Monthly Archives: November 2016

Planning Your Garden Year After Year

DCF 1.0

Humans tend to be creatures of habit – I know I am. So when I first started vegetable gardening, my instinct was to find a spot for my tomatoes and then plant them there year after year. However, as I later learned, this was not good for my garden. Diversity is what a garden needs – the systematic rotation of plants from different families. There is a technical term for this: “crop rotation”.

Crop rotation in a home vegetable garden requires planning the location of each planting to ensure you are not planting a vegetable from the same family of vegetables in the same location in a three year cycle. Crop rotation is an important part of an organic gardening strategy, helping gardeners:

* Protect against pests and diseases
Vegetables in the same plant family are often susceptible to the same pests and diseases; crop rotation helps protect vegetables by making the location less hospitable to these organisms. By introducing a vegetable in a different family, the pests and diseases die off due to lack of a food source.

* Guard against nutrient depletion
Vegetables in different families have different nutrient requirements. By rotating plant families, you are less likely to deplete the soil of individual nutrients. Some vegetables (like beans and peas), actually add nitrogen to the soil. So rotating beans and peas with vegetables that require a lot of nitrogen can be an effective strategy for protecting soil fertility.

* Improve soil structure
Healthy soil contains a lot of organic material which is home to a host of beneficial microbes. These microbes play an important role in maintaining good soil structure, making it easier for vegetables to grow as roots have an easier time penetrating the soil. Crop rotation protects these microbes by helping the soil retain its organic matter.

To be successful with a crop rotation program, gardeners need to keep records from year to year in order to track the location of each planting within the vegetable garden. Without detailed records, it would be difficult to manage a crop rotation program. For those who do not enjoy record keeping, you can use a garden planner application which handles the tracking for you and places plants in the optimal location considering crop rotation requirements.

How to Decide on the Layout of a Vegetable Garden

17If you’d like to have fresh vegetables this year, you most likely have been thinking about the layout of your vegetable garden. It’s true you could choose to go the traditional route with its tidy rows, but you don’t have to be limited to only this system.

Let your imagination go and be extremely creative. Some options are raised bed gardens and container gardens. You even could go all out and substitute vegetables in a flower style garden.

Some green thumbs have recently been putting vegetables in their flower gardens, and vice-versa. Roses, violets, and a variety of other flower blossoms are not only edible, but quite tasty too. It’s a good idea to mix flowers and vegetables for another reason: the mix is great for your soil. Since different plant varieties use and put back different nutrients in the soil, when you mix the plants up a bit it helps to maintain the general balance of your soil for the next growing season.

Standard Configuration

The more conventional vegetable garden plan starts with rows. Individual rows are devoted to specific vegetables. A good rule of thumb is to lay out the rows from north to south, if possible. This orientation assures that your plants get the most sunlight possible. It is a good idea to till the ground and make an area that is level so that you can reach in to care for the plants and weed as necessary. If your garden is going to be big you might want to think about putting in walkways. Walkways will help keep you from stepping on plants while you work in the garden. If your garden will be built on a slope, be sure to have the rows cross the slope rather than run up and down it. Your seeds will be protected from washing away and the plant root growth will be more stabilized.

A vital issue for conventional vegetable gardens is to look into the amount of space your seedlings need to grow. The damp spring weather can encourage many different molds, mildew, and fungus to grow. Plants that are too tightly clumped together have a greater chance of transferring diseases to each other. And bugs can easily infest and spread quickly in confined spaces.

Go Above Ground

You might think about setting up your vegetable garden rather than laying down your garden. A fantastic substitute to the conventional rows in the dirt is a raised bed vegetable garden. A raised bed garden is planted in blocks above the dirt. Planting up saves space, gives you better control over your plants, and saves your knees and back. You have the basic foundation for a raised bed with a couple of cinder blocks, or an old timber, or even some old bricks.

A four-square garden is an above ground garden that’s divided into 4 areas with a nice centerpiece like a statue or tree.

Soil depth of 12″ is ideal for a raised bed garden. The soil warms up quicker in a raised bed system, which will kick off your garden earlier.

Add Some Style

The Kitchen Garden is the perfect garden for those who want more visual appeal. A Kitchen Garden mixes herbs and vegetables in a small garden that usually sits close to the kitchen. What makes this type of garden more appealing to the eye is design. Usually they are laid out in geometric patterns with stone or brick paths running through them. Sometimes Kitchen Gardens will be surrounded by hedges that are very well maintained. Picture a backdrop of lattice covered with beans and peas. In front are some fancy lettuce with their bright red hues and maybe a little curly parsley. Maybe add a few flowers, marigolds to keep the bugs away. That is a unique eye appealing garden that doesn’t lose its functionality.

Even More Option

The beauty of laying out your vegetable garden is that there are numerous options. When you’re dreaming of your layout think about your lifestyle, the space you have available for your garden, how much time you can devote to putting in the garden and then maintaining it. It’s perfectly fine to have an asymmetrical garden that conforms to your space. The beauty of the asymmetrical garden is there are no rules.

Final Advice

Keep a gardeners journal, recording things like how you fixed pest problems and germinating schedules. Your garden diary will be a help for you every year, who knows it may become a memento for your family. Regardless of which type of vegetable garden you choose to build, keep a drawing or blueprint of it in your journal. It’s true that your perennials will be left in the same spot year after year, of course, but you should rotate your annuals to keep the soil healthy and recharge the nutrients in the ground. It’ll take some experience to learn everything you need to in order to care for your garden, so be patient.

7 Organic Vegetable Garden Benefits

16Spent mushroom compost, also know as “spent mushroom substrate” or “mushroom soil,” is fast growing in popularity for organic soil amending. Crops thrive with 7 organic vegetable garden benefits of mushroom compost. Generally containing coconut hulls, hay, corn cobs, cottonseed meal, poultry manure and straw horse bedding, the pure compost is dark, rich and odorless.

1) Completely recycled
This compost is the discarded after mushrooms have grown in it. Fresh compost can only be used once to grow mushrooms, so the used or spent compost must be disposed of. One excellent way to recycle these “leftovers” is to nourish your vegetable garden. Considered a renewable alternative to peat moss, recycled compost can also help save the peat bogs’ delicate ecological balance.

2) Adds organic matter to the soil
Just like regular organic garden compost, microbial activity is created as it breaks down, creating humus. Excellent at breaking up clay soil, amend generously in your soil to create a rich loamy texture. Remember that all organics continue to break down. After a few months you may need to add a top layer to container plants. A 3 to 6 inch outdoor application is expected to last 2 to 5 years.

3) Drought resistant
Compost conserves moisture to plants by increasing the capacity to hold water, while aerating the soil at the same time. The fungal activity of previous mushroom growing creates a moist barrier against drought and searing heat. This is excellent for vegetable gardens by improving soil structure and saving water costs, especial in arid zones.

4) Controls Garden Pests
Mushroom compost is organic matter that creates good microbial action. Beneficial microbes in turn encourage beneficial insects, earth worm activity and discourage diseases. All these natural controls help gardeners avoid the use of potentially dangerous garden chemicals that can harm our earth and threaten our family and pet health.

5) Fast growing plants and vegetables
Research shows beneficial fungus or mycorrhizae work with plants to produce synergistic energy that results in rapid growth. Since spent mushroom compost used to host mushrooms, it is full of this good fungus and reports abound about fantastic plant growth. Naturally low in nitrogen, mushroom compost does not encourage over leafy growth, making it ideal for flower bearing plants like vegetables.

6) Weed free
Mushrooms must be grown in medium that has been sterilized and composted, so the left over compost is weed and plant pathogen free. This makes perfect mulch for vegetable and flower gardens, trees, shrubs and top dressings for existing lawns. With this compost you can be confident you are not bringing in unwanted weed seeds to compete with your plants.

7) Pleasant smelling
Properly made and stored, this compost does not smell bad. In fact, it has an almost sweet smell when fresh. Even that odor quickly dissipates once put in the ground. A refreshing relief for gardeners every where who may be used to cow or poultry manures as organic fertilizer. No longer will your neighbors shoot you dirty looks for growing organic. If spent mushroom compost has a foul odor, don’t use it unless you re-compost.

Three Advantages of Having Your Own Organic Vegetable Garden

15Having your own organic vegetable garden has many wonderful advantages to it. The number one advantage of having your own vegetable garden is the enhanced flavor your produce will have.

Your own home-grown organic vegetables will taste so much better than the commercially grown vegetables sold at the grocery store. Taste-test a vegetable you’ve bought that was commercially grown and one from your own organic garden and you will notice the difference immediately. Everyone who has their own garden remarks on how much more flavorful their own home-grown vegetables are.

The second advantage of growing your own organic vegetables is saving money on your food costs.

Imagine not having to buy any vegetables at the grocery store. You can make delicious vegetable soups, all with vegetables from your own garden, make a salad, or pick a tomato to put on a sandwich. Want a tomato and cucumber salad? Instead of driving to the grocery store, just pick some ripe tomatoes and cucumbers from your own garden.

Growing your own vegetables will save you money not just on the produce itself but on the gas you use to get to the store! Gardening organically also costs less as there is no need to buy chemical products to help protect or grow your vegetables.

The third advantage to having your own organic vegetable garden are all the health benefits associated with not just eating organic produce but the exercise you will be getting growing it.

To some people, it may sound like a lot of work, but gardening organically can be a fun and rewarding experience that allows you to enjoy fresh air, exercise and a healthier diet. It’s an activity that rewards you with delicious, healthy, and cheap food to eat. There is something pretty incredible about taking a seed and watching it sprout up from a baby plant, to a big plant that produces delicious foods to pick.

Anyone can learn how to grow an organic vegetable garden and supply their own food. If you also learn how to can food, then you can save on your grocery bill all year long!

What Problems Does a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Solve?

14Many people have questions about how to grow your own vegetables. They have heard about different types of garden designs and are looking to find a source that will help them getting started with raising vegetables without a lot of trouble.

One question you might ask is What Problems Do a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden Solve? Take a look at some of the common problems gardeners face and what solutions having this type can solve.

4 Common Vegetable Gardening Problems

Those who want to grow their own vegetables are often faced with 4 common problems when it comes to getting a vegetable garden started. These include:

1. Problems of Space

2. Problems with Poor Soil

3. Problems with Drainage

4. Problems with Accessibility

Solutions for the Problems

Now that we know the 4 main problems vegetable gardeners have to contend with, let’s see how we can solve each of them. The challenge of growing vegetables for those who must deal with these kinds of struggles can be summed up by considering creating a raised bed vegetable garden.

• Problems of Space – Many people live in subdivisions or city blocks both that tend to have limited yard space. You can grow enough vegetables for home use in a garden that is raised above ground by utilizing only a small amount of room. A garden bed that is two feet by ten feet will produce an ample amount of vegetables for your family.

• Problems with Poor Soil – There are a lot of areas that have too much sand or clay and those that have not enough or too many natural soil nutrients like alkaline for vegetables to grow well. With a raised bed vegetable garden your plants are above ground level and you choose the mixture of soil that the bed is filled with. This way you can add organic growing materials along with other soil mixtures.

• Problems with Drainage – Some yards just do not drain well. Trying to grow your own vegetables in soil that does not drain properly can deprive your plants of oxygen which is vital to their existence. Poor drainage can also lead to the development of diseases that can invade your plants because of the overly wet soil. Having a raised bed garden can eliminate this problem because the vegetables are well above ground level with proper drainage outlets as you build the bed.

• Problems with Accessibility – For some people accessibility to the plants they are growing can be a problem. Raised bed gardens can be made totally off the ground on pedestals so that the height of the bed can accommodate not having to bend or kneel as a traditional garden would require. This method could help those with physical disabilities who want to grow vegetables but were not able to before because now they can access their plants. You also are not required to walk through rows in this type of garden design so tending and harvesting your crops would just be a reach away.

These are only a few of the problems that a Raised Bed Vegetable Garden can solve. This garden design is growing is popularity with a number of gardening enthusiasts. Growing your own vegetables is an economically sound measure and a healthy activity to become involved in. Now that you know the problems that can be solved by a vegetable garden bed that is raised isn’t about time for you to join in on the act?