Backyard Organic Gardening

June 20th, 2012 | Lucinda Moeller | Comments Off on Backyard Organic Gardening

In honor of the Summer Solstice, I would like to share some gardening tips. I started my first organic garden fifteen years ago after receiving a gift subscription to Rodale’s Organic Gardening magazine. I’d received the subscription for my birthday in December and spent all that winter planning and dreaming about what I would plant in the Spring. Some things worked out really well (tomatoes) and some things not-so-well (corn). Fifteen organic gardens later, here are a few lessons learned that I would like to share.

Raised beds make everything easier. You will never have to worry about poor drainage. Your soil will warm up quicker and make your plants grow faster and stronger. The raised beds keep you from walking on the soil and compacting it, making for looser and more aerated soil. Also, due to the small, defined space, it is easier to deal with weeding one small bed per day, rather than looking out at an entire garden full of weeds and getting overwhelmed by the task. Due to the fact that they are above the height of the surrounding vegetation, they also tend to get far fewer weeds to begin with.

Some things will not grow well in your space. Are you short on sun? You will probably have good luck with root crops and possibly berry briars, but tomatoes are not likely to do well. Most vegetable crops require at least six hours of sun per day. Carefully take into account how much sun your space receives and your soil type before planning what to plant. Also remember that not everything will grow well in your area. Here in the mountains of North Carolina, blueberries will grow really well – oranges will not. Keep in mind the zone charts while planning your garden. Try to stick with plants that are native or well suited to your area.

Some things are just not worth growing in a small space. My garden is teeny tiny – this means that I can’t grow a whole lot of anything, so whatever I do grow needs to be worth the space it takes up. For me that means a Spring garden made up of sugar snap peas and fancy greens. For the Summer it means lots of tomatoes, peppers, basil and herbs. These items are pricey to purchase and I tend to use a lot of them in cooking. Although potatoes would grow well, they take up a lot of space and are relatively cheap to purchase at the grocery store. I would love to grow pumpkins, but they just take up way too much space for the amount of food the vines produce.

Container gardens can be incredibly productive. If you live in an apartment or condo without a yard, your balcony or patio can be set up with a variety of containers to grow your herbs and veggies. Tomatoes, peppers, radishes, greens, onions and all kinds of herbs grow very well in containers. Even if you have a dedicated garden space, you may want to grow some herbs in a pot near the kitchen door for quick culinary use. I’ve got strawberries growing in a pot on my porch with a gardenia bush (see the photo below.) This article details a brilliant method for growing crops in plastic bins. Here is a link to the plans for making the container gardens. If you would like some inspiration, check out Rodale’s Organic Gardening magazine. Some pictures of my garden are up top and below.  Good luck with your own crops this year!