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Gardening Essentials

Get the tools to get the job done this year.

The Organic Gardening staff goes over the essential tools that will save you time, money, and your back!

Whether you’re just getting started or you’re a savvy veteran of the soil, our feature on the gardening tools will give you some great gift ideas for that gardener on your list or something for yourself.

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Quick Tips

Organic Gardening’s expert grower Jane with crucial tips for your home & garden.

Most herbs need full sun and lots of warmth to thrive.  Depending on where you’re planting them you’re going to want at least 8 hours of full sun and soil temperatures that are warm enough to avoid a hard overnight freeze killing them at their growing point.
Depending on the time of the year this could be anything from a nitrogen deficiency to a lack of sunshine.  Low early season temperatures can slow the soil life down and exacerbate a nitrogen deficiency in your soil which will show up first in the old leaves of your plants.  New leaves will translocate the mobile nitrogen in your plant to assist the new growth leaving the old leaves to yellow
The popular, water soluble, fertilizer miracle-gro is not necessarily “bad” for your plants.  It is however a fertilizer salt and will cause the microbial life in your soil to dry out and die.  Without the appropriate levels of micro-life in your soil, your plants will experience greater disease pressure, need watering more often, and can possibly become deficient in particular micro-nutrients and less flavorful and aromatic.
Growing row crops and organic grains is not only easy, but it can be incredibly fun and rewarding.  Follow the instructions on your seed package and let the crop dry out a bit in the garden before harvesting — that will make it easier to store and you’ll experience less mold, and loss in general during the winter.
Depending on the size of your garden you should definitely work to setup a budget during the planning phases before you start building out.  If you’re already half-way into a project and didn’t setup a budget, don’t panic.  Just do you best to setup the costs you think you will incur, consult with a professional designer or local garden shop to validate your figures and don’t forget to include a design fee.
The answer is: plant what you love to eat!  Too many gardeners get caught up in planting what they think will grow the best in their particular region. But with some soil amendments, climate control devices and some tricks you can plant and grow almost anything.  But, make sure that what you’re growing is something that you’re going to thoroughly enjoy once it’s mature and ready for consumption!
The answer to this will depend on what part of the world your garden is located in, but in general, you want your soil to be filled with lots of organic material and a robust micro-life.  It should be the color of brewed coffee grounds, smell rich, clean and earthy, and be host to all kinds of microbial lifeforms and visible lifeforms like earthworms.
You can apply fertilizer throughout the season for your plants but perhaps the two most critical points are just before (or during) planting, and just before your plants start to go into their reproductive phase.  The reproductive phase is that in which your plant will grow its flowers and/or fruit (or vegetable).  Reproduction is an incredibly energy intensive process and the more nutrients the plant has on hand for this process the “sweeter the fruit” generally speaking.
A whole movement has started in something called “no-till” farming and gardening.  Tilling disturbs the soil and aerates and wakes up the microbial life your soil.  This perturbance can prematurely warm your soil and make it easier to plant earlier in the season, but the disturbance also severely damages the microbial life — like beneficial fungi that take longer to build their hyphae, and earthworms.
Although we can’t eat our flowers, flowers not only beautiful and nice to look at, they provide a food source for bees.  Bees need a source of sugar to live throughout the season.  If the bees raised near a monolithic crop then the bees will starve for a food source when that particular flower is not in bloom
Many herbs will start to flower as the days become shorter in length.  We consume the vegetative portion of the plant for many herbs that we eat.  If we wait until the plant starts to flower, the flavors will often change and become inedible as the plant starts to flower
The answer to this will depend.  If some of your seeds sprouted and some did not they it probably depends on the germination rate and age of the seed that was planted.  If none of your seeds sprouted we need to again look at the age of the seeds, or consider that they are still growing.  If possible, dig one of the germinating seeds up to inspect whether it’s begun germination but is delayed in emergence either due to cold weather or another environmental factor.
Heirloom seeds are able to be saved.  The saved heirloom seeds can be planted the following year.  In order to get the best results, save the seeds in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and moisture.  Hybrid seeds will terminate after one season.
Corn is easy and fun to grow.  If you’re going to grow corn, try to rotate or change the location in your garden you’ll grow it each year.  That gives the soil a chance to “rest” in between crops since corn is a voracious feeder of Nitrogen and also keeps some of the more aggressive pests like the corn borer guessing.
This will depend heavily on individual tastes. I happen to enjoy some of the more vivid heirloom varieties like the Cherokee purple.  Whatever variety is your favorite, make sure you setup your tomatoes to get plenty of sun and plan ahead for a big plant.  It’s hard to imagine how much space a mature tomato plant can take up in one season when you’re planting those tiny seedlings, so plan ahead and enjoy!
“If you have health, you probably will be happy, and if you have health and happiness, you have all the wealth you need, even if it is not all you want. “
Anonymous • Quote of the Day
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”
Anonymous • Quote of the Day