in 2:5.Prepare a soil mix which is unfastened, doesn’t compact and drains smartly for instance in the event you water them in huge volume it must drain totally in 1 minute.. if the water is status then upload small amount of sand in it. Mix neatly with neatly rotted manure which has no scent..

 Okra (ladyfinger) – Bhindi بھنڈی Suitable for pots as well. Sown in February for April crop and however in June/July for September crop.

 Bitter gourd (karela) کریلہ  Mint (pudina) پودینہ Suitable for pots as well.

 Aubergine/ Egg plant (brinjal) Baingan بینگن. Suitable for pots as neatly.Does neatly with well manured soil, however watch out not to over-water or over-feed.

 Bottle gourd (lauki) کدو, ridge gourd (tori) توری and inexperienced gourd (tinda) ٹینڈا Sown in March and April for End May crop. Then once more in June/July for September crop

 Tomato ٹماٹر Suitable for pots as well .

 Spinach پالک

 Capsicum Suitable for pots as smartly

 Cucumber کھیرا That contains hari mirch and shimla mirch. They love heat. Sown in February and March for crop in April

 Sweet Peppers شملہ مرچ Suitable for pots as smartly

 Radish مولی

 Cabbage بند گوبھی

Organic Terrace Gardening Information

Organic Terrace Gardening Information

Organic Terrace Gardening:

The following is all about Organic Terrace Gardening

Introduction to Organic Terrace Gardening

First and foremost, what is organic terrace gardening? Well, it is nothing but growing fruits or vegetables or any other plants without using pesticides/chemicals on one’s rooftop of the house. Terrace gardening is picking up in most urban areas of the world as people find less space to grow the plants. Growing vegetables organically is fun and profitable.

You can reduce stress levels by getting into gardening activities on the terrace. It not only serves your family, but you can also distribute homegrown organic vegetables to your friends and relatives. In terrace gardening, you will have full control of your garden, especially with daily activities. Let us discuss more on benefits of terrace gardening, methods of terrace gardening, how to set up a terrace garden and terrace gardening tips etc. This information can also be used for organic indoor gardening, organic kitchen gardening, organic container gardening, organic balcony gardening, and organic backyard gardening.

Organic Terrace Gardening Inputs (or) Organic Terrace Gardening Requirements

  • Before starting to set up a terrace garden, you should be aware of what you are growing organically? According to that, you should make a preparation of the garden.
  • You can grow plants on the terrace with raised beds and containers or pots.
  • You should select a space on the terrace as per your convenience and where you can expect good sunlight. The size of the garden depends on your plan and available space on the terrace. Depending on the space available on the terrace, you should purchase enough containers or pots to set up organic terrace gardening.
  • When growing plants on the terrace, there should be good water facility. Providing an overhead water tank is recommended for easy watering. If the area is a little big, you can adopt a small drip system as well.
  • While growing vegetables/fruits/flowers on the terrace, keep in mind that some of the prefer bright sunlight and some not. To protect the plants from heat stress in summer, you can provide shade nets on the terrace.
  • Providing shade nets are beneficial during rainy season as well. It will prevent from over watering, which can cause root rot diseases.
  • You must secure all required tools or items to maintain your organic terrace garden. You can get gardening kits/tool boxes in stores. You need these tools for regular activities of pruning, trimming or pinching off the leaves and stems.
  • Containers or big pots are main inputs to your terrace garden. There are many varieties of containers available in the market. Choosing the right container is very important. It is better to select lightweight plastic containers for easy movement. Select a container size based on what your growing. Brinjal, Okra (Lady’s finger). Tomatoes, Chillies, Cluster beans require small size containers and any leafy vegetables like spinach, mint, coriander require small size containers whereas creepers require large sized containers. Avoid choosing bright/black color containers as the heat absorption may impact the plant growth. Make sure the containers have holes on the bottom for water drainage and aeration
  • The soil plays a major role in overall organic terrace gardening. Don’t use the soil dug from your surroundings. The soil must have good organic matter to use in the roof garden. The best gardening soils are available in local nurseries and in any garden stores. You can supplement Organic Compost, coco peat into your soil for more nutrients.
  • In case you are planning to grow plants on raised beds, convenient beds should be prepared for planting your vegetables.
  • You can grow seedlings in seed trays and transplant them into containers. You can grow seedlings in places like small cardboard boxes if you are not able to afford for seed trays.
  • Quality and disease resistant organic seeds are more import for your garden. Buy these seeds from certified stores. Don’t buy from online stores as germination percentage would be less.
  • Instead of wasting time with seeds, you can directly buy healthy seedlings for good nurseries and transplant them directly in containers or pots.
  • As we are talking about organic, don’t use any pesticides. In case of any plant pests and diseases in terrace gardening, use organic fertilizers such as neem cake, neem oil, vermicompost, garden compost, well-decomposed farmyard manures like cow dung may be used. You can also use fish meal, Epsom salts, seaweed cake, and cottonseed cake
  • If you are growing any vines on the terrace, they may need training (support). Provide some tall bamboo sticks for the purpose.
  • Required pruning should be carried out in organic terrace gardening. If you see any weeds in the middle of the containers, remove them as soon as they emerge.
  • There are many terrace farming kits and organic farming kits available in garden stores.

What Kind of Vegetables Can I Grow In My Organic Terrace Gardening

The following vegetables can be grown in your organic terrace gardening.

  • Mustard leaves.
  • Curry leaves.
  • Parsely
  • Mint Leaves.
  • Broccoli Rabe.
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Fenu Greek leaves.
  • Coriander
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Collard Green.
  • Bok Choy.
  • Tomato
  • Beans
  • Eggplant (Brinjal).
  • Okra (Ladies Finger).
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Pumpkin
  • Cucumber
  • Spring Onions.
  • Bitter gourd.
  • Green Chilli/Peppers.
  • Carrots
  • Radish
  • Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Bottle gourd.
  • EVY gourd.
  • Lemons
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Papaya
  • Dragon fruit.
  • Any other short growing plants.

How To Start an Organic Terrace Gardening

  • Soil should be well mixed with other organic fertilizers before placing the soil in containers.
  • After filling the garden soil in containers, leave them for overnight.
  • If you are planning to direct seeding, plant 2 to 3 seeds in the middle of the containers. You go 2 to 3 inches deep for planting seeds. You can find the planting instructions on the seed pack.
  • Leave the containers for overnight with sown seeds. Next day morning water the containers without disturbing the soil. You should water the containers or raised beds regularly until the seeds start germinating. Avoid overwatering, which can cause the seed rotting.  The germination of seeds depends on plants that you are growing.
  • It is required to protect newly erupted seedlings from predators like birds. Provide any shade net for the purpose. This can also prevent extreme sunlight on young seedlings.
  • Depending on the variety, vigor, the plants starts growing within weeks after sowing. You can thin the plants by keeping only one healthy plant in the container (remember, we have sown 2 to 3 seeds).
  • For preventing soil moisture from the container, you can use any mulch material like dry leaves. This can also prevent any weeds growing in container apart from conserving the soil moisture. Later on it decomposes and works as excellent organic compost.
  • Add organic compost for every 10 days to provide more nutrients for healthy growth.
  • Never allow the soil to dry up completely. Watering should be done based on soil moisture.
  • Remove any dead leaves, stems and prune them accordingly.
  • If the soil hardens up, Light raking the soil to loosen around the plant should be carried without damaging roots. Fist water the plants and rake it up.
  • Depending on the vegetable, you can see the flowering and fruiting soon. Happy gardening!.

Pests in Organic Terrace Gardening

Monitor container plants for following pests in organic terrace gardening.

  • Spider mites.
  • Aphids
  • Thrips
  • Sacle
  • Whitefly

These can be controlled by spraying insecticidal soap. Apply the spray when the sun isn’t directly on the foliage and never spray when temperatures are above 31°C.

Garden Compost Making Process, Steps, and Guide

Garden Compost Making Process, Steps, and Guide

Homemade Garden Compost Making Process

Today, let us discuss about Garden Compost Making Process at home.

Healthy garden soil will give you amazing results. Adding compost to the garden soil will make it more productive. Adding a commercial compost is  a bit expensive, so why don’t you do it yourself.

Making homemade compost is quite easy, Homemade compost is done by natural decomposition to transform landscapes and kitchen waste into a rich soil compost. Home-made compost done using some Decomposers, like bacteria, fungi, insects, nematodes, earthworms and other composting critters.

What is a Compost?

The Compost is decomposed matter of organic material which can be produced by bacteria in the soil, by breaking down garbage and biodegradable trash, which results in a product rich in minerals that is best for ideal garden or landscaping amendment.

Benefits of Homemade Compost: 

  • No extra cost, it is made of kitchen waste, lawn clippings, leaves and other vegetation.
  • Potting mixes and soils with compost can produce vigorously regardless of growing vegetables, growing herbs or organic rose gardening.
  • Boosts up the garden soil structure, texture and aeration.
  • Adding compost will improves soil fertility and stimulates healthy root development in plants.
  • The organic matter provided in compost increases the microorganisms, which keeps the soil in a healthy, balanced condition.
  • Compost will loosen clay soils and makes sandy soils retain water.
  • When you use homemade organic compost, there will be no need for the additional fertilizer
  • Home made composts are good sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium which promotes the optimal growth of the plants. Composts are the best source of micronutrients like boron, cobalt, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum and zinc.

How docomposts work?

  • Composts helps the bacteria and fungi in recycling the waste material into fertilizer.
  • Composts are mixed into the garden soil or this homemade compost is also used as mulch.

How to make the Momemade Compost?

  • Choose a best place for your pile or compost bin. So that it cannot create problems for your neighbors, choose a discreet location. The location you choose should have good airflow, access to water and partial shade in the summer to protect bin or pile from getting too hot), but good sun in the winter keeps it warm in winter.
  • How to choose bin for making compost?

For this work, composter can be ideal one, or you can make your own. Rotating bins are the best, easy and keeps animals out, but it is easy to make a workable bin on your own.  Simple compostercan be constructed by, tracking down shipping pallets. Keep on for the bottom. Bound them with metal support poles and add pallets by slipping them over the support poles for making bin walls.

The bin should be of 3x3x3 feet, it is the minimum size to create its own heat, but small enough to turn if you are opting commercial composter, you can an optimal size.

  • What are the materials needed?

To add materials, don’t add everything into the compost bin; we have listed the things that should be added and things that should be avoided.

Greens for Composting: Green leaves, Garden Waste, Flowers, Vegetables, Fruit peels, Scraps, Coffee Grounds, Tea leaves or bags, Eggshells, etc.

Browns for Composting: Evergreen needles, Dried leaves, Paper egg cartons, paper towels, Dried grass clippings, shredded newsprints, Barks, straw, sawdust, vacuum lint, small cardboard pieces, dead house plants, shredded brown paper bags etc.

Material that should be avoided: Meat or animal products (bones, fish, eggs, butter, yogurt, etc.), Coal ash, Weeds or weed seeds, Pet droppings, Synthetic chemicals.

  • Filling the Composting Bin/Pile: Add alternate layer materials, the first layer should be course material like twigs/barks as they promote drainage and aeration. Now cover this layer with leaves, then add alternate layers of green and browns. Green materials are a good source of nitrogen and brown material are a good source of carbon. Add the layers till the bin is full. The bin contents start to shrink when it begins to decompose.
  • Adding kitchen waste to Compost Bin: While adding food scraps or yard waste to the bin/pile, add a layer browns over the kitchen waste. If you don’t add the browns the compost will be wet and break down process becomes slow.
  • Temperature: the best and easiest way to test your compost’s temperature is by dipping your hand into the center of the compost bin. The composter temperature should be warm or hot, it is at a good temperature. If the bin temperature is same as the ambient temperature. This indicates that the microbes have slowed down — and has been slowed down.

Use a compost thermometer to for checking bin temperature. An ideal compost pile will heat up to temperatures of 60-80°C. At these temperatures most pathogens and weed seeds disposed completely.  When your pile/bin is really doing its composting process, then its temperature reaches up to 70°C. If the temperature of your pile reaches to peak and then starts to drop, then it’s time to turn the pile.

  • Moisture: Compost should be moist, but not soaking wet. Composting works well with 40-60% moisture content.
  • Aeration: the compost bin should have a good amount of oxygen, as every tiny microorganism needs oxygen to survive, so make sure enough oxygen is getting into your pile by turning your compost regularly. You use a compost aerator or pitchfork to mix your pile. If you are using a compost tumbler, it can be recommended option.
  • Maintain the Bin/Pile: for a quick composting process, check your compost bin regularly and follow the tips below:

When never you add fresh material, mix it in with the lower layers thoroughly.

Materials you add should be as wet as a wrung-out sponge. Add dry materials or water – as per the requirement to maintain adequate moisture levels.

Mix or turn the compost once a week to fasten the breakdown process and eliminate odor.

The finished compost will stay at the top of the bin. Remove all the finished compost from the bin, leave the unfinished materials in the bin to continue decomposing. Make sure that the decomposition process is done completely  before you use; otherwise, microbes in the compost could take nitrogen from the soil and harm plant growth.

Tips and Techniques for Composting:

  • Adding blood meal, cottonseed meal, well-aged manure or compost starter will fasten the breaking process of organic matter into compost. These materials are rich in nitrogen.
  • Chopping the material into smaller pieces will also fasten the breakdown process.
  • Plants that are treated with pesticides and/or herbicides should be avoided.
  • Add a lot to your pile of time will provide enough heat to the pile.
  • Turning compost regularly will increase the oxygen supply to the material and speeds up the composting process.
  • A Warm climate will keep the microbes more active, so keep your pile or bin in the sun.
  • The compost that smell like rich, dark soil will indicate the completion of the composting process.
  • Apply finished compost to the garden soil about 2-4 weeks before you plant, giving the compost time to integrate and stabilize within the soil.

Avoid Common Mistakes in Composting Process:

  • Don’t start too small. The breakdown process enough in order to do its job. Some composting bins work well for small amounts of material, so choose a product as per your requirements.
  • Maintain the good moisture level. Check the composting bin regularly, mainly during hot, dry weather conditions.
  • A compost made of different textures and nutrients is made of disintegration of many different plants will give your garden soil a perfect organic nutrient source that helps create disease and pest resistance.

How to use Homemade Garden Compost:

  • Sprinkle the compost in your garden twice of thrice in a year.
  • Use can use the compost as top dressing for flower beds and at the base of trees and shrubs.
  • You can mix compost in with garden and flower bed soil.
  • You can the homemade compost as a soil conditioner when planting or transplanting trees, flowers and shrubs.

Basic Techniques in Organic Gardening

Everyone agrees that organic gardening means avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. But the philosophy and practice of organic gardening go far beyond that simple concept. Growing organic food, flowers, and landscapes represents a commitment to a sustainable system of living in harmony with nature. For many people, organic gardening is a way of life. This article deals with the fundamentals of organic growing, including the philosophy behind organic gardening and the specific techniques that lead to success.

Defining Organic Gardening

The ways that people use — and misuse — soil, water, and air affect the lives and habitats of plants, insects, birds, fish, and animals, as well as humans.

Organic gardening is all about preventing and treating problems in the least obtrusive, most nontoxic ways. Dedicated organic gardeners adopt methods that use cultural and natural biological processes to do the following:

✓ Improve soil health and fertility: Organic gardeners nurture the soil ecosystem by adding organic matter, such as compost, and avoiding pesticides that can harm soil life. In turn, soil organisms consume and break down the organic matter, making the nutrients it contains available to plants.

✓ Decrease erosion: Exposed soil is vulnerable to erosion by rain and wind. By covering soil with mulch, cover crops, or other protective materials, organic gardeners preserve the integrity of this precious resource.

✓ Reduce pests and diseases: Organic gardeners minimize pest problems and reduce the need for pesticides by relying on cultural techniques, such as proper pruning, removing unhealthy plant material, and using row covers.

✓ Encourage plant and animal diversity: Through diverse plantings and judicious use of pesticides — even organic ones — organic gardeners promote healthy ecosystems that invite beneficial organisms, including pollinators and predators of garden pests, to take up residence.

Organic gardeners take their cues from nature. Instead of relying on the spray schedules promoted by pesticide manufacturers, organic gardeners observe what’s going on in their gardens and intervene to prevent pest problems. When you see white butterflies fluttering around your garden, for example, you know it’s time to protect your cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower from cabbage worm. Instead of sprinkling on a pesticide after the caterpillars hatch, you can cover the plants with a special fabric to prevent the butterflies from laying eggs in the first place.

Organic growers view their gardens as living ecosystems and work with nature to produce beautiful landscapes and healthy foods. No matter what plants you’re growing — vegetables, fruits, herbs, trees, flowers, grasses — the same basic techniques apply, as the following sections show.

Depleting soil fertility, damaging and polluting ecosystems, and consuming excess water threaten the future of Earth’s safe and abundant food supply. The ways that farmers and individual gardeners and homeowners choose to farm, garden, and maintain their landscapes make a difference in whether the land can continue to house, feed, and clothe us. Gardeners around the globe have adopted organic gardening techniques to help nurture the health of the Earth and all its inhabitants.

Building Soil

Just as a durable house needs a strong foundation, healthy plants require soil that can provide their roots with nutrients, water, and air. Few gardeners are blessed with perfect soil, and even if they were, keeping soil healthy and able to support plants is an ongoing process. Building and maintaining healthy soil is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the success of your garden and landscape plants.

Building soil means providing soil life — microbes, worms, fungi — with the materials and environment they need to do their jobs. Taking from the soil without giving anything back breaks the natural cycle. Harvesting crops, bagging lawn clippings, and raking fallen leaves removes organic material that’s ordinarily destined for the soil on which it falls. If the organic material isn’t replenished, soil health declines. Substituting synthetic chemical fertilizers for naturally occurring nutrients may feed plants, but it starves the soil.

Adding organic matter is the most common — and most important — part of building soil. Compost is a perfect source of organic matter; other sources include aged manures and crop residues. Maintaining proper soil pH (a measure of acidity/alkalinity) is also vital, because it affects soil life and the ability of plants to use nutrients.

Avoiding things that damage soil is just as important. Compaction from heavy foot or vehicle traffic and misapplied fertilizer and pesticides, for example, can harm the soil’s ability to support plant life. Part II tells you everything you need to know about your soil and how to improve it in an organically sound way.

Egg shells as Natural Fertilizer

Manazza Ayub

(Institute of food science and Nutrition, UOS)

Natural fertilizers are the valuable gift of Almighty. These are derived from animal or plant source with zero or least side effects. It is a best way to reduce the use of pesticides and ultimately their harmful effect on human life. Natural fertilizers like egg shells can be use more easily in home gardening rather than in fields. Memon et al. (2016) reported that Pakistan has been producing 10,000 million eggs per annum. An average Pakistani consumes about 65-70 eggs per year so why not utilize these eggs waste as a beneficial product rather than throwing them away in trash.

Egg which is considered the most nutritious diet can also be used as a fertilizer in whole form. But it can spread rotten odor if you don’t dig the soil deep down and bury them. It is difficult to decompose in soil which makes it less effective. Also it is not economical to use whole egg as fertilizer. It attracts rodents which dig the soil and destroy the roots of plants so ultimately makes the condition worst. Not only eggs but egg shells also have their nutritional benefit that’s the reason we can use egg shells as natural fertilizer. Study shows that Powder of eggshells increases the size of red clover plant of 10mm than usual (planting Science.org, 2011).  As chicken eggs are common in Pakistan so we are mainly concern here with chicken egg shells. Egg shell comprises 10.2% of egg along with shell membrane. Chicken egg shells made up of approximately 96% calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate has porous structure which makes shells semi permeable for air and moisture and let life breath inside the egg shells. Egg shells also protective by a coating called bloom (cuticle). It plays an important role as a barrier and prevents the penetration of microbes and dust inside the shell. Egg shell also contains sulphur, potassium, sodium, magnesium and calcium. Residues of protein adhere with egg shells act as nitrogen source.

Uses of Eggshells in Agriculture

1: Eggshells act as pest repellent especially for pests belong to the phylum mollusca such as slugs and snails. Sharp pieces of shells cause abrasion to the fragile feet of snails thus act as a pest deterrent.

2: Egg shells as a whole can also use as seed germination pot. Fill the egg cups with moist soil and seeds and let them grow enough that they are able to transplant in your desired place i.e. garden or yard.

3: Eggs shells are also going to be use as bird feed. Shells powder is mixed with bird food to regulate their digestive system.

4: Being a source of calcium it increases the calcium level of soil. Calcium in turn enhances the uptake of minerals and nutrients by roots and also decreases the level of soil acidity.

 

Preparation of egg shells as a fertilizer:

1: Wash the shells with water to remove egg white portion and dried them. Shells can be dried by dryer or simply spreading them under sun light.

2: Ground the egg shells in to fine ground powder.

3: store the powder in closed jar.

Mitchell (2005) performed a test to find out the effect of shells on pH of soil. He found that coarse pieces of shells do not help to decrease pH neither act as lime source. So to make it effective we need to ground it in to fine particles. He also observed that egg shells bring change in the pH of soil having pH near 4.8 (acidic) But it does not bring any change in soil having pH near 6.8 as it stop decomposing at this point. It happens because calcium carbonate is insoluble in water and alkaline medium. It is just soluble in acidic medium; even it shows less solubility in less acidic medium that’s the reason egg shells work best as a fertilizer for acidic soil.

Reference:

Oliveira, D. A., Benelli, P., & Amante, E. R. (2013). A literature review on adding value to solid residues: egg shells. Journal of cleaner production46, 42-47.

https://www.ijser.org/researchpaper/EGG-SHELL-AND-BIO-WASTE-MANURE.pdf

Homemade Insecticidal Soap Treatment For Thrips And Aphids

The simplest insecticidal soap is nothing more than a 2% soap solution. To make this at home, you will need:

  • Sprayer: Any clean spray bottle or garden sprayer will work fine for spraying insecticidal soap. Make sure the sprayer or bottle hasn’t been used for herbicides.
  • Pure Soap: Use a pure liquid soap, such as Castile, or all-natural soap. The active ingredient in insecticidal soap comes from the fatty acids in animal fat or vegetable oil, so it’s important to use the real thing. Don’t use detergents (which aren’t actually soaps), dish soaps, or any products with degreasers, skin moisturizers, or synthetic chemicals.
  • Pure Water: Tap water is fine for making insecticidal soap. If you have hard water, you may want to use bottled water to prevent soap scum from building up on your plants.

To make homemade 2% insecticidal soap, mix together:

  • 5 tablespoons soap to 1 gallon of water

OR

  • 1 heavy tablespoon soap to 1 quart of water

How to Start an Organic Garden in 9 Easy Steps

By Brian Clark Howard

You’ve been trying to eat more organic foods, both to decrease the amount of pesticides you and your family consume, and to help protect the environment from overloading with toxic chemicals. But organics can get a bit expensive, we know. Luckily, there’s a way to grow your own delicious, fresh produce, while having fun and learning at the same time: organic gardening!

Don’t know where to start? It is possible to hire someone to install and maintain a beautiful organic garden for you. But most of us can roll up our sleeves with a surprisingly small amount of effort. Remember, you can start small, even with just a single plant or two. Don’t worry if things aren’t perfect right away.

Organic gardening means you won’t be using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, but that doesn’t mean your plants are left to fend for themselves. There are an array of tools you can use to bolster plant health and ward off pests. Organic gardening also isn’t just about what you don’t do, it’s about trying to foster a more holistic, natural ecosystem. Read on for specific tips, taken from The Daily Green’s expert garden blogger, Leslie Land, her New York Times book 1000 Gardening Questions & Answers and other sources.

red boots push down pitchfork in garden

Preparing the Soil

In order to get the best results with your new organic garden, you’ll want to make sure the soil is properly conditioned. You have to eat, and so do plants, so make sure your veggies get lots of fresh nutrients. Good healthy soil helps build up strong, productive plants. Chemical soil treatments can not only seep into your food, but they can also harm the beneficial bacteria, worms and other microbes in the soil.

The best way to gauge the quality of your soil is to get it tested. You can get a home testing kit, or better, send a sample to your local agricultural extension office. For a modest fee you’ll get a complete breakdown of pH and nutrient levels, as well as treatment recommendations (be sure to tell them you’re going organic). That way you can tailor your gardening program. Typically, it’s best to test in the fall, and apply any organic nutrients before winter.

Even if you don’t have time for testing, you’ll want to make sure your soil has plenty of humus — the organic matter, not the similarly named Mediterranean spread. According to 1000 Gardening Questions & Answers, you’ll want to mix in compost, leaf and grass clippings and manure. Manure should be composted, unless you aren’t going to harvest or plant anything for two months after application. Preferably, get your manure from local livestock that have been organically and humanely raised — and never use manure from animals that eat meat.

 

 

 

 

 

compost pile in garden

How to Make Good Compost

All gardens benefit from compost — and preferably you can make your own on site. Hey, it’s free! Compost feeds plants, helps conserve water, cuts down on weeds, and keeps food and yard waste out of landfills (where it produces methane), instead turning garbage into “black gold.” Spread compost around plants, mix with potting soil, use to bolster struggling plants…it’s hard to use too much!

According to Country Living, the best compost forms from the right ratio of nitrogen- and carbon-rich organic waste, mixed with soil, water and air. It might sound like complicated chemistry, but don’t worry too much if you don’t have time to make perfect compost. Even a minimally tended pile will still yield decent results.

1. To get started, measure out a space at least three feet square. Your compost heap can be a simple pile or contained within a custom pen or bin (some can be rotated, to improve results).

2. Add alternating layers of carbon (or brown) material — leaves and garden trimmings — and nitrogen (or green) material — such as kitchen scraps and manure, with a thin layer of soil in between.

3. Top off the pile with four to six inches of soil. Turn the pile as new layers are added and water to keep (barely) moist, in order to foster microbe action. You should get good compost in as little as two months (longer if it’s cold).

4. A properly maintained compost pile shouldn’t smell. But if it does add more dry carbon material (leaves, straw, or sawdust) and turn it more frequently.

5. Even if you live in a city, you can do some composting under your counter with a tidy worm kit, or partner with a community garden.

Choose the Right Plants

potted plants, small seedlingsIt really pays to select plants that will thrive in your specific micro-conditions. As a general guide don’t forget to check the USDA’s Hardiness Zones (which have recently been updated by the National Arbor Day Foundation due to climate change). Choose plants that will be well adjusted to each spot, in terms of light, moisture, drainage and soil quality. Most gardens have gradations in these variables. The happier your plants are, the more resistant they’ll be to attackers.

If you’re buying seedlings, look for plants raised without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. A great place to look is at your local farmers’ market, which may also have native plants and varieties well suited to your area. It’s better to buy stocky seedlings with few, if any blooms yet, and with roots that don’t look overcrowded.

Many things are best grown from seed, including sunflowers, annual poppies, evening-scented stock (Matthiola bicornis), coriander, dill, annual phlox (Phlox drummondii), larkspur, annual lupine, morning glories, sweet peas, squash and cucumbers.

Plant Crops in Wide Beds

How to Start an Organic Garden in 9 Easy Steps

Plants that you will be harvesting, such as vegetables or cutting flowers, should be grouped tightly in beds that you don’t walk on (raised beds work great). Grouping reduces weeding and water waste, and helps you target compost and nutrients. Easier path maintenance helps lead to healthy soil. Ample space between rows helps promote air circulation, which repels fungal attacks.

Remember that seedlings won’t always stay diminutive, and you do want to try to limit over shadowing. It’s a good idea to thin crops based on nursery suggestions.

According to Leslie Land, if you have limited space and time, and want the highest returns of fresh organic produce, these plants are typically winners:

1. Indeterminate Tomatoes. So named because the vines keep getting bigger and producing new fruit until they are felled by frost.

2. Non-Hybrid (Old-Fashioned) Pole Beans. They keep growing and producing ’til frost — assuming you keep them picked.

3. Zucchini. Everything they say about avalanches of zucchini is true, especially of hybrid varieties.

4. Swiss Chard. You can keep breaking off outer leaves for months, and every picking will be tender as long as plants get enough water.

5. Tall Snow Peas and Sugarsnaps. They grow readily and produce delicious rewards.

 

 

Proper Watering

The best time to water plants is usually in the morning. Why? Mornings tend to be cool and without strong winds, so the amount of water lost to evaporation is reduced. If you water in the evening plants stay damp over night, making them more likely to be damaged by fungal and bacterial diseases.

Ideally, you want to water the roots, not the greenery, which is easily damaged. A drip or soak system can work great, or just carefully water the bases of plants by hand.

Most experts recommend substantial, infrequent watering for established plants, typically a total of about one inch of water per week (including rain). One or two applications a week encourages deeper rooting, which promotes stronger plants. To avoid shocking tender greenery, try to use water at or near air temperature (collected rainwater is best).

With population growth and climate change putting increasing pressure on our precious freshwater supplies, it is becoming more important than ever to save water.

Weeding

Ah weeding. Even if you live in the Biosphere, you’ll still get weeds, since their tiny seeds are pervasive. Pulling weeds by hand may sound like hard work — and it can be — but it also can be good exercise, and gets you outside in the fresh air. You don’t want to pour toxic chemicals on your food, or where your children and pets play, right?

Reduce the number of weeds you have to contend with by applying mulch (which also helps protect the soil). According to Leslie Land, organic mulch that will rot down into the soil is almost always preferable to landscape fabric, although burlap and other materials can work in a pinch. Straw is cheap but doesn’t last long. Wood chips are nice, but can get pricey. Many people opt to use lawn clippings, although it should be noted that because they are high in nitrogen, clippings should only be used on plants that need a lot of the nutrient, such as squash and lettuce.

If you get tired of weeding or aren’t able to bend over, consider hiring some neighborhood kids. It’s a good way to get to know others in your community. Remember too that raised beds can be made wheelchair accessible, and others can take advantage of wheeled stools, arthritis-friendly gardening tools and other equipment.

Protect Plants Without Toxic Pesticides

If your plants are being assaulted by pests, it may be a sign of other problems, so the first thing you should do is make sure they are getting enough light, nutrients and moisture. Also remember that a diverse garden helps prevent pests, by limiting the amount of one type of plant offered up to enemies, and boosting biodiversity.

It’s a good thing to foster natural predators in your garden, such as frogs, toads, lizards, birds, and even bats. Beneficial insects can be your best friends, especially lady bugs (many nurseries even sell cans of them, though it’s true there’s a high probability they won’t stick around). Leave a small source of water out to attract friendly predators. It’s also a good idea to grow plants with small blossoms, such as sweet alyssum and dill, which attract predatory insects. Nets and row covers can also work.

It may sound surprising, but homeowners use more pesticides on their lawns and gardens than farmers do, acre for acre, according to EPA data. But there are organic alternatives that are much safer for you and our environment. Find out what problem you have (an agricultural extension service can help), then look for alternatives.

Organic weapons include Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacteria that disrupts the digestion of caterpillars and other leaf-eaters. You can also use horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps and garlic and/or hot pepper sprays.

 

 

Harvesting

How to Start an Organic Garden in 9 Easy StepsDon’t forget to harvest the fruits of your labor! Fresh organic produce also makes great gifts, educating your friends, neighbors and coworkers. Generally, the more you harvest, the more your plants will produce for you.

During peak harvest season, you’ll likely find that it’s best to check your garden every day. Got herbs? If you use them fresh pick them right before you need them. But if you’ll be drying and storing them, it’s best to wait until just before they flower, since they’ll have the most flavor. Gather all herbs except basil in mid morning, shortly after dew has dried. Harvest basil in the late afternoon, since it will last longer after some time in the sun. It’s best not to wash herbs before you dry or use them, since that can leach flaor (extra incentive for growing organic!).

When harvesting leafy greens pick sporadically from the entire crop, a little from each plant. For broccoli, wait until the central head is as large as it will get, before sending off buds for flowering. Cut it off right above the leaf node, and you’ll likely get better production from the rest of the plant. In general, it’s best to cut produce off with a sharp knife or scissors, versus ripping with your fingers, which can cause more damage to plant tissue.

If you get too much bounty, remember you can also freeze, store some types of produce in a root cellar, or take up canning. Enjoy!

Cleanup

If you have sick plants to remove, either during the season or at the end of the year, make sure you pull up the entire organism. Don’t forget to rake up underneath, since diseased leaves can harbor problems for a long time. Put all infected material deep in the woods, in the ground at least a foot deep, or on the bonfire.

Most healthy or expired plants can actually be left in place over winter. You’ll provide some food and habitat for birds and other wildlife, and plant cover can help protect your soil from eroding. It’s better to chop off annuals then yank them out, because that way you’ll leave soil intact, and help prevent weeds from gaining a foothold.

Source: TheDailyGreen.com