Monthly Archives: November 2011

Seed Catalogs

I don’t know about you, but I have started to receive seed catalogs already.  It seems that the seed companies are sending out their catalogs earlier every year.  They must be like the retailers who try to push the Christmas season earlier all the time.

While we are on the subject of seed catalogs, what are you looking for when you buy seeds?  I have gotten to the place where I am leaning more and more to the non-GMO, non-hybrid seeds.  Sometimes I get the organic, but not always.  It is still hard to find everything I want that is raised organically.

The seeds shown in the photo are golden bell pepper seeds.  I raised those organically.  Raising your own seeds is another program by itself.  There are a wide variety of methods that must be followed for different seeds.  It really is fascinating if you want to get in it.

If you are interested in raising food free of GMO genetics (genetically modified organism) you had best beware.  The seed companies may not tell you which seeds are GMO and which are not.  It is left up to you to try to figure that out for yourself.  That’s why I use so many heritage seeds.

Plus, if you raise a plant that is an heirloom open pollinated type you can save your own seed.  Saving seed is a fun thing to do and can be very helpful in your gardening.

If you save your own seeds and select for the best producers every year you will soon have a plant with the best genetics for your local and soil.  Then you will be producing the best you can for your area. 

When you purchase seeds from a seed company you do not know where the seed actually comes from.  Companies have growers all over the country raising their seeds to spread the risk of a crop failure.  So, you may order from a company in Oregon and the seeds actually come from Florida.  Well, maybe not quite that bad.  We will get more into saving seeds later.

It is always a joy to start receiving the new catalogs each winter.  I like to see what is new and it gets me thinking about the coming spring.  There is nothing better to do on a snowy winter day that to sat by the fire and plan the summer harvest with your colorful new seed catalogs.

Enjoy your winter and think spring.

Happy gardening,

Steve

Organic Gardening Fertilizer

New organic gardeners, sometimes, think that fertilicer for their organic garden is much the same as their conventional garden, just run to the garden center and get a bag of organic fertilizer.  There is a little more to organic gardening than opening a different bag.

To figure out what is the best for you we will look at two ways of getting the proper nutrition for you plants.  We will look at purchased organic fertilizer and compost you can make at home.

Organic fertilizer in a bag

You can buy fertilizer for your garden that is an organic fertilizer, rather than a chemical fertilizer.  The difference is, of course, the organic fertilizer has been produced out of organic matter and without chemicals.

If your only interest is to grow tasty vegetables in your garden then an organic fertilizer in a bag might be a good alternative for you.  If you want to grow the healthiest produce for your family, then this is not the best route to take.

Why, you ask?  Good question.  First, you are relying on someone else for the most important part of your life, what you put into your body.  You may have learned that not all things in life are as they seem.  This is true with a bag of fertilizer as with other things we encounter.

Recently, a manufacturer of organic fertilizer in California was busted for putting chemicals in his product.  People who wanted to grow their food without chemicals trusted this company for the nutrients their food needed and they were being deceived.

Secondly, you get more plant food from compost, if you balance your compost in the pile.  To be fair, you do get an analysis of what’s in the bag and, unless you test your compost, you do not know for sure what’s in the compost.

Compost

Compost is something you can make at home and will cost you little, but some good exercise.  Compost has been used for centuries by people who rely on their garden to feed them for the whole year.  So, this in not just a new idea, it has been perfected through out the ages.

I remember my grandfather used the manure and bedding from the dairy barn on the garden in the spring before plowing.  He always raised great tasting veggies.  And, he canned enough to get him through the winter, until he could plant a new crop.

Compost is made by gathering different organic materials that will decay and add nutrients to the compost that the plants need.  You can vary the content of the compost by varying the materials used to build a compost pile.

The compost pile is made up of the stuff you have around the home.  You can use the vegetable trimmings, which you now throw out, to make fertilizer for your next vegetable crop.

To make your compost pile the right mixture you need to add brown and green stuff.  The brown stuff can be anything that has dried out, like leaves in the fall, straw, weeds you have cut and have dried, newspaper, cardboard, anything that is dry and organic.

Your green stuff can be the garbage from the house, lawn clippings, alfalfa hay, a green crop that you raise, the list is endless.

All these different materials bring a different combination of proteins, minerals and other nutrients.  Added together they provide the plant they are placed around the food that it needs to grow properly and provide you with the food that you need.

Your decision on what type of organic garden fertilizer to use is up to you.  The above guideline will help you make the right decision.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

True Organic Gardening

Some people think that organic gardening is just gardening without chemicals.  That's true, but that is not the whole story.

Growing food organically is as much a way of living your life as it is a method of producing food.  It is a desire to live without putting chemicals in your body from many different sources.  It is realizing that something is wrong with our present method of feeding our society.  It is feeling the connection between plants, animals, insects, all that make up this planet and us, living in a harmony and balance with the soil that gives life to all things.

This discussion is much to broad for a short article, so we will just touch on a few points.  It is my hope that you will be motivated to dig deeper into the whys of feeding your family with organic foods.

Chemicals

The amount of chemicals in this world is staggering.  It was estimated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service that 22 million tons of chemical fertilizer was used by American farmers in 2005 alone.  That does not include all the gardens, yards, golf courses, etc. that pour on the fertilizer.  And, that is just one chemical substance we must deal with in our environment.

A study was done on people who lived in the state of Washington.  The researcher found at least 26 toxic chemicals in every person tested and many more in some.  You can find out more on the study by going to <a href="http:// www.pollutioninpeople.org">www.pollutioninpeople.org</a>.  And, Washington is not the only place that has chemicals.

Our food system is failing

Our present system of shipping our food all over the country, and sometimes, all over the globe is failing.  Transportation costs are rising.  It is impossible to check each shipment for the quality of the food.  The government gives all kinds of slack to the large corporations that provide food to your local grocery.

Label on the food stuff you purchase must be carefully read.  The motto is buyer beware.  You are responsible for what you eat.  It is up to you to provide the quality of food you desire, not the large corporation or the government.  Neither has your best interest at heart.

Where’s the peace

Stress is such a big topic today.  It is blamed for the majority of our diseases.  There are many factors that are involved in the cause of stress, but, I think, one of the biggest is our lost of connection with the environment.  We do not get our hands dirty anymore.  The majority of people living in the US have little, or no, connection with their food.

We were built to be hunter, gatherers.  Our being desires to live with nature and we do not get a chance to do that for a lot of reasons.  Until we can recapture that connection our peace will continue to suffer.

Organic gardening

Raising our own food organically, getting our hands in the dirt, can solve a lot of problems we have in our society.  I hope the above article stimulates you to “dig” into the problems we have with our food and health.

Great gardening,

Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside. 

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

Basics Of Organic Gardening

Thinking about getting into gardening, or have you been gardening conventionally and have wondered about gardening organically?  Let me give you a short description of gardening with organic methods.

We have a lot of ground, so to speak, to cover to get you started.  In this short space we will talk about compost, soil preparation, grow or buy plants, organic seeds and mulch.  It looks like a lot of work, but it really isn’t and it doesn’t happen all at once, thankfully.

Compost

If you are planning to garden organically you will want to get your compost pile started.  There have been several books written about building compost, there is no way we can even cover a small part of what you will want to know.  This will be your fertilizer from now on.

A quick tip is to just start putting anything that is, or was, growing into the pile.  This can be trimmings from your kitchen vegetables, grass trimmings, leaves, newspaper, cardboard boxes, just about anything.  Just do not put any meat scraps into your compost pile, for several reasons.

Prepare your soil

If you are just starting, it is best to kill all the weeds and grass from the plot planned for your garden.  You can do this by smothering them out with newspaper, leaves, cardboard, old carpet, anything that will not let any light hit the ground.

Till the soil with a shovel, fork or a rototiller, do not work the soil until it has dried enough to not make clods.  

Should you buy or grow plants

If you want to stay strictly organic I recommend you grow your own plants.  Plants raised by a nursery have chemical fertilizers poured on them.  So, it is best to buy your seed and start your own.

Organic seed

Since we are talking about seed, should you only use organic seed?  You can find most varieties of garden seeds, which are organic, from seed companies that carry them.  To stay totally organic you will want to start with organic seed.

Mulch

One of the best tricks to growing organically is to use a lot of mulch.  Again, you can use just about anything that will decompose as mulch.  Just watch out for things that have chemicals in them.  

Mulching will make your job a lot easier, as you will have a lot less weeds to pull and you will save water.

You should now know how to build an organic garden.  Just follow the steps.  Get started composting, prepare the soil, grow or buy your plants, use organic seed and mulch the garden.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

Should You Be Interested In Organic Gardening

You hear a lot about organic foods today, should you be interested in finding out more about organic gardening?  Below we will discuss the differences in organic foods and conventional foods.

Organic food is produced without the use of chemicals in growing the food.  Man learned that he could take a shortcut on Mother Nature by using chemicals to raise food faster.  But, you can’t fool Mother Nature.

You can purchase organic food from the grocery, but a lot of that is grown in another country and shipped to us.  If you are purchasing organic food it is best to go to a farmers market or directly to an organic grower.

The economy

All you hear about on the news is how the economy is doing.  One of the areas that is being hit by inflation is our food.  If you have noticed not only is the price of food going up, but the manufactures are packaging the food in smaller packaging and raising the price.  That is a double whammy.

If your food is in the back yard and the freezer, it doesn’t matter what everyone is paying for their food, or where it comes from.

Transporting our food

Our food racks up more miles that we ever will, and much of our food now comes from several different countries.  Not only is it expensive to ship the food you have no way of knowing how the food was produced.  The US does not have the manpower to check every shipment of food that enters the country.  All they have to do is stick a label on it and ship.

It looks like the day is coming when we will not be able to afford to ship in all the food stuffs like we do now.  There could be a very chaotic time and create an unreliable food supply.  It is best to be prepared and raise you own food for your family.

Seed companies

The large seed companies are fighting to get control of the seed supply and when one of them does they will decide who gets to eat and who doesn’t.  One of the large companies already has a 27 percent control over field seeds and is eyeing the garden market.  The time to prepare is now.

Eat healthy and have fun

Consider organic gardening for your family’s food supply.  Healthy gardening gives you healthy food for yourself and your children.  If you haven’t tried gardening before, or if you tried and did not know exactly how to do it and failed, it is time to get your hands in the dirt.  If you do organic gardening right it is a fun hobby that is also money saving and healthy.

It is my hope that this article on organic gardening and farming will give you the boost you need to look into where your food is produced and how it is produced.  You can grow most, or all, the food you need in your own yard.  If you don’t have a yard you can still raise a lot of produce on your balcony or visit your local farmers market.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

3 Organic Gardening Tips

Gardening organically is a little different from a conventional garden.  Following are three tips to get your organic garden started right.

The 3 steps are to prepare the soil, feed the soil and plant the seeds on time.  Gardening is really a simple process, but doing each step correctly will increase your harvest.

Soil

You should start working the soil as soon as the weather permits.  For some crops, like peas, you must prepare the fall before so you can get the peas in the ground while it is still cool.  Till with a rototiller or turn the soil over with a spade or fork.  If you till with a spade or fork you may have clods, if the ground was hard clay or too moist at the time of working the soil.  Just let it sit for a few rains and it will loosen the clods.

One way to trick the weeds is to till the soil then wait until the weeds stick their heads up and give a very light tilling just below the surface to kill the new sprouts.

Compost

I like to spread a layer of compost, about 1 inch thick, over the area that I will be putting the plants or seeds into.  For heavy feeders, like tomatoes, dig a large hole, put in a spade full of compost and mix with the surrounding soil.  Wet the soil and place the plant in the ground.  

Pull the soil up around the plant so that it is held firmly in place by the soil.  After firming the soil around the plant soak the soil with a hose or bucket.  We want to get the air from around the plant roots.

Every seed has it’s time

Be sure to check your seed packet for the amount of time it takes for the seed to germinate.  Then check the last expected frost date for your area, if you have frost.  Now, plant the seeds so that the plant will come up after the last frost date.  Note, the cabbage and broccoli family, as well as, lettuce and several other vegetables can stand light frost and can be planted early.

Having prepared your garden correctly by tilling, feeding the soil and planting on time will make your garden fun, as well as, productive.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

Great Cauliflower From My Organic Garden

I just have to brag a little.  Never before has the cauliflower grown like it had this year, as evidenced in the picture.  But, this year the garden was not planted until the Fourth of July weekend.  I hurt my back in November of last year and barely recovered enough to plant a garden by July, and then it wasn’t easy.

In years past the cauliflower was planted in the spring when the plants were available, but this year I knew I was not going to be able to get them in the ground, so I planted cauliflower seeds and grew my own sets.

As a result, the cauliflower and broccoli were just harvested.  I guess the cooler fall weather helped them form better heads. They were planted the same way as usual, with just compost and then covered with a row cover to keep the cabbage worm away. Whatever, I am going to be enjoying good garden raised organic cauliflower most of the winter.

Next year I plan to spread my plantings, and thus harvest, out over the year.  More details on how I plan to do that later.

Great gardening,

Steve

Buying Organic Garden Plants

As an organic gardener should you buy plants from a garden store?  You have no way to know how those plants were raised and what was poured on them to get them to grow.

We will take a look at the difference between the conventional vegetable plants grown for the local nursery and purely organic plants and where to find them.

The every day plants you will find at the nursery have been grown with lots of chemicals.  They are spoon fed chemical fertilizer to keep them looking good for the customer.  If you are gardening organically you must decide if that is an option for you.

Most people in our culture have not considered the fact that tons of chemicals are dumped on our food every day.  The nursery that grows garden plants only for profit want to make as much as fast as possible and using chemicals are how they think is the best way to do that.

Using chemicals cut a lot of labor and that is a big cost for them.  So, to the large company that is worth the use of chemicals and do not even consider any options.  Plus, the average consumer does not ask for organic plants, because they are going home and pouring chemicals on the plants to get them to grow in their own garden.  You can’t really blame the companies giving the customer what they want.

As an organic gardener you may feel like you do not want to use plants started with chemicals.  You do have other ways of getting good quality organic plants, here are a couple of ways to do that.

I garden organically, and do buy some plants from the nursery when I lose some plants or see something new I want to try that they have.  I don’t want to make that a full-time practice and if necessary I could do without the chemical grown plants.

You have the option to start your own plants before spring in a south facing window, under grow lights, or as I often do, start them in a cold frame.  I really like sowing my own seeds so that I can get the varieties that I want, and I can stagger the plantings out over the growing seasons.  The nursery usually only has plants available during the spring rush.

Another option is to look in the better garden catalogs for organic vegetable plants.  They usually do not have much of a variety and they are pricey, but that is another way you can go.

To get serious about going organic and you want organic plants, you will have to do it yourself, just like most things in life.  This article should help decide where you are with your organic gardening and what to do about your organic garden plants.

Great gardening,
Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

Basic Organic Gardening

Has the idea of having your own great tasting organic food been on your mind?  well, now it is time to get off your couch and get your hands dirty.

There are many reasons to grow your food organically.  The biggest reason is the health of your family.  That alone should be reason enough.  Would you pour chemicals on your cereal in the morning?  Of course not!  Then why would you want to put chemicals in the form of fertilizer, insecticides and herbicides on your green beans?

So, the question is how do you get started with organic gardening?  There are a lot of things to consider.  First, and maybe the most important, is the size of garden space you have to work with.  Then, consider the location and how you are going to build your soil fertility.

What size is your garden?

It really does not matter how much area you have.  I have known of people who garden in an apartment window.  So, you have not excuse, just pick your area and let’s get going.

For our purpose here we will say you have some space in your yard that you can put a small garden.  I recommend you start out small and grow as your garden does.  Gardening is a learning process just like anything else.

Where will you locate your garden?

A garden has to have sun.  The amount of sun that reaches your plot throughout the will determine how well your garden grows.  You can grow vegetables in varying amounts of light, but results will vary too.  So, try to pick an area that has full sun for best results.

It is best to stay out of low areas where water will collect.  If plants constantly have their feet wet they do not do well.  We can work with a location like this, but it is a little more difficult, and not near as much fun.

Building soil fertility

Since we are not using a bag of chemical fertilizer we need to find an alternative.  If your goal is the same as mine, to raise the best tasting, most healthy food, then I suggest you go totally with compost as your veggie food.

Using compost means you must maintain a compost pile.  That is really not as difficult as it may sound.  In fact, building a compost pile can be a project of its own.

You make compost out of stuff you normally want to get rid of, so making compost can actually save you money.  A compost pile should be made from a combination of green stuff and dry stuff.  

The green stuff can be grass clippings, weeds from the garden, house hold scraps, etc.  The dry stuff can be leaves from your, or the neighbors, trees, a bale of straw, etc.  Compost is everywhere.  Once you get started you will be amazed at what you can compost, newspaper, cardboard, and even tree limbs will compost over time.

If you follow the above advice on organic gardening you will soon be dining on your own very tasty, and more importantly, healthy vegetables that you grew with your own hands.  So, get out there, pick your spot, lay out your very own garden area and build that compost pile.

Great gardening,

Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.

 

Soil Testing

You may have heard of soil testing and wonder if it is necessary for an organic garden.  A soil test from the right lab can be a good guide for how your garden is progressing and what you need to add to get the right balance of nutrients.

We need to determine if you need to test your soil, the proper way to take a soil test and what to do with the results if you are an organic gardener.

As an organic gardener you may be applying compost to your garden each season.  That is great and compost is good for the soil in a lot of different ways.  But, not all compost is the same.  Have you ever thought about having your compost tested for nutrient content?

You see, compost is made up of lots of different materials.  The compost is only as good as the materials that go into it and the method used to make the compost.

Over time you may be creating a shortage of some mineral or other substance, because it is lacking in one of the ingredients in your compost pile.  You have no way of knowing this unless you test the soil or compost, or both.

So, the answer is if you want to have a well balance garden to grow your healthy vegetables in you need to test the soil.

To take a sample of your soil to send to a soil analysis lab you simply need a clean bucket and shovel.  You tools must be clean to keep from contaminating your sample.

Take a slice of earth down to 5 or 6 inches deep from 3 or 4 places in your garden, enough to get a good sample of the soil.  Mix the slices together in the bucket and let dry.  Keep as much debris out of the sample as possible.

The testing lab will supply bags to send in your samples and directions on how to properly take a sample.  They will tell you to use a soil probe, but most people do not have one of those lying around, and a shovel will do the job just fine.

What to do with your sample.  Contact two or three soil testing labs in your area.  You can find those online.  Send your samples to each of the labs.  You will probably get two or three different results in return.

Why?  Each lab has their own way to do the testing and reading of the results.  That’s why I recommend using more than one lab.

When you get the results look over the recommendations.  Unless you find a lab that gives recommendations for organic gardening and farming the test results will talk about the amounts of chemical fertilizers to use.  Do not fear.

The results can be put to good use.  Use your common sense and see which nutrients are low or high.  From this you can decide how to correct the soil fertility organically.

I do recommend you test your soil and, if possible, your compost too.  Just follow the above steps and you can have a good balanced soil to grow your delicious organic vegetables for your family.

Great gardening,

Steve

Steve Wisley has been gardening organically for over a quarter of a century.  Gardening is a great way to, not only, grow great tasting, healthy, chemical free food that is good for your family, but gardening is reconnecting with your soul.  It is getting your hands in the stuff that life is based upon, and it can heal some of hurt you feel inside.  

Steve started this blog to guide others in starting and improving their organic garden to produce healthy, nutritious, great tasting food for their family.  Pick up your copy of the booklet “6 Easy Common Sense Tips To Ban Bugs From Your Garden Without Chemicals”.