For many reasons, people have begun to take up gardening again. This article is written to help new gardeners succeed in gardening. Included are tips, tricks, and advice from a life long organic gardener.
How To garden
Gardening does not have to be difficult and while there is work involved, it can be a work of joy and inspiration. It is my hope that people will find these gardening articles useful. Gardening is a community effort, and as such I am happy to provide advice as best I can. Please feel free to ask questions.
The first steps to organic gardening
One of the first things people should understand about organic gardening is that the earth wants to grow plants. As gardeners, it is our job to encourage the plants that we want to grow while discouraging the plants that we do not want to grow. This is the essence of gardening. The earth will do most of the work for you. This article will teach you how to encourage plants to grow.
How to find your gardening zone
Here, is your first trick, or tip: Find your Gardening Zone: Simply use the link below and enter your zipcode. This will help you a great deal in learning about your area and what kinds of plants will grow there as well as learning important garden dates such as …. average last frost day, etc.
Learning how to garden
It does not matter that it is almost winter. There are still beginning garden projects that new gardeners can do. Even if you do not have a garden spot you can still garden. Container gardens make great beginning garden projects. They do not require a great deal of money to start, and they are easy to take care of, even for busy people. Even if you live in a cold climate you can still garden indoors using small containers. There is an opportunity for everyone to learn how to garden.
Getting started garden projects; Compost tea
First, there are two versions of soil amendments that are associated with the terms compost tea. The method that is illustrated here is simple and designed only to impart easily soluble nutrients to the soil. Compost tea is an amazingly simply way to add soluble nutrients to the top layers of soils. Compost tea is also a reliable and easy way to introduce microbial life to soil or in many cases simply to add nutrients and microbes to garden soil.
Compost tea is made by mixing compost that is in the process of breaking down and water. The resulting muddy, dirty water is a beneficial “tea” that helps young plants find extra nutrients in the soil because, as the tea sinks into the soil, the soil becomes enriched with nutrients in the same root zone as the seedlings or plants.
Using teas for the garden is a simple and easy way to help amend the soil or give an instant boost to struggling plants. The same effect can be achieved by using aged compost as a mulch. As it is watered, the nutrients seep into the soil where the plants find and utilize them.
The second version of compost is a little more scientific than the version listed here. It involves steeping the compost in water that is kept at a constant temperature. This version promoted the beneficial microbes and can be used as a pest control. The steeped version is difficult to manage, and probably not necessary for most gardening. It is beneficial, but a little more complicated.
To Make My Version of Compost Tea
Put 1 shovel full of aged compost into a 5 gallon bucket. Fill the bucket to the 3/4 full mark with water, and let it set for 24 hours. Stir and use just the water, and then dump the wet compost back into the compost pile.
Gardening in December
The December garden can be as exciting as an August garden with a little planning and by using good plant choice. There are many cool weather plants that grow well in November, December and even January. For cold climates, a red twig dogwood tree makes very beautiful contrast to the winter white. For warmer winters, Mums, Pansy, Viola all bloom nicely during the winter months. Vegetables such as Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Mustards, Greens and salad mix lettuces all do really well during the colder months of the year. Carrots, Beets, Parsnip, Celery, Bok Choy, Pac Choy, Redicchio and Snow Peas also do quite well if planted in October/November.
Planning ahead for winter gardens is key. Think about days-to-harvest and plan your garden accordingly. The idea is to have mature and hardy plants in the ground before the really cold weather hits. This obviously will not work for lower numbered gardening zones, as it will for those in zones 8,9,and 10. For those gardeners in super cold zones see article below.
Using Garden aids in colder weather. Cold frames work really well for helping gardeners to thwart the icy hand of Jack Frost. With a little inventiveness, A well built cold frame can push winter back to Fall. It is this inventiveness that adds excitement to winter gardening.
Hot Peppers are very beneficial to gardens. They help to repel insects from other plants, their fruit can make a very potent insecticide, and they bring a great deal of flavor to food.
To Make an insecticide spray using Hot Peppers, Follow These Instructions:
Ingredients: WARNING: HOT PEPPERS CAN BURN YOUR SKIN-USE GLOVES & Goggles:
2-3 hot red peppers
3 cups water
1/2 Tablespoon Castile Soap (Natrual Soap)
Rubber Gloves and Goggles:
Funnel (optional but helps a great deal)
Grind the red peppers up into a past or chop them very fine. In a small sauce pan, bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add the red pepper paste. Simmer for 15 minutes and then allow the mixture to cool. Once mixture is cool, strain the water using the coffee filter and a jar. Into the spritzer bottle add the soap. Carefully pour the cold, hot pepper water into the spritzer bottle. Spray any plant that is infested with aphids using the soapy hot pepper water/spray.
TIP: IF you use a mason jar the metal ring will hold the coffee filter in place while the liquid is being strained into the jar.
Winter Garden Chores – Three chores that really help plants to grow
Winter garden chores are a combination of maintaining weed control and preparing for spring.
Mulch: Mulch is a good winter chore because it helps to keep the soil around plants warmer and that causes better root function as plants try to grow in colder areas.
Compost: Compost can be used like mulch, or it can be dug directly into the ground. Using compost in winter is good because it also helps to keep the ground warmer, and as it breaks down it adds nutrients to the soil.
Weeding: Weeding is a good chore. Weeds rob plants of nutrients. They can also crowd plants and plant roots, so that your plants are not free to grow. Removing weeds helps your plants to thrive as it helps to loosen soil, provides more root space, and removes competition for growing spaces. Using a hoe to weed is also good because a hoe will help to loosen soil so that plants can thrive.
Red Leaf Head Lettuce is a plant that can be grown indoors, outdoors (in warmer winter gardens), or in a green house. This is a short growth crop that develops in 30-40 days but can supply a household with fresh greens all season long.
There are other forms of lettuce that also can be grown, such as, Red leaf, Green Leaf, and Butter Crunch are three of my favorites.
Lettuce is easy to grow. Simply turn the soil so that there is at least 1 foot of soft, garden soil. Sow seeds about 1/4 inch deep and then rack soil over the top of them. Water gently and then wait. The little seeds should start to sprout within 7-10 days. It is just that easy.
Beginning gardening; How to extend crop life
Beginning Gardening is really about just getting started. TIP: The earth wants to grow things and as gardeners our job is to encourage the things we want to grow while discouraging the things we do not.
Here, are a few ideas about beginning gardening. Start small and be successful. It takes a bit of work to get your body in shape enough to garden every day. Many new gardeners plant a huge garden and then are overwhelmed with trying to take care of it. For most of us, a large garden is 50 feet by 50 feet. Anything much larger then that is pretty much farming. My garden in a small space that is 12 feet by 12 feet. In that space, we grow enough food to feed our family 60% of the time. Start small and be successful. The following paragraphs are tips that help gardeners succeed as well as a few tips that will help gardeners extend their crop life.
The photo titled “Cutting Garden” is a representation of a garden that is harvested daily to provide the gardener with fresh food all season long. The idea of a cutting garden is to take what you need without killing the plant. These little Bok Choy will produce new leaves to replace the ones that were picked. In this way, the plant will keep producing. Normally we would simply harvest the entire head of Bok Choy and the plant would die. That method works well for supermarket vegetable departments where a consumer may want the whole head of Bok Choy. In a garden, it is better to harvest what you need, and then let the plant recover. Plant 6-8 Bok Choy plants and you can harvest from each plant several times per week. The cutting garden works well with many greens such as lettuce, spinach, mustards, collard greens, kale, and any other leafy vegetable. Cutting gardens last for the season and this helps to extend the life of the garden through the entire growing season.
Saving garden space
Regardless of the time of the year or what you might be growing, plants have an expected harvest date. Most seed packets list the days-to-harvest. Knowing the time it takes for a plant to mature enough to be harvested is very powerful, and important information
for new gardeners to understand. It is not that it is difficult, and it empowers the gardener to grow more in a smaller space. The photograph titled “Being Smart About Space” is an example of how planting certain plant together can help the gardener to save space.
In the picture “Being Smart About Space” are two types of plants, the red lettuce and the snow pea. These two plant types were planted at the same time despite the fact that the pea plants are going to grow into bushes that will take over the entire spot. In fact, they were planted just for that reason. Why does this work? Well, it is simply a matter of timing. The lettuce has a 30-45 day harvest time while the pea is not going to grow to harvest until 65-75 days. Utilizing the days-to-harvest to the gardeners advantage allows the gardener to utilize the growing space needed for the peas without delaying the peas growth. The lettuce will be harvested and long gone before the pea takes over the space where the lettuce was growing. The gardener has saved space and time by growing these two plant together. There are many different plant combinations that work like this. The key it to know the days-to-harvest, and then use that information to your advantage. Radish is another very fast crop. They mature in about 30 days. You can grow them where you plant cabbage or broccoli because they will be harvested before your other plants grow. The possibilities here are quite extensive.
Leaning about plant size and growth requirements
Plants come in all shapes and sizes, and as a beginning gardener it is important to understand the 1) plants need their space, and 2) some plants can get quite large. Usually, but not always, a seed packet will indicate the criterium that is needed for the seed to thrive. The planting instructions will give a dimension of how tall and how wide plants will become. This allows the gardener to plant accordingly. Plants that are crowded do not usually thrive as they spend most of their energy on trying to grow instead of producing. Giving plants their space will allow the plant to reach its full potential, and that is a major goal of gardening. There are some examples of how this idea is not pertinent to gardening, but those examples never apply to growing vegetables… they apply to mixed flower container gardening.
These two photographs; Learning about plant Size and Give plants their space are the same picture. The first picture, Learning about plant size, is a very nice looking midstage garden. The second photograph “Give Plants Their Space” is an explanation of what will happen as larger plants grow. The yellow rectangles/squares indicate plants that will be taken over by the Arugula. The green arrows show the direction that arugula will grow, and they mark the size of growth. Everything within those green arrows will be taken over by the Arugula and will likely not produce much. The purple square is a short term crop that should have been planted where the yellow rectangles are because the lettuce would be harvested before the Arugula grew much larger. The yellow rectangle plants should have been planted where the leaf lettuce is planted. Giving plants their space requires a bit of thought, but in the end, the gardener will be happy, and the crops will produce.
Days to harvest are an estimation of time that is found on the back of most seed packets. It measures the number of days it will take, for the seed, to reach a state where the plant can be harvested. This is a useful tool for people who are gardening in smaller spaces. Days to harvest allow gardeners to plan ahead.
Tips to help you succeed at gardening
This Winter Gardening Trick spotlight is on using recyclables to make cloche (mini green house for a single plant) for plants that may be struggling against the cold. This is an easy-to-do-project, and it really benefits the plants and garden.
The Cloche was developed, by the French, to protect early plants from freezes and sudden cold spells. In today’s garden cloche work really well to help small seedlings become established during the colder winter months.
The original French Cloche were solid glass domes that looked like a bell. These are still very useful if you can find them. Anything that lasts more than once season is very much recommended. In the meantime, recyclables work just find too.