Tag Archives: organic gardening resources

How Easy Is Organic Gardening? Very!

Organic gardening is easy.

Organic gardening is easy to do.

I wrote Grow So Easy; Organic Gardening for the Rest of Us for a young woman who wanted to go organic but was sure it was just too hard to do.

I also wrote it because I remember being in exactly that same place almost 40 years ago.

Organic gardening was hard and organic gardeners were weirdos, people who lived on the fringe of “real” life.  But I was intrigued so I decided I needed more information. When I wanted to learn about organic gardening, all those years ago, there was no Internet (hard to believe, right?).

I’d never heard of Ruth Stout or Jerome I. Rodale.  Euell Gibbons wasn’t touting Grape Nuts, yet and Adele Davis had already been dismissed as a “nutrition nut.”  Jim Crockett (Crockett’s Victory Garden on PBS) hadn’t even shown up on television (yes, Virginia, we did have television back then)!

So, I had to start my search the old-fashioned way.  I got on my bike and went to the library.

Using the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (oh god…I am a dinosaur), I searched for magazines to help me get started.  There weren’t many — a handful really — but I did find information and people to help pave my path to becoming an organic gardener.

Today, it’s a lot easier to find organic gardening resources.  Connect to the Internet, search for those terms and you will get more than 4 million links to sites that offer everything from tips to tools.

But beware, many of these so-called “resources” just want to sell you something. I think I had it easier (back in the stone age), to find one or two clear voices, crying in the gardening wilderness!

I learned a lot from these “old guys and gurus” of organic gardening. I want to share what I learned and launch your gardening careers fast and easy.  So, I’m going to start with this basic truth:

…organic gardening is as easy as you want to make it.  It’s all about what you want to grow.

Start by figuring out what you want to plant, how many plants you want to put in (based on how large your garden space is) and what works in your planting zone.

If you just want to get out there and get started…here are two staples in my garden that are easy to grow and don’t have many bugs that “bug” them.

I always have tomatoes – they’re a great vegetable to grow in a pot (if you don’t have enough room to garden or your dirt’s not ready yet) or a plot.  If you’re just starting, try to buy compact or “bush” plants.  They’re easier to handle and don’t grow nearly as tall as indeterminate varieties like Brandywine or Early Girl.

I always plant lettuce, too.  A bag of spring greens  in my grocery store costs $5.00 for 12 ounces.  Fifty two weeks of buying greens comes to just under $300.  You can raise enough for you and your significant other for less than $3.00 a year.  

You can buy seed and follow the directions on the packet to plant it.  Or your can buy small starts or plants and toss them in your dirt (in a pot or a plot).  All lettuce needs is dirt, water and a little sun.

And when it gets a bit too warm for lettuce and it starts to bolt (get tall and taste bitter), if you let it go to seed, you can plant a new crop in the fall for free!

One tip from someone whose motto is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.” Start small and only plant those crops you want.

Since it’s already planting season just about everywhere in the United States, I want you to gather up your courage, grab your car keys and head out to a nursery near you to buy your first plants (time enough for seed starting next spring).

Dig a hole, water your transplants in and sit back and watch mother nature take over.  Need more help? Download my e-book. Free for Prime members and only $2.99….for everyone else.

 

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Grow So Easy – Fall Planting & Gardening Zones

Fall Planting in August?
We’re not even through summer vacation but if you want to extend your gardening season, you should already have the plan laid out and maybe even put some of those seeds in the ground!

That’s right, late July and early August, especially in my zone – 6b – starts right now!

But before we talk about what to plant, when and why, let’s take a quick look at two maps that will help you buy and grow plants best suited to your home town.

Who Says I Can’t Grow Avocadoes In My Back Yard?
When I first hit the dirt and started planning and planting my garden and grove, I considered it a challenge to be told by nameless people, “You’ll never get avocados (pineapple, artichokes, guava) to grow in this zone.”

Unfortunately “they” were right.

If you live in California or the Florida panhandle, you can grow avocados and other tropical fruits and veggies.  You can’t if you live in Pennsylvania.

With dead plants, bushes and trees piling up in my back yard, I decided that maybe, just maybe, I should look into this thing called “zones.”

In The Zone
If you aren’t familiar with zones, don’t panic.  This isn’t the periodic table of elements.  This is the updated (2012) United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zone map.

organic gardeners use the USDA zone map to help them choose cold-hardy plants and trees,.

Gardeners have come to rely on the USDA zone map to choose cold-hardy plants and trees,.

Zones aren’t nearly as complicated as some people would like them to be.  They just look intimidating at first glance.    So, here’s how to read this thing.

Find your approximate location in your state.  For example, I live in Southeast Pennsylvania so my color is a medium green.  Then check the chart on the right side of the map.

Based on color and location, my zone is 6b.  The coldest my zone is supposed to get is -5 degrees Farenheit.  Notice the words “…supposed to be”  and take this information with a grain of salt.  It’s a guideline, not a rule.

The USDA zone chart, which has been published since 1960, helps with getting a handle on when you can set out plants without freezing them to death.  And if you look for the zone chart, you’ll find that it’s being used in lots of places that can help you, too.

Seed packets, plants, trees and bushes are usually sold with the same zone chart and the suggested planting times.  Both help you quickly figure out what will live or die in your backyard…based on environment, alone.

Armed with your zone, you could start to make plant choices that work for you. But there’s one other “zone map” you might want to know about before you buy.

Recently (1995 and if you’re talking planting, that’s recent), a new zoned map has entered the gardening scene.  This one, published by the American Horticultural Society (AHS), looks similar the USDA chart but it tracks heat.

Download your copy and start looking it over.  This map tells you how many days per year the temperature in your back yard is over 86 degrees.

So what?  That’s the magic temperature where plants start to suffer from too much heat.  Who cares?  Why should I track heat?

Because it can do as much damage as cold, maybe even more.  Frost kills plants, buds and sometimes even bushes and trees, instantly.  Heat is a little subtler but just as deadly. And heat damage is even worse during a drought.

What should you look for if you suspect the heat is hurting your plants?

The AHS says the damage can appear in several places.  Flower buds wither. Leaves droop. Leaves may turn brown or even white as the chlorophyll disappears.

AHS describes “death by hear” this way; “Plant death from heat is slow and lingering. The plant may survive in a stunted or chlorotic state for several years. When desiccation reaches a high enough level, the enzymes that control growth are deactivated and the plant dies.”

In his new book, Grow Fruit Naturally: A Hands-On Guide to Luscious, Homegrown Fruit ” , Lee Reich calls the AHS map, “…a work in progress” as it was just recently developed and is still being tweaked.  But the heat map is a good guide to understanding how hot it can get in your garden and how much damage heat can do.

And it should help you to start thinking about what might have a better chance of surviving once you put it in the ground.

Next week, armed with what will survive and thrive in the heat and the cold, we’ll get into what is going into the ground in my garden, right now.  Think beets, lettuce and spinach.

Grow So Easy Organic: Organic Control Measures for Striped Cucumber Beetles

I will post about the tools that would be nice to have on Friday but I could NOT resist sharing this great post about doing battle with cucumber beetles.

This group – High Mowing Organic Seeds –  is truly organic – no pseudo sprays or powders for them.  Just some old-fashioned organic advice on how to fight these little striped demons.

Hope you enjoy it.

Organic Control Measures for Striped Cucumber Beetles | High Mowing Organic Seeds’ Blog – The Seed Hopper.

Organic Gardening Made Easy – Getting Started

When I wanted to learn about organic gardening, all those years ago, there was no Internet (hard to believe, right?).

I’d never heard of Ruth Stout or Jerome I. Rodale.  Euell Gibbons wasn’t touting Grape Nuts, yet and Adele Davis had already been dismissed as a “nutrition nut.”  Jim Crockett (Crockett’s Victory Garden on PBS) hadn’t even shown up on television (yes, Virginia, we did have television back then)!

So, I had to start my search the old-fashioned way.  I got on my bike and went to the library.

Using the Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature (oh god…I am a dinosaur), I searched for magazines to help me get started.  There weren’t many — a handful really — but I did find information and people to help pave my path to becoming an organic gardener.

Today, it’s a lot easier to find organic gardening resources.  Connect to the Internet, search for those terms and you will get more than 4 million links to sites that offer everything from tips to tools.

But beware, many of these so-called “resources” just want to sell you something. I think I had it easier (back in the stone age), to find one or two clear voices, crying in the gardening wilderness!

I learned a lot from these “old guys and gurus” of organic gardening. I want to share what I learned and launch your gardening careers fast and easy.  So, I’m going to start with this basic truth:

…organic gardening is as easy as you want to make it.  It’s all about what you want to grow.

Start by figuring out what you want to plant, how many plants you want to put in (based on how large your garden space is) and what works in your planting zone (more on this later).

If you just want to get out there and get started…here are two staples in my garden that are easy to grow and don’t have many bugs that “bug” them.

I always have tomatoes – they’re a great vegetable to put into a pot (if you don’t have enough room to garden or your dirt’s not ready yet) or a plot.  If you’re just starting, try to buy compact or “bush” plants.  They’re easier to handle and don’t grow nearly as tall as indeterminate varieties like Brandywine or Early Girl.

I always plant lettuce, too.  A bag of spring greens  in my grocery store costs $5.00 for 12 ounces.  Fifty two weeks of buying greens comes to just under $300.  You can raise enough for you and your significant other for less than $3.00 a year.  

You can buy seed and follow the directions on the packet to plant it.  Or your can buy small starts or plants and toss them in your dirt (in a pot or a plot).  All lettuce needs is dirt, water and a little sun.

And when it gets a bit too warm for lettuce and it starts to bolt (get tall and taste bitter), if you let it go to seed, you can plant a new crop in the fall for free!

One tip from someone whose motto is, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing.”   Start small and only plant those crops you want.

Since it’s already planting season just about everywhere in the United States, I want you to gather up your courage, grab your car keys and head out to a nursery near you to buy your first plants (time enough for seed starting next spring).

Dig a hole, water your transplants in and sit back and watch mother nature take over.

NEXT FRIDAY:  Tools for the practical gardener.  They’re “practically” free and are all you really need to begin organic gardening.

Just a note: There will be much more information on plant choices, transplanting and plant care as this e-book unfolds but since it’s growing season everywhere, I want to share some simple choices so gardening newbies could get started.