Whole Story

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How Green is My Garden?

By Archive, February 20, 2008  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Archive

Planting your own organic vegetable garden is one of the greenest activities around. Just about anyone can do it, whether it’s a few pots on your apartment balcony or a full-fledged kitchen garden that takes up most of your yard. And now is the time to start thinking about it. Even in the far north, seasoned gardeners are hovering over seedlings in their basement or on their windowsill, anticipating that first frost-free date.

Tell us how green your garden is and how you got it that way. And if you have a favorite book on how to garden organically, we'd like you to share it with us.

Category: Green Action




Terri Vetter says ...
I work for a local garden center and I am often asked how to deter pests in the garden without using harmful chemicals. For small critters I have found that sprinkling ground cayenne red pepper around plants is a temporary but effective deterrent. I typically reapply monthly or after rainfall.
02/21/2008 7:50:28 AM CST
Amelia Matthews says ...
For the past few months, I have been planning my garden, gazing seed catalogs, and hoping my compost pile is ready for action all while envisioning all of the veggies that will soon appear in my garden. Because I choose to practice organic garderning methods, a few great resources are "Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening", Bill Mollison's "Permaculture: A Designer's Manual". I also love the book that teaches about companion planting called "Carrots Love Tomatoes". Having a garden is a great way to be green and develop a close relationship with the land. Just think of how great the veggies will be in a few months time. Don't forget to plant an extra row for a neighbor or the passing bunny.
02/21/2008 8:11:49 AM CST
julie fisher says ...
Last year, instead of buying one little basil plant, I bought a pack of basil seeds. I sprinkled them in one of my large outdoor planters and had tons of basil. Also, was able to make lots of pesto, froze it and enjoyed it through the winter. I froze the pesto in ice cube trays then placed the cubes in freezer bags. This year I am going to try growing other herbs from seed in the planters. I usually just plant flowers.
02/21/2008 8:36:00 AM CST
Rachell Freund says ...
For years now I have been using Dawn dish soap to keep the pests off my lawn and garden, it really works and is perfectly safe for the food areas of your yard, the soap works like a charm and rinses off when it rains or you pick and wash your items. This is realitivley inexpensive too. I apply it with a hose end sprayer attachement that you can get at your local home improvement store (normaly used for chemical applications) fill the jar with Dawn and attach the hose to it, and go to town, make sure to get the underside of the leaves and around the roots, and I usally spray the ground around the problem area so any stray pests that might think they have escaped get trapped. If you apply the application late in the evening it works best because the pests have landed for the evening and aren't moveing around as much as durring the day, it gets more of them on the first try.
02/21/2008 8:39:25 AM CST
Kathy Jentz says ...
I'm a big advocate of seed-starting indoors to speed up the growing season. But even before the last frost date, folks can plant outdoors in a cold-frame or when it warms up just enough to work the earth. There are many cool-season crops that you can start now -- peas, lettuce, root vegetables, etc.
02/21/2008 8:49:08 AM CST
Liz Lipinski says ...
grow native varieties. these plants are happier - and therefore more likely to survive and use less resources - in their natural environment.
02/21/2008 9:13:49 AM CST
Alayne Rosales says ...
My absolute favorite herb to grow is basil year round so I keep it indoors when it's cold out. For other plants/flowers, I leave old glass bottles out on my balcony to collect rain water which I use to water my plants. Since I am a beginner cook, I refer to "The Organic Cook's Bible" by Jeff Cox - it is a great book to have when you're learning about organic ingredients for the first time, including fruits, veggies, meats, and endless other things!
02/21/2008 9:25:49 AM CST
Kathy Jentz says ...
That is a bit misleading - not all natives are suited to a home yard planting. Actually, many native plants are bog plants and need wet feet all the time, other natives may prefer dry situations -- as with all plants keep in mind "right plant, right place." Read up on the plants and match them to your planting situation -- just because they are labelled "native" does not necessarily mean they will work in your yard.
02/21/2008 9:30:29 AM CST
Dave Wilson says ...
I grow organic blueberries in my garden and keep the plants very productive by gathering pine needles from under my pine tree and spreading them around the base of each plant. This free organic natural fertilizer does a great job of producing large wonderful blueberries my family loves.
02/21/2008 9:45:33 AM CST
Deanna Gouzie says ...
In the past I made several attempts at growing my own organic vegetables. Some were successful and some were not. It all seemed very hit or miss. I learned that doing something as simple as a soil test could make all the difference. There are many inexpensive soil tests out there that will give you a snapshot of the nutrients available in your soil for your plants. Research has shown that plants grow well with optimum amounts of nutrients available in the soil but may grow slowly or develop poorly with too low or too high amounts of nutrients. Your local state Cooperative Extensions are a wonderful resource. They will provide you with a test kit (for around $10) and a complete analysis of your soil as well as how to "fix" your soil. In addition, they offer tests that will examine for possible toxins in your soil, lead for example. I found this gave me piece of mind and wonderful results in my garden!!
02/21/2008 9:51:34 AM CST
teresa blackburn says ...
i love trying my hand at organic farming. stocking up on heirloom seeds and the great advice of past generations. i have found that it is a whole experience. mental, physical, emotional, nourishing and sometimes frustrating. two great books which have helped me are "The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control" and "Great Garden Companions." These books go hand in hand and answer questions that you will have from the planning stages to the "Oh no! what is eating my corn" stage. Good luck and never give up. It is our planet we are trying to heal.
02/21/2008 10:21:19 AM CST
V. Rogers says ...
We use several 5 gallon buckets to hang anywhere in the back yard where the full sun is for upside down ftomato plants with organic compost or organic soil with a baby diaper on top of soil for water to absorb to feed the roots of the tomatoes. Put banana peels and egg shells mixture in the organic soil/compost. Use rainwater to water. No weeds to pull and no slugs.
02/21/2008 10:35:36 AM CST
Debbie Francis says ...
All winter, I compost the lazy way. I bury all of my fruit & veggie peelings, spent tea bags, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. in my garden beds. (I only use organically grown/produced products, so my garden STAYS organic.) I mulch on top of that with all of the pine needles and leaves that fall in my yard. By the time spring rolls around and I'm ready to set out plants in my garden, the earthworms in my garden are HUGE and are so PLENTIFUL that there is one in each and every spade full of garden soil. Such an easy method that not only feeds my garden soil organically, but also cuts down on stuff going to landfills.
02/21/2008 10:45:37 AM CST
stef says ...
We've chosen not to have those lawn service companies come and spray our yard all over with "their stuff". We use Gardens Alive products and apply them ourselves, but not every year either. I don't really think all weeds should be considered "the enemy". As long as you keep a good balance of nutrients and not let your yard look like a forest it's better for the plants to learn to live harmoniously as well. I also wintersow a lot of my plants -- it's easy on me timewise, easy on the pocket (no investment in grow lights or special containers), and so rewarding. You can learn more about it at the Wintersowing forum at Gardenweb, or at Wintersown.org. This year I'm trying out their motto -- no brown spots -- I plan to get every spot of earth planted with SOMETHING -- herbs and medicinals, flowers, vegetables. I wish I could have chickens and horses but I only have a suburban backyard, so I do what I can with what I have. My favorite book is Monty Don's The Complete Gardener. Close second is Prince Charles' book -- a little too much because obviously I don't have the resources he has, but inspiring nonetheless.
02/21/2008 11:12:01 AM CST
Mary says ...
I found the best way to get rid of fire ants without using pesticides is to use concentrated orange oil diluted in water and pour over the ant site. Works beautifully and smells great. Most garden centers will carry orange oil. Orange oil also deters other pests and is a great anti-fungal product and won't hurt plants - as long as it is diluted. A great way to get rid of weeds is to just use undiluted vinegar - the ones from the grocery stores are perfect. Put it in a handheld sprayer and you are good to go!
02/21/2008 11:19:53 AM CST
Marilyn Chiarello says ...
What wonderful tips and information! I recently purchased a rain barrel to supply water for my pond/stream, and am now considering purchasing additional units for my garden. Has anyone had success using rain barrels with soaker hoses? Does anyone have any comments on the safety of the water collected in rain barrels for an organic garden?
02/21/2008 11:49:30 AM CST
D. DePalo says ...
To keep my garden green, I use a rain bucket from the spring rain and gutters to supplement water in our water-banned area. I take advantage of the house foundation and plant those from the wort family in the shade while in full sun had my mint (to put in drink water), basil (to make homemade pesto), thyme, etc and the big garden of course. Any tomatoes from last year get left in the garden to compost for the next year. Our 1st lawn mowing also goes in the garden as well as coffee grounds. We plant tomatoes near one another to provide shade to tomatoes of those plants close together. We plant ferns, bleeding heart under trees and have zoysia grass which needs less water. We also go to our local organic land trust group to purchase plants, especially rare plants. My green suggestion is to conserve as much water as possible.
02/21/2008 12:10:29 PM CST
Shirley Lum says ...
I run theme foodies walking tours in various Toronto neighbourhoods for long-time residents, newcomers and visitors. One of my favourite areas would be Kensington Market. I try to inspire my customers to think and act green in the kitchen and garden. I deal with various merchants who love the idea of recycling, re-using and reducing. How many folks find it annoying to be tracking in dirt from the garden? Well, my back doorway has a coffee beanbag (I think it's from Columbia) - it is a nifty door mat and a great conversation piece as well! Some of my friends and guests are now making requests for used coffee bean bags as burlap for rose bushes! My micro-roastery merchant at Moonbean Cafe loves hearing how his coffee grind helps my garden as well. I'll bring along one of those big plastic tofu container with a lid, and ask his staff to fill it up over the course of the day while I'm running my foodies tour in the market! Kill two birds with one stone! My tree and shrub peonies have gone gangbuster, never mind my veggies and herb plants, once I add the coffee grind to the soil in early spring. My butterfly plant was bursting with amazing foliage, and you should see all those Monarch Butterflies fluttering about my tree! Talk about "win-win" scenario. Throughout the winter, I save up scraps of veggies, herbs and tea leaves in a metallic milk can with air-tight lid. I have it sitting in my window sill, and the west sunlight literally "cooks" it, so by the time it's Spring, I have plenty of "Black Gold" for the garden. Summer time I have faster percolation of Black Gold for the garden. I try to pour it into a different spot each year, sort of "spreading" the composting wealth, so long-term my whole garden gets its share. I am already looking forward to Spring despite the huge mound of snow from the last big snow storm! Happy composting and making your garden as green as possible. cheers, Shirley
02/21/2008 1:48:48 PM CST
Crystal says ...
My family is going to share a vegatable garden with our good friend and neighbor. The garden will be in our yard, but we will share cost and work together to take care of the garden. This is a great way to come together as a community and have our children share in this experience. It will be all organic and we hope to add to it, as we learn more. "If you are producing some of your own food you are also reducing the food miles of your kitchen supplies. For the food you grow in your garden or yard that's zero food miles in fact! " , Greenfootsteps.com
02/21/2008 8:13:22 PM CST
Janet says ...
Plant a native habitat garden appropriate for your area. It usually means less water, little or no fertilizer, and no pesticides. For inspiration, read 'Gardening With a Wild Heart' by Judith Larner Lowry. You can have your habitat certified by National Wildlife Federation as well. Nature knows what she's doing, so why not follow her lead?
02/21/2008 8:25:56 PM CST
John Ellison says ...
I have grown vegetables organically for over 30 years. A few years ago, before retiring, I found a book, "Solar Gardening - Growing Vegetables Year-round the American Intensive Way" by Leadre Poisson and Gretchen Vogel Poisson, Chelsea Green Publishing Company, that has plans and instructions for building Solar Pods that will extend growing seasons to the whole year for cold tolerant vegetables such as lettuce, peas and many root crops. By using these Pods I can sow lettuce and peas in September or October and start gathering them in March and April before the last spring frosts. It is a great way to keep me busy all winter now that I have retired. Another good book for organic gardening is, "The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food" by Tanya L. K. Denckla, Storey Publishing. It contains much technical data to grow, harvest and store vegetables, herbs, fruits and nuts. It also recommends good varieties to grow and sources. Happy gardening!
02/21/2008 8:58:44 PM CST
Lisa Falk says ...
I live in the airid Southwest US so gardening is difficult for me here. There is a lot of caliche making digging hard too. Using cinder blocks (I'm painting them fun colors), I put in a 5 x 10 foot garden with purchased soil. Through trail and error I've discovered what grows well here. First I plant sunflower seeds (using seeds from previous crops) along the sides and back (which is against a wall). This provides a bright, cheerful view from the kitchen windows and the sunflowers act as a natural shade fence for the other plants. I plant cherry tomotos mingled with marigolds (they keep off pests and look pretty), jalepeno and bell peppers and lots of basil. The basil and marigolds reseeded themselves and looked pretty with the red of the peppers--made a great fall garden, too.
02/21/2008 11:03:17 PM CST
Deborah says ...
My green gardening "Bible" is "Organic Vegetable Gardening" by The Time Life Complete Gardener. It is available on Amazon.com. I like this book because it covers the topic well, has great information on companion planting, organic "pesticides", preparing and designing your garden. It is old, but just a really good easily understood standard to get someone started on their organic garden. One other thing: the "lasagna" way of preparing your garden spot is an excellent way to prepare your soil, and always compost! I also recommend the method I see most Asian's in this area garden - the are out there everyday for a brief period- manually removing pests.
02/22/2008 7:19:24 AM CST
A Chapman says ...
I have been doing lots of research over the winter to do some organic home gardening with my kids this spring and summer. Almost every book I have found stresses the importance of beginning with great soil and feeding that soil regulary with lots of organic compost and nutrients. Healthy soil equals healthy plants. Two books I have found worthwhile are The Organic Home Garden by Patrick Lima and Eat More Dirt By Ellen Sandbeck. The books Roots, Shoots, Buckets and Boots and Trowel and Error both by Sharon Lovejoy are terrific reference books on gardening with kids, as well as how to rid your garden of pests the natural way. Happy Gardening.
02/22/2008 7:20:52 AM CST
Deborah says ...
The problem I see with using Dawn dishwashing liquid is that is it indiscrimminate - it can damage the beneficial insects as well as pests. Also, does it contain phosphates that can put your soil out of balance with overuse or run off into your water source?
02/22/2008 7:24:27 AM CST