Posts Tagged ‘organic gardening’
In a time when saving money and being healthy are of equal importance, more and more people are returning to their own gardens to grow their food. However, once the soil has been turned and prepared there are a myriad of often confusing choices when it comes to varieties and seeds. While modern hybrid varieties are faster growing and often seen as less expensive, the benefits of heirloom seeds can be seen in the growing trend toward its use.
What are heirloom seeds?
Heirloom seeds are defined as coming from an old or original cultivar and which growers continue to maintain. For many organic gardeners, the ultimate goal is to have a truly unmodified plant that has genetically withstood generations of cultivation. For others, it’s the novelty of experiencing colors, flavors, and types of plants we are no longer accustomed to.
Tasting the difference
How often have you tasted an apple or a tomato from a supermarket and complained about the lack of flavor? The ability of modern varietals to withstand long term storage often comes at the cost of flavor, texture, and scent. Heirloom seeds generally give rise to full flavored fruit that are intended to be eaten (or preserved) when they are at their best.
Collecting and using heirloom seeds is a very simple way to preserve our environmental history. As our society becomes more and more technologically driven and the borders between countries disappear, the plants our ancestors grew are beginning to disappear as well. Preserving the plants – both edible and non-edible – of our past help us to ensure our future.
Pleasure of produce
One of the greatest benefits of heirloom seeds, is perhaps one of the least recognized. There is a lot of pleasure to be derived from a hobby that involves such hands-on involvement. Once you have grown and consumed the vegetable – or enjoyed the flower – you should preserve the seeds for the next season.
Many gardeners split their seeds into two lots. One group of seeds is intended for pure preservation – the idea is to not allow any type of cross pollination in order to retain the strains historical genetics. The other group are planted outside and allowed to cross pollinate naturally via birds, insects and wind. Considered natural modification, this can result in new, hardier strains while retaining the plant’s integrity.
Some gardeners, new to heirloom seeds, complain about the lack of hardiness in the resulting plants. More often than not, however, the problem revolves around suitability in the location. If a plant does not grow ‘naturally’ in your area, perhaps it is the climate and soil that are the problem and not the seeds. After all, in natural circumstances, you would not try to grow a pineapple in Antarctica.
Most gardeners, however, find the benefits of heirloom seeds far outweigh the challenges. Moreover, once they realize purple carrots and yellow tomatoes are not only beautiful, but delicious, they are no longer satisfied with the offerings in their local supermarket.
Anybody who has attempted to grow something in their garden will be all too aware that
pests have a way of rearing their ugly little heads very quickly indeed! Sadly, the first
response for many gardeners is to head to their garden shed and reach for the pesticides in
order to get rid of their problem as quickly as possible. While this may be the quickest way
to solve the problem, it is most certainly not the greenest! Pesticides can have an adverse
effect on the environment, meaning that a quick-fix is not always the best remedy.
This is now finally being understood by those who make their living from the land; with
nature in mind, many farmers are now employing integrated pest management techniques
in order to protect their livelihood for the long-term – in essence, people are now making
much more of an effort to strike a balance between protecting their crops and protecting
Fortunately, there are plenty of natural and organic methods that gardeners can employ
when attempting to rid themselves of would-be garden invaders! Below are some of the
methods of saving both crops and the planet:
Smells like trouble – many common garden nuisances (such as foxes) can be deterred with
the employment of strong smelling substances. The most commonly used substances that
can be turned into a stinky “keep out” sign are garlic, fish, rhubarb and tobacco.
Hot hot heat – would-be garden invaders can be sent packing with the use of a little heat;
this can include chillies, kerosene, methylated spirits and even table salt!
Odour eaters – many readily available garden plants give off natural odours that can be
extremely uninviting to bugs and other pests. This is nature’s way of informing the bug that
the plant probably carries some form of natural insecticide; it also lets it know to keep well
Get slick – commonly found oils can be a great way of controlling certain kinds of garden
pests. Some tried and tested oils include mineral oil, vegetable oils and proprietary oils.
These can kill soft-bodied invaders by clinging to them and eventually causing suffocation.
Clean up your act – a little-known pest controller comes in the form of soap. Ensuring that
the soap is natural and vegetable-based is the best way to make sure that it will not harm
the plants as opposed to the pests!
Today my grandmother made me a wonderful gift: chilli pepper’s tree. With about 50 chilli peppers hanging on it. I wanted to have it for a long time but could not find seeds (in my country they are rare) or plants. My granny was luckier – she found it on the market and bought it straight away knowing that I am searching for one. There was three red ones already, – others are still green. I cut one and took a small piece of it. It was very spicy. While I was eating my dinner, I created a spice recipe which I want to share with you.
Chilli spice recipe – my own invention
There are only two components: dried chilly and dried leafs of sage. Melt them together and… That’s all! 😀 I think the flavour will be fantastic and you can use it for pizza, soups, meat and so on. I haven’t tried it yet – first of all I will have to have some more chillies on my tree.
There is also another thing you can do with chilli peppers: take 2-3 of them and add them into 0.5 lit of olive oil. After 1-2 weeks you’ll get spicy olive oil. I used such oil in one Chinese restaurant with prawns soup and it was delicious!
You can buy onions in bulbs called sets in bags from the garden centres. They can be planted in Autumn or Spring and harvested 6 months later.
Before planting onions you’ll need to prepare the site.
1) Loosen the soil with the fork and remove any weeds or large stones. Onions should be planted in sunny or partially shaded sites, protected from the wind. Do not plant them in a heavy clay soils. If you have poor soil, you may want to add organic matter before you start planting onions. Use your feet to form down the soil as onions grow well in a hard soil. Slightly loose soil after that.
2) Choose your onions. They should not be soft or too small.
3) Make small halls in a soil. Halls should be as deep as an onion bulb and leave the top exposed.
4) Gently firm down the soil around the tip with your fingers. The tips should be planted about 10 cm (4in) apart from each other.
5) If you plant your onions during the Autumn, then don’t water them unless the soil is very dry. You can harvest onions by late spring.
Pumpkins have been in cultivation for over 5000 years, there are hundreds of varieties and sizes available. From small ones which can be crown in container, to giants (the biggest pumpkin weighted 667 kilos and was grown in USA).
Growing pumpkins is almost the same as growing watermelons. They require a sunny location, a lot of compost, leaves or manure, well drained soil and protection from cold winds. In frost-free areas (tropics or subtropics) pumpkins can grow all year round.
Pumpkins require temperature of 20˚C for growing. I recommend to plant pumpkins in exactly the same way as watermelons: use individual pots for each garden seed. It’s better to use paper pots (I sell next generation paper pot maker for the lowest price on the Web) as they can be planted directly in the garden. Plant pumpkins indoors about 3 weeks before the last frost. After the last frost plant them outside in the sunny location.
Pumpkins take 70-160 days to mature depending on their variety. Miniature pumpkins mature within 90-100 days and giant ones within 130-160 days.
Plant pumpkins in hills or rows. Follow the spacing instructions on the sachet as pumpkins can spread very far. Allow at least 5 feet between plants in each direction.
Pumpkins require a lot of water especially in the blooming period. Make sure the plants get 1 to 2 inches of water a week. They are a big feeders too so fertilize them on a regular basis.
Carefully rotate pumpkins from time to time to keep them symmetrical.
Harvest comes when the pumpkins are bright-yellow after the vines have died.
You can save garden seeds 1 month after harvesting pumpkins. Just scoop seeds from flesh, wash, dry and keep in a cool, dry place away from sun.
Growing Mint is easier then growing tomatoes in pots. Mint grows better in a fertile, well drained soil, fair amount of moisture and moderately shady place in your garden or indoors. However mint is not fussy and can grow anywhere you plant it. Mint is one of the best herbs for beginners and it is suitable for balcony or container gardening.
Mint can be propagated in two ways: by garden seeds and by root division.
If you want to grow mint from garden seeds, then it is better to plant them in a recycled pots (have a look on paper pot maker I sell here) and plant them straight into the soil with the paper pots when the time comes.
I recommend to propagate mint by root division. It is easier and quicker way. Mint doesn’t grow well from garden seeds.
It’s better to buy a small mint plants at the nursery or in the garden centre somewhere near you and then grow and propagate them.
How to plant mint
I must warn you in advance: mint is very strong plant and can kill other plants in your garden by taking their territory. So it is better to plant mint in a container without the bottom to prevent it from spreading. If you grow mint indoors it should not be a problem – just plant mint in separate pots or containers. We grow mint in a small pot on the balcony and it looks like the plant is very happy there.
If you want to grow mint outdoors, then plant herb approximately 12 inches apart and keep the soil moist until the plants are established.
Please note: the plant stop growing after flowers appearance, so if you want it to continue it’s growth till autumn, you need to remove flowers.
Today I want to write about something exotic. About growing watermelons. The majority of us don’t grow watermelons because we think it requires a lot of space and sun that can be a problem in a climate with short summers. However growing and planting watermelons is almost like planting cucumbers: the same requirements and almost the same temperature is needed. But you have to know one secret: grow early and baby or “bush” varieties that requires just about 1/3 of the space and matures within 90 days.
If you have short summers you may want to start growing watermelon indoors. Use individual pots. I recommend to use paper pots (I sell next generation paper pot maker for the lowest price on the Web) as they can be planted directly in the garden with minimal transplant shock. Plant watermelons outside after the last frost. Please note: watermelons are very susceptible to frost damage and even a small frost can kill them.
Before planting watermelons outside you have to prepare place and soil. They require a sunny location, a lot of compost, leaves or manure, well drained soil and protection from cold winds. Add some more compost if heavy rain occurs. Watermelons requires a lot of water. The soil has to be moist at all times.
Plant watermelons in a rows or hills leaving some space between the seedlings.
Watermelons should be ready to pick up about 35-40 days after they are in full bloom. You can tap on the fruit, and listen for a dull thump just to double check.
Growing Thyme is very easy but before writing about that I would like to say a couple of words about propagation of Thyme.
It can be done by seed, from cuttings and by root division. The speedy way is to grow from root division, the longest – to grow from garden seeds.
Soil condition and requirements for growing Thyme
Thyme is not fussy, it grows by itself and you don’t need to take care of that plant. Thyme likes dry, lean soil and sunny locations as it is Mediterranean herb. You can plant it indoors in container, in the pot or outside.
Growing Thyme using root division
You should divide roots of 3-4 years old Thyme plants in April. To do that, dig up the plant, clear away soil and carefully tear the plant into 3-4 pieces. Then plant them in the ground in the area you want. At the beginning of July they should be ready for harvesting. You should repeat this procedure every 2-3 years as Thyme becomes woody by time.
Growing Thyme using seeds
Thyme has to be sown in the middle of Spring (in March) indoors our in the green house first with temperature of 60F (16C). Cover seeds with a very thin layer of potting compost. Move Thyme plants outside when the danger of frost is over and plant them in the chosen area of your garden. Place them at about 12 inches (30cm) away from each other as they will spread later.
As I promised on Saturday, today I am going to write how my home garden is going.
You can see the photostream from Flikr below. The cucumbers are growing very well – one of the plants is about a meter high. There are some small cucumbers already. We still can not put them on the balcony as the weather is still cold during the nights. The average temperatures for cucumbers should be about 70 degrees Fahrenheit otherwise they may die. I hope that the weather becomes warmer after a week or two. As you can see on the photos – yellow string beans are fine too. My wife planted them just for fun but I am sure there will be enough beans for a big salad portion by the end of the season 😀
The dill is growing a bit slow but yesterday I’ve already had salad with our own dill so I am satisfied with that too.
Tomatoes… It’s hard for me to write about them as my granny has ruined my dreams yesterday. She promised to give me two tomato plants and even showed them to me. I was so glad as she grows very nice sort that bear vegetables till the late Autumn. But when I visited her yesterday she said she thought I’ve changed my mind and therefore she planted them in her garden. 😐 Well… Never mind. At least she told me I’ll get some tomatoes. And we still have six cherry tomato plants 😉 I’ve got some herbs, strawberries and even a lemon tree on the photos. I will write about them shortly. I wish you all the best in your gardens for now! Read the rest of this entry »
Many people today are interested in growing tomatoes in pots. It is very simple way to get nice fresh tomatoes on your table. If you want to grow tomatoes in pots you don’t need a lot of space. Just a few square inches for the pot. Big sorts of tomatoes need 5-gallon pot and cherry tomatoes will grow fine in a small hanging baskets. You need to find pot with a good drainage.
Ok, you have got a pot, what else? You need a good soil. I strongly recommend to use organic potting soil as it has all the nutrients etc. Also you can add some gravel in the bottom of the pot, and install a few stakes for support when you plant.
If you want to grow tomatoes in pots you need to plant them deep leaving only the top two-three sets of leaves above the soil. Don’t worry, the plant will not die – the part of the stem that is buried will sprout roots and it will help to support the tomatoe plant.
Growing tomatoes in pots requires two things: furtulizing and watering.
I recomend you to use special soil moister. Put just a little bit in the soil and mix it. Don’t add a big ammount as soil moister gets bigger after watering.
If you have a small baby in the house you can put one or two baby diapers at the bottom of the pot. It will do exactly the same job as a soil moister.
If you don’t add soil moister or baby diapers you’ll have to water your plants daily as tomatoes like wet soil.
That’s all about growing tomatoes in pots, really. I hope you’ll enjoy this easy method!
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