Organic Gardening – Success is in your Hands

Why is it more and more people are turning to growing their own organic foods. Certainly most seem to be turning to growing their own organic foods because of the substantial health benefits that they provide.

Other reasons could be because they know that their foods are both GM free and do not have any synthetic chemicals on them, plus it may be the thought of gathering their own food from the garden and placing it on the table in minutes, which means they retain all the valuable and health enhancing nutrients that our bodies need.

They even may just do it for the pleasure of losing themselves in the delight of spending time in their own garden or even spending time with their teaching and teaching them how to garden.

Others have taken up not only for the points above but also they have found it is a creative outlet that they never thought they had or they just feel that they are doing their bit to help the environment.

However there are certain practices that must be followed if you wish to have a healthy and high yielding organic garden and such strategies or systems need to be put in to place to make sure the soil is healthy, keeping the plants well watered, ensuring the insect population in your garden is well balanced and planning and rotating crops correctly.

You need to have a nutrient rich, well balanced soil that is high in microbial activity and this can be achieved quite simply by continually adding organic matter to your soil. One of the best ways of achieving this is by using compost (you could even make your own which has its own added benefits), use green manures, ensure you have good crop rotation and a “no” dig policy. Remember a high yielding garden is highly dependent on the soil being healthy.

The use of deep watering regularly will help to encourage the plants in your garden to develop a deep root system and this helps them to take on more water and nutrients, which when provides you with strong and healthy plants. By using mulch on your garden you are able to prevent moisture loss, soil erosion and also reduce weeds appearing. If you are able to install an irrigation system (especially one fitted with a timer) will not only benefit you (you don’t have to remember to go out and water the plants each day), it will also benefit your garden and the environment.

If you want your garden to be free from chemicals or sprays then you need to ensure you have the right balance of both good and bad insects (those that will assist and those that are harmful) in your garden is also important. Yes I did say bad insects! Just imagine if there were no bad insects in your garden on which the good ones to feast, you will find that they will either die or go else where. Imagine what would have if you found your garden full of predatory insects and then you became inundated with carrot fly, you would find it very difficult to stop them and you may end up having to use a chemical spray to deal with them. This is something that all costs should not be considered in an organic garden.

So by arming yourself with companion planting practices, i.e., using practical ways of outwitting bad insects as nature intended. The plant combinations that you use will help to confuse the enemy (bad insects) by masking the smell and shape of those plants which they often use to locate their favourite food.

Now that we have covered the basics above you now need to decide what you are going to grow and how much and when. Certainly you will know your family’s food needs better than me or anyone else, so don’t bother growing something (say brussel sprouts) if you family will not eat them. You also need to remember that certain plants will like certain temperatures, soils for growing in. Plants such as cucumbers, pumpkins and melons need to be grown in a warm temperature (it may be wise to invest in a greenhouse); certainly do not try to grow them in winter (your crop will fail).

Another thing you must consider it the rotation of crops if this is not carried out the soil will become depleted of the particular nutrients and elements that a plant needs as is continuously planted in the same place each year. It also results in the crop becoming depleted year on year as the nutrients it requires are declining in the soil.

If possible plan what you are going to plant in your garden each season (a good time to do this is during the winter evenings) and if possible keep a garden journal as it will become extremely handy when planning your garden each year. It will provide you with information on what work you have done previously and if there are ways of doing things differently as well as if you planted too much or too little of one particular crop to meet your family’s needs.

If you have found the above to be a bit overwhelming, just remember you are looking for progress in your garden and not perfection. Once you have started you will find that things improve as you go along. So there is no excuse for you not to start your own organic garden to today and hopefully the information provided above will help you’re off and you can build on this as you gain more experience and knowledge.

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Getting Ready for Winter Gardens

As the weather cools, many homeowners already have a system in place to help prepare their home’s exterior for the looming winter season. Making sure outdoor furniture is stored away and bushes and young trees are wrapped in burlap are just a few common tasks many homeowners automatically check off. However, many are unaware that their exterior wood surfaces, like decks or fences, also require special protection from winter’s elements.

It is important to remember that the ultra-violet rays of winter can be just as damaging to unprotected wood as the summer sun, causing it to crack, blister, flake and peel. Homeowners can guard against winter damage by staining or re-staining wood surfaces to keep them protected and looking new. However, homeowners should keep in mind that improper preparation can prevent the stain from bonding with the wood, resulting in cracking and peeling.

“In their zest to prepare gardens and landscaping for the winter freeze, many homeowners neglect their outdoor wood surfaces,” says Gary Finseth, vice president of marketing for The Flood Company, manufacturer of premium wood care products. “Many homeowners are surprised to learn that fall is actually the ideal time to stain or re-stain the deck. But before beginning, keep in mind that new decks, old unfinished decks and old finished decks all have to be treated differently.”

Finseth recommends wood cleaners that are specially designed for unfinished decks to remove dirt and natural contaminants. This not only prepares the surface for staining, but also brightens it. For a deck that is already stained, first remove the old finish so the new one can properly adhere to the wood. Products like Flood’s CWF-UV5 Premium Wood Finish rejuvenate the look of an old deck while offering optimal protection. The best results are achieved by using the right prep product in combination with the right finish product.

Once the deck is prepared, homeowners will also want to make sure that other exterior areas receive proper care and attention. Vinyl furniture will need to be washed and stored indoors. Inspect wood furniture for damage and do any necessary repairs before it is covered or stored for winter. Wooden fencing should be handled similarly to the deck.

Quick, easy and not to mention inexpensive, these tasks will prepare and beautify any home’s exterior wood and ensure its enjoyment in the coming spring and summer months. For printable guides on exterior home maintenance and tips, visit http://www.flood.com.

Courtesy of ARA Content

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Making A Peaceful Place In Your Garden

You should arrange at least some part of your limited “man-made landscape” to provide an area where you can rest and think, a peaceful observation point. I prefer a natural “planted” space instead of the old-fashioned gazebo garden-house structure. Though we all want some gay flowers and brilliant sunshine, we also need the seclusion of a quiet area, a cool reflective private spot. Here you will almost taste the freshness of the air you breathe. You can listen to the mourning doves, and the phoebe—the wind rustling the maple leaves. Smell the warm dry scent of summer, the fragrance of the lilac drifting on the breeze.

courtyard800x600Our own private retreat is a cool shady spot—a hillside above the brook. A hillside and a brook are, of course, not essential. They just happened to be there for us.

Bulldozed level, this terrace hideaway is twenty feet long and fourteen wide. Two spreading maples provide shade. We made a small retaining wall about two stones high (three in some places) to hold back the bank on one side, and hold the land up on the other side. A rope hammock is attached at one end to a cedar post, set for the purpose, and at the other end to one of the maples.

Bird and Worm`s Eye View

When you are in the hammock you are sometimes beneath the world and sometimes above it—depending on which side of the hammock you look from. Out one side you look up at the curve of the meadow. The land lies above, and you beneath. Out the other side you are in the greenery of tree tops looking down through leaves to the brook with a totally different perspective. This is, to our way of thinking, a pretty neat trick and it makes the hammock an ever-fascinating place to be.

The terrace-retreat itself is shady, but beyond the limbs of the maples the sun shines. Japanese iris grows in the sun fringing the area where we sit; so does Jacob’s ladder, blooming from May on into July, the violet flowers touched with white, and each stalk of delightful foliage a small green ladder.

On the other side of the terrace a stretch of Dutchman’s breeches spills down a steep rocky bank to the brook edge. The blossoms greet us in late April when the first days of the hammock begin. A pink and a white dogwood add to the shade and beauty. Lilies-of-the-valley (especially for fragrance) cluster beneath; foam flower parades in soft white along the bank; gold thread peeks from the leaves; jack-in-the-pulpit rises in dignity in the lea of the wall; white trillium, bloodroot, and red and yellow wild columbine bloom in succession; blue forget-me-nots and cardinal flowers thrive at the brook’s edge; Virginia bluebells nod their bell-like flowers flanking the terrace up and down the hillside, and maidenhair, cinnamon, and royal ferns grace the area.

Though no pines stand in the vicinity, pine needles cover the terrace floor, for we have access to a fine source of them. Each spring we spread a carpet of fresh and fragrant needles gathered in two old bedspreads dumped in the back of the car and carted home. They contribute a pungent scent, a rich brownness, and a pleasant four-inch-deep rug, soft and resilient to walk upon.

A Place To Call Your Own

Haven’t you some small area of similar possibility, a remote corner with no sun, an area of trees, a thicket perhaps, even a shady spot where growing things has been difficult? If so, with some pruning, replanning, and possibly additional planting you can create an ideal retreat complete with hammock, simple comfortable outdoor furniture, and possibly a few old stumps of special character. The area can be large or small—really tiny —and still achieve its purpose, still become an inviting spot to while away an hour or a day, a place dedicated not to doing, but to the simple art of being.

Our shady retreat has given us the opportunity to grow some of the loveliest of plants, ferns, some evergreens, certain shrubs, and many flowers. Most shade-loving plants need no special care after they are established.

Mountain laurel is a grand broad-leaved evergreen for the secluded shady area. It wants sandy, peaty soil, always acid (no lime). Rhododendron is another fine flowering evergreen. When you look out the window in winter, rhododendron tells you the temperature.   When you see the leaves curled like cigars, it is very, very cold and you had better put on that extra sweater.

Moist & Acid

Azaleas in shades of crimson, pink, flame, white and yellow are especially successful in a woodland setting. Some are fragrant. The plants grow from two to ten feet tall. Acid soil and oak leaf mulch are beneficial. The white fragrant blooms of the swamp azalea open in July, later than the others. It does not need its feet in a swamp to thrive, but do give it shade and rich leaf mold soil.

Other favorite plants for shade are crested iris, countless varieties of native wild violets, and myrtle or periwinkle (Vinca minor). Bleeding heart (the tall variety) and begonias (especially tuberous) add loveliness. Blue phlox is lavender-colored with a meadow scent. Spiderwort has white and blue flowers and spidery gray-green leaves. Each bloom lasts only for a day, but many flowers continually come. Japanese anemone bears sturdy rose-colored blossoms. Mist-flower unfolds furry blue-violet blossoms in autumn, and spreads marvellously.

This shady area provides a splendid summering place for many of the houseplants which will also add a decorative note. Tuberous begonias in tubs will be lovely, and if by chance you are orchid raisers, as we are, here is the dream spot for the orchids to summer. They like morning or afternoon sun, so we hang ours (using cut up re-shaped old wire coat hangers) in the trees at the edges of the area, and set some on the retaining walls where they get sun until about eleven in the morning and again after four in the afternoon.

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What Veggies and When…

Crop rotation means never growing the same thing nor its relatives in the same place two seasons in a row, as this can lead to pest and disease build up in the soil. By rotating crops, the pest or disease is deprived of its favourite host and serious infestations are avoided. As well different vegies have different nutrient requirements. Where possible green manure is sown after harvesting the tender vegies (autumn) and dug in winter to replenish nutrients and condition the soil. Sheep manure and compost are added when required.

Vegetable Planting
  December Australia  = June USA

Bed 1  The Root bed  Growing on Carrot ‘Manchester Table’, ‘Majestic Red’ ‘Koroda’ and ‘Berlicum’, Parsnip ‘Yatesnip’, Swede ‘Champion Purple Top‘, Beetroot ‘Golden’ and ‘Bulls Blood’, Turnip ‘Early Purple’ and ‘Hakurei’

Bed 2  The Legume Bed   Growing on Climbing Peas ‘Yakumo’ and ‘Roi de Carouby’ and Bush Peas ‘Sugar Snap’ and ‘Kelvedon’. Cabbage ‘Green Gold’ and Kale ‘Red Russian’

Bed 3   The Onion Bed   Growing Garlic, Potato Onions and Shallots, Onion ‘Red Odourless’, ‘Cream Gold’ and ‘Brown’ and Leek ‘Blue’ and ‘Musselborough’

Bed 4  The Tomato Capsicum Bed   Growing on Tomato ‘Tigeralla’, ‘1st Prize’, ‘Patio Prize’, ‘Tommy Toe’, ‘Money Maker’, ‘Red Fig’, and ‘Black Russian’. Soon to plant capsicums and eggplants.

Bed 5   The Sweetcorn Bed  Growing on Sweetcorn ‘Honeysweet’, Pumpkin ‘Sugar Pie’, ‘Green Hubbard’, ‘Table King Acorn’ and ‘Waltham Butternut’. Zuccini ‘Rondo De Nice’

Bed 6   The Potato Bed   This year we are growing 3 varieties – Kennebec, Pink Eye and Nicola.
Kennebec are slow to shoot and are just appearing above the soil surface.

March  Australia =  September  USA

Bed 1 Root Bed Growing on Carrot ‘Kuroda’ ‘Manchester Table’ ‘Majestic Red’ ‘Berlicum’, Beetroot ‘Golden’ and ‘Bulls Blood’, Turnip ‘Hakurei’ ‘Early Purple’ and Parsnip ‘Yatesnip’

Bed 2 Legume Bed Growing on Bean ‘Purple Queen’ ‘Redlands’ ‘Zebra’ ‘Blue Lake’. Preparing bed for sowing spinach.

Bed 3 Onion Bed Growing on Leek ‘Giant Musselborough’ Just sown Radish and Spring onions

Bed 4 Tomato / Capsicum Bed Growing on Tomato ‘Money Maker’ ‘Red Fig’ ‘Black Russian’ ‘1st Prize’ ‘Tigerella’ ‘Tommy Toe’, Chilli ‘Super F1’, Capsicum ‘Lipstick’, Eggplant ‘Ping Tung’ and ‘Florida’
Bed 5 Sweetcorn / Pumpkin Bed Getting ready to harvest pumpkins and remove finished sweetcorn. Then sow green manure.

Bed 6 Potato Bed Growing crop of lettuces before sowing green manure crop

June Australia  = December USA

Bed 1  Root Bed  Growing on Carrot ‘Kuroda’ ‘Manchester Table’ ‘Majestic Red’ ‘Berlicum’, Beetroot ‘Golden’ and ‘Bulls Blood’, Turnip ‘Hakurei’ ‘Early Purple’ and Parsnip ‘Yatesnip’

Bed 2  Legume Bed  Growing on Mizuna, Celery ‘Tendercrisp’, Spinach ‘American Curled’ and ‘English Giant’ Kohl Rabi ‘White and Purple Vienna’ and Broccoli ‘Green Dragon’

Bed 3  Onion Bed  Growing on Leek ‘Giant Musselborough’ Broad Beans ‘Aquadulce’ Spring Onions ‘Straightleaf’ and ‘Winter King’ and Asian Flat Chives

Bed 4  Tomato / Capisum Bed  Just planted Garlic, Potato onion, Spring onions, and onions

Bed 5  Sweetcorn / Pumpkin Bed  Green manure dug in and getting ready to plant out lettuce seedlings

Bed 6  Potato Bed  Getting ready to dig in crop of green manure consisting of Wheat, Oats, Sunflower, Mustard and Beans

September Australia   March USA

Bed 1 Root Bed  Green manure has now been dug in and we are preparing to sow seed of carrots, parsnips etc.
Bed 2 Legume bed   Growing Broad Bean ‘Early long Pod’. Just sown climbing peas ‘Yakumo’ and ‘Roi de Carouby’ and bush peas ‘Sugar Snap’ and ‘Kelvedon’
Bed 3 Onion Bed  Growing garlic, Potato onions and shallots, just planted onion seedlings of ‘Red Odourless’, ‘Cream Gold’ and ‘Brown’
Bed 4 Tomato / Capsicum Bed   Green manure has been dug in and now is breaking down in readiness for planting of tomatoes and capsicums
Bed 5 Brassica & Leafy Green Bed   Growing Broccoli ‘Green Dragon’ Rainbow Chard, Spinach ‘English’ and ‘Medania’
Bed 6 Potato Bed   This year we are growing 3 varieties – Kennebec, Pink Eye and Nicola

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Organic Gardening

Few pursuits are as rewarding as growing your own organic garden. Not only do you get to enjoy the fruits of your own labor, but you have the satisfaction of knowing that the produce you are eating was grown without chemicals, pesticides, or herbicides. Supporters of organic gardening stress that it produces healthy, more diverse ecosystems, which are better able to resist significant pest damage through their own natural way and that every single individual should consider shifting to organic gardening. The reason they provide is simple; we need to take this big step so as to stop poisoning the food we eat and the earth we stand on.

Organic gardening is a form of gardening that uses substantial diversity in pest control so as to reduce the use of pesticides and to provide as much fertility as possible, based on local nutrients rather than purchased fertilizers.

A professional gardener for over 25-years once told me that he had spent a fortune to purchase chemical substances that large companies produce since this road was the easiest at the time to protect plants. After probably spraying 10,000 gallons of pesticide in his career, he chose not to continue doing it any more. He urged me to consider not only my body’s health but that of my future children, and grand children, and to give up just one of my garden chemicals, for good. Whether it would be a fungicide, a herbicide or a fertilizer, I was advised to choose at least one and take it to the local toxic collection day hosted at my city. I was convinced and so I did.

Thus, my advice to you is that if you decide to do only one thing this season for your garden, consider making it friendlier by switching to alternative methods of pest control. It’s time for all of us gardeners to examine and begin to make a few changes in the way we do things in our gardens. We have got to think about putting an end to the old ways of gardening – and by that I mean our chemical arsenal of pesticides and fertilizers. Even if you are afraid of doing it all at once-old habits are hard to break-consider changing your usual methods month over month one step at a time. Next time you are out taking care of your garden, do just one thing to make it more earth and human friendly.

Finally, avoid some common mistakes beginning organic gardeners make. Do not water plants too much, as over watering prevents the plants from creating deep root systems. Over watering as well as under watering are both bad for the plants. Thus, maintain a stable watering schedule and water your plants deeply once a week. Do not use inorganic fertilizers. Although you might think this is harmless, these heavy on salts crystals do not feed the soil and are a magnet for bugs. You are much better off with natural slow release organic amendments and compost. Not only they provide major nutrients, but let your plants use them over an extended time period. You should be using a balanced approach and feeding the soil and not your plants; they know how much to feed themselves. Finally, do not use too many fertilizers. Even organic ones are advised only when used in the appropriate quantity.

Start Planning for Your Backyard Water Garden or Pond

Water gardens are great focal points for any backyard

With spring in the air, now is the time to start planning for your backyard garden. For many homeowners, a backyard pond is a perfect supplement to your existing layout. The trickling of water in the background is the ideal way to supplement the natural, serene and relaxing atmosphere that the outdoors should offer.

A pond or water garden will likely become the focal point for your entire backyard. Backyard ponds and water gardens will attract birds, butterflies, wildlife, and family members. Ponds are usually small and no larger than 3 to 4 feet in diameter, and often can be used to raise fish. At night-time, a garden pond can be lit up with both surrounding and submersible lighting. An extravagant light show can be produced by projecting underwater lighting directly onto trickling or falling water.

In the past, the installation of a water garden was a convoluted process that either involved the expense of a landscaper, or trial and error to perfect the art of pond installation. However, preformed pond kits are now available that can make pond installation relatively straightforward. Preformed pond kits are affordable, lessen the risk of mistakes, and come complete with all the accessories that you will need to complete a garden pond installation.

Before purchasing a preformed pond kit, make sure that it fulfills all of your requirements. How large of a pond are you looking for? Do you want to raise fish? Would you like water to trickle down a waterfall? How long is the warranty on the pond kit?

One preformed pond kit that comes highly recommended is the Algreen 180 gallon folding preformed pond kit. New to the Algreen line of products, this kit includes easy-to-follow instructions. The instructions minimize the effort required to install the pond, after a hole is dug. The pieces in the kit fit easily together and leave you ample flexibility to creatively position and landscape the area around the pond, according to your heart’s desire.

The 180 gallon kit comes complete with both a preformed pond shell and a preformed watercourse that is manufactured from a revolutionary rubber/plastic composite (this composite material is guaranteed to be more durable and resist wear more than any other existing preformed pond kits). The kit includes a powerful 792 gallon-per-hour SuperFlo pump with flow control; this pump is used to feed varying flows of water to both the watercourse and the built-in fountain. The pump is purposely oversized to allow it to channel water to your watercourse and fountain, and to accommodate fish in your pond.

Up to 4 fountain heads are included with the kit, to allow you to vary your fountain according to your mood. An underwater light is also included free with the kit. This underwater light utilizes colored filters to shine luminous light from the bottom of your pond to accentuate the falling water from your fountain and/or your waterfall.

Small backyard garden ponds are usually low maintenance. The occasional debris from your pond can usually be trapped with a mechanical pre-filter, which is included with the SuperFlo pump. However, if you decide to raise fish in your pond, it is recommended that you increase your filtration capacity. Because the pump is purposely oversized, this can be easily accomplished by upgrading your pre-filter to a larger filtration device. Optional filtration devices include the mechanical and biological SuperFlo submersible filter, or the Algreen pressurized filter.

You will need to start planning for your water garden now in order to have it completed by spring. Before commencing any project, it is always recommended that you conduct research to learn as much as possible about the topic. Therefore, it is recommended that you use the early part of the season to read more about pond construction.

Gerry Fung is the Vice President of GardenSuperMart,

 

The Benefits of Organic Gardening

Organic Gardening refers to the system in which plants are grown in an organic environment. According to the USDA regulations, those who are involved in the process of organic gardening are prohibited from using irradiation, sewage sludge or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in organic production. This type of food production would be certified as organic farming or gardening.

Accordingly, the important aspects of organic gardening will include the following:

  • Those who engage in organic gardening or farming can’t use synthetic or chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
  • There should be a systematic approach in organic gardening. This means that a system needs to be implemented. This system will describe the methodologies about sowing, production and reaping of plants.
  • Records must be also kept which will keep a track of the products till they are sold.
  • Buffer zones should be maintained so that there are no inadvertent contaminations from the gardens and the farms, which use the conventional method of farming or gardening.

Those involved in organic gardening understand the importance of crops, the soil, the pests and the insects as well as the interdependency of all these factors. Organic gardening helps to care and the nurture the very soil of the crops. Thus the benefits that we get are naturally grown flowers, trees and plants.

Organic gardening can also be certified by state organizations and private organizations, which have been accredited by the USDA. The farms and gardens, which are looking to certify themselves, have to submit their organic systems on an annual basis.

Based upon these systems inspectors will come and inspect their establishments and verify with the systems that they have submitted. All facilities are included in the inspection and this includes pest control method, livestock, feedstock for livestock, soil management programs etc.

The organically grown products are minimally processed to retain their natural freshness and nutritious value. However irradiation, synthetic and genetically engineered foods and products can’t be used in organic farming or gardening.

The biggest advantage is that there are no chemicals and pesticides used. Hence there are no residues when we eat the fruits. There is nothing to wash off or fear like normal produce.

This means that we live a healthy life and we beget a healthy life for our children and the generations to come. As humans we want to lead a healthy life and this gives us a right to choose what foods we eat as well as how we get the foods.