Monday, May 27, 2013

What Makes a Garden Organic

It is one of the best reasons I know for gardening.  I like walking to my little plot of land and picking my own fresh crops.  It's even better because I know exactly what I am serving on my dinner table.  No unnecessary chemicals have touched the food that I will use in my favorite recipes.  It's a very simple choice to keep pesticides off of my harvest.  That's pretty reassuring to me.  But, exactly what qualifies as an Organic Gardening? 

Simply stated an Organic Garden will be a garden that is grown and produces without the use of harmful products such as fertilizers or pesticides. That is a fairly basic description when you stop to analyze exactly how to obtain the most productive garden and keep the weeds and the unwanted insects out.  I've touched on some simple ways to handle weeds in A Better Way to Eliminate Weeds.  I've also addressed those pesky insects in More Pests to Eliminate.  I do go on an on about my belief in the benefits of Compost.  That's just a brush on the canvas though.  It takes a little more to qualify a truly Organic Garden.

Organic Gardens first start with the right soil.  If you have previously treated with chemicals you will need to let the soil regenerate for a few years. Integrate the dirt with plenty of compost to help remove any unwanted interference.  You can continue to plant and the benefits will be rewarding.  You will be unable to call your produce fully organic until all signs of past chemical interaction has phased out.  Having your soils tested at the local extension offices will confirm that your efforts have been rewarded.  May of these agencies, or even 4-H clubs will offer this service to you for free.

Once you have realized your choice to garden more naturally you will need to start with organic seeds.  Many seed companies offer an organically grown product.  I like to reseed my own crops year after year.  It's a simple thing to do so be sure to read How Do You Seed?  It's the only way I'm completely sure I know what I'm getting.  Even if you are still in the process of conditioning the soil begin using organic seeds as soon as you decide on organically grown vegetables.

Be sure to observe the environment around you.  Unless you are fairly secluded you may find yourself with unwanted interference. Are your neighbors busy spraying there grounds and tossing heavy loads of fertilizer to get that "perfect" lawn?  These practices can hinder your efforts.  Chances are you can't convince them to stop using fertilizer, so be sure to place your garden in an area far enough away from the neighbor to avoid the run off.  On the other hand maybe you can sell them on the healthy benefits, and cost saving remedies toward a more organic environment.

It will take effort and time to create a truly Organic Garden.  It's a smart choice worth the achievement.  Keep the garden maintained with the proper products and you won't be disappointed.  Visit your garden every day.  Be attentive to it's needs and don't hesitate to take action if something doesn't appear to be working.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Ready for the Root Vegi's

My potato plant before the blooms
 I have always wondered if it is just Mother Natures way of being funny, or making sure we really pay attention.  I can walk out to my garden any day of the week and instantly know when most of my crops are ready to harvest.  I know when my tomatoes, green beans and peas need picking. So what's up with those darn root vegetables?  They are some of my favorites.  No garden would be truly complete without a few of these common staples.  Potatoes, Onions, Carrots, Beets, Turnips, Radishes and the list does go on.  Well, maybe mother nature wasn't so sneaky after all.

My potato plant with blooms

Root vegetables are commonly called because it is the root of the plant that is harvested.  The edible goods grow beneath the surface of the ground making it difficult to  know when to harvest crops. Another common tribute is there ability to grow and produce very well in sandy soil.

Freshly harvested White Potatoes
Take the most popular root vegetable, the potato for example.  A potato plant will take approximately 75 days to harvest.  Some shorter, some longer depending on the variety.  It will also depend on the size of potato you prefer. White Potatoes are the most common, one of the quickest to harvest and in my opinion the most flavorful.  Once the blossoms of the potato plant begin to dry out and drop off you will want to check the roots to see how big the potato is.  If the growth is not exactly what you prefer gently return the plant to the ground and cover with dirt.  Try again in about 7 to 10 days and your crop should be ready to harvest.  Potato crops are typically harvested in Spring and than again in Fall


Beets are not quite as predictable.  However beets are quite edible in any stage of growth.  The younger the beet the sweeter they are. Typically harvested in the fall months Beets will take 45 to 70 days to mature.  Once the stem (or upper leaf) of the plant begin to spread outward and turn the purplish color of the vegetable than you'll want to check on the beets progress. You will also notice the top of the beet nudging above ground. If they are a size you prefer, than enjoy.  If not than cover the plant with soil and let rest another week or so.  Turnips fall close within the same family and harvest in the same procedure.  Don't forget to take advantage of the tasty green leaves of both vegetables for salads and soups.

Carrots and Radishes share a common harvest. They will take approximately 45 to 60 days to harvest depending on the size you prefer.  The vegetable will begin to peek above the ground and you can see the top forming.  Even though the head of the crop may seem mature the body may not be as fully developed.  Gently remove one stem from the ground to determine it's readiness.  If it is not mature enough for you preference return to the soil and cover loosely with soil.  Check the same plant again in a week.   Most importantly you must immediately remove the stalk from the vegetation immediately.  The stalk will continue to draw moisture from your crop leaving it drained.

Another common root vegetable is the Onion.  Onions come in many varieties and sizes.  Whatever you prefer they can and should be harvested as soon as they are big enough.  Once the stalk grows tall, sturdy and a deep green the crop is ready.  It's best to allow the onion to grow into various stages and sizes.  That way you can keep the harvest going as long as possible.  Begin digging a few of the onions from the soil when it is still possible to cook with the green stalk.  Eventually the remaining onions will grow larger and the stalk tougher leaving it unusable.  Your onion harvest is complete once the green stalk appears to be dying.  This is the final sign from Mother Nature that the remaining onions must be removed from the ground.
Everyone has at least one root vegetable they enjoy eating.  Most gardener's will tell you they are the most challenging crops, but worth every bit of effort.  They are some of the most vitamin filled vegetables, stay fresh longer and are more versatile than say a tomato.  You get a good harvest and you simply can't go wrong.