Tag: organic gardening

Flowers that Attract Bees and other Pollinators

Flowers that Attract Bees and other Pollinators

There are many flowers that attract bees and other pollinators and other beneficial Insects. I prefer using native and popular perennials, as they don’t need to be replanted every year. They are likely to thrive for some years with proper care, such as adding compost annually and periodic division when they become oversized or overcrowded. The chart below is meant as a guide to help in your selection of the colors you want to incorporate into the garden, depending on the perennial and specific variety that you choose.
The blog provides insights into attracting bees and other pollinators to gardens, emphasizing the use of native and popular perennials that don’t require annual replanting. It also highlights the importance of flower diversity and timing to ensure continuous blooming throughout the year. Additionally, it discusses the significance of leaving certain vegetables behind to attract bees and the impact of pesticides on bee populations. The article aims to encourage readers to contribute to the preservation of pollinators by creating bee-friendly environments.

Garden the Organic Way Book!

Garden the Organic Way Book!

The book “Garden the Organic Way” is now available in softcover and would make a perfect holiday gift or reading material during the offseason gardening months. The book serves as a comprehensive guide to organic gardening, covering all stages from being an absolute beginner to harvesting delicious fruits and vegetables. It also emphasizes soil restoration and sustainable practices. It can help plan upcoming gardens, increase crop production, and enhance overall garden productivity. It’s available on Etsy via the link provided on the website.

Right time to Harvest

Right time to Harvest

Harvesting at the right time can be just as important as planting

There is a point of maturity in a vegetable where taste is at it prime, either in sweetness or texture and also for its defense mechanism against diseases and insects. This is the right time to harvest.

Mustard greens passed their harvest.

Sometimes the vegetable looks so beautiful that you don’t even want to harvest it, or maybe you planted so much that you want to wait a week or two, or you have been harvesting all along until they eventually bolt.  Depending on these circumstantial aspects and on what plant it is, it may work to wait.  But, for many vegetables, once it’s time for harvesting, it’s best to do so right away.

A few examples to help clarify my point.

Let’s take lettuce or mesclun mix, which contains various types of lettuce (oakleaf, red lettuce, black seeded Simpson, Lollo Rossa, arugula, radicchio and some other greens like kale, Chinese greens, beet greens, etc., depending on the producer).

  • Lettuce will grow very nicely when the temperatures are cool, and you can harvest for about two to three months until it gets really hot.
  • If you planted it a bit late, it will come to full size relatively fast.

Once it reaches maturity, is the right time to harvest – especially the lettuce, as it will start to grow upward.  This is called bolting.  Once it bolts, the leaves become bitter in taste and not really edible. By waiting,  you may lose your crop.

The same will happen with mustard greens.  They can tolerate a bit more heat but the taste will be stronger.  Real mustard taste is hot.  Eventually, it will flower. https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/vegetables/growing-lettuce-greens-organically/

Radishes will stay in the ground a bit more but, at some point, if they are not harvested, they will split or get woody so they can’t be eaten, and they will also go to flower.  Once they flower, the root will have become woody.

To learn a greater understanding about these topics purchase my book ‘Garden the Organic Way’   https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

Another way to lose a crop is when you wait too long.

  • Despite having a row cover, I still found some caterpillars in my garden.
  • I harvested a large amount of kale and decided to wait another week or two before harvesting the rest.  I did notice that I had found some imported cabbage worms, cabbage loopers, and a few cross-striped cabbage worms in the patch.  I went through the whole patch and looked for them, killing everything I found.
  • A word of warning, you never get them all.  Sure enough, I came back to leaves that were totally
Maggot damage

eaten and lots and lots of caterpillars that were quite big and well fed. I lost around half my crop.  I should have known better and harvested the kale to freeze it.

Thankfully, I did find some carrot fly maggots on my carrots, and quickly harvested the whole crop before it spread anymore, which would mean I’d just be feeding the maggots!

How To Build a Raised Bed

How To Build a Raised Bed

The video “Building a Raised Bed” demonstrates how to construct a raised bed for gardening. Raised beds are efficient, requiring fewer resources and producing larger yields, while preserving soil structure. They offer a fresh start with desired soil types and minimize organic matter addition. Using a raised bed also prevents soil compaction and improves aeration and root development, fostering healthier plants. The book “Garden the Organic Way” and my Udemy course on soils are recommended for deeper understanding.

Harboring Insects and Diseases

Harboring Insects and Diseases

In managing gardens in different locations there are lessons learned about composting and the importance of crop rotation. The advice is to consistently turn compost piles to prevent grub populations, clean up and dispose of infested plants, and practice crop rotation to limit disease. Mild winters allow certain crops, like greens, to grow longer, but also enable disease to stay around and fruit trees to bloom prematurely, potentially causing a lost crop.

The Loss of Farmland – Diminishing Of Our Food part 2

The Loss of Farmland – Diminishing Of Our Food part 2

My goal is to emphasize the importance of local food production and encourage more people to get involved in the process. This will help us be better prepared to address food supply challenges, ensuring that people have access to food, regardless of their location. prior post.

Part 1 https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/food-for-thought/loss-farmland-diminishing-food/

Drought

California continues to lose farmland due to drought and the depletion of water tables. Despite whatever regulations get put into effect the water won’t be able to recover over the next twenty years. California has an ideal climate for fruits, vegetables and nuts. It provides almost half of the US consumption of these goods.drought

These commodities are distributed throughout the country to feed the US population. As the production from California declines, we will pay so much more for our food that only the elite will afford a diverse diet. Those on fixed incomes or retired can easily end up going hungry due to the tremendous increase in costs. This cost of food increase has already begun to happen in the year 2023. Learn how to grow your own food, purchase ‘Garden the Organic Way’ https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

Drought- Loss of Farmland

California has lost approximately one third of the river water due to drought. Resulting in the groundwater being pumped at double the rate. An article in the Los Angeles times reported that water depletion is so severe that “a million acres of cropland turn to dust because they have exhausted their supplies of readily available groundwater”. (LA times March 18. 2015, Bettina Boxall).

Solutions

Everyone agrees something has to be done but no one takes the lead. It’s a huge undertaking but it will only get bigger with time. America, it’s not a state issue, it’s a food issue! A state that provides so much food can’t be left alone to figure it out a solution. Sure, farmers have come together and are trying to implement ways to save water while watering their crops. They are also trying to see how to put water back into the aquifers. This isn’t any more about a few acres or a small loss of farmland.

We need greater initiative, intervention and cooperation. Be we republicans or democrats, we all need food. As Americans, we need to take action.

Countries like Israel have farms right on the desert, with lush trees, by using desalination plants and conserving water. To say “Oh, desalination too expensive” may be true, but it will just get more expensive with time. Farmers need water, and we have the technology to make it happen!

Hydraulic Fracking

This is a hot topic of great debate right now, for various reasons. Also, many other countries are banning fracking. Why? Multiple reasons, I’m sure, but my reason is water. According to the report from State Impact Pennsylvania, the fracking process takes 4.4 million gallons of water per well.  Translating this into usage: It takes 11,000 American families to use the same amount of water to drill and fracture one well. Six Olympic size swimming pools can be filled with that same water (source Dr. Jim Richenderfer, Susquehanna River Basin Commission; US EPA; Fracfocus.org).

Not only is the water in California being used at massive rates for fracking, in addition, there are high levels of contaminants left behind deep in the ground. Toxic chemicals are leached out in the process of fracking, which in turn contaminate nearby ground waters. Methane is found at disproportionate rates in nearby wells were fracking has taken place. Making these wells dangerous to use. The dangers to general health is huge, not to mention further loss of useable water.

There is an assumption that the contaminants will stay put and be “locked in”. Truly, we are either naïve or just plain ignorant to assume or think this is possible. Leaching takes place over time of everything that is on the surface of the soil. As more earthquakes occur, these contaminants will eventually end up in our groundwater and drinking water and then our food. If we have no water, we have no food.

Corporate Farming 

Corporate farming has been around for years making big profits. So what’s the problem? Native civilizations used as their agricultural practices the “slash and burn” method of agriculture. They burned the fields that were fallow and the like, thus providing the necessary nutrients for them to plant their crops. They were able to get one or two seasons of crops out of the process. Once the land no longer gave them a good yield they moved on to repeat the same process all over again. I make this analogy with corporate farming.

The problem is that land is no longer readily available. Land is privatized and we are highly overcrowded. That’s corporate farming in a nutshell. They use the land till it is dead, then buy new land and exploit the next one. The land is pumped with so much synthetic fertilizers, chemicals, GMO seeds, and the like to produce our food. Food is then filled with synthetics and chemicals and water is contaminated. These practices have resulted in a glut of poor quality food invading our supermarkets. The consequences to the loss of small family farming are highly alarming.

Chemical Pollution to Our Environment

These chemicals were initially produced for warfare, and not meant to be slightly changed and used on our food. Even if you believe there is no trace of these chemicals in your food because some higher authority has given the seal of approval, it’s time to take the blinders off and accept the truth. Contamination exists, and it goes into our bodies, our unborn babies and our breast milk.

Very little, if any, importance is given to the land as a live organism that needs preservation, restoration and nurturing. The land is exploited to the maximum and given no value. It’s the ultimate abuse of something that just gives and can’t defend itself. This, along with the fact that more land and water resources are being bought and controlled by a few corporate giants, is alarming. To continue reading part 3: https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/misc/loss-farmland-diminishing-food-part-3/

To purchase ‘Garden the Organic Way’ as an ebook http://Amazon- Garden the Organic Way

Growing Broccoli

Growing Broccoli

Growing broccoli, a nutrient-rich superfood from the cabbage family, requires special care. It thrives in full sun, cooler weather, and well-drained soil with pH 6.0-7.5. Over-fertilizing or neglecting watering habits can hinder growth. Transplant indoors-grown broccoli outdoors once it has true leaves. Conversely, direct seed outdoors for fall harvest. Different varieties mature at different times, thus enabling a stretched harvest season. However, they face threats from pests like cabbageworms, flea beetles, and cutworms, so protective measures are necessary. Some recommend a three-year family rotation to prevent disease buildup.

How To Grow Cauliflower

How To Grow Cauliflower

How To Grow Cauliflower Cauliflower is a member of the Brassica family (cabbage family) that grows in the cool season. It requires good timing in order to get the cauliflower to develop. If planted late in spring, it may get too warm, and then the 

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Corn

If I was asked, ‘What is your favorite vegetable?’, I think I would say it is corn. Corn is originally from Southern Mexico and the corn we eat today is believed to be a cross between two plants: maize and teosinte (a bushier plant). Corn is grown all over the world and the varieties are quite numerous. There are nine different types of corn.

White and bi-color corn recently harvested.

Nutrition

Blue corn was developed by the Hopi Indians, and it’s presently grown in Mexico, Arizona and New Mexico. There is a difference between the white and yellow corn we grow versus blue corn. The advantage of blue corn is that it has a higher protein content and lower glycemic index. This means that the conversion of the food to sugar occurs at a slower pace.

Corn has a number of vitamins, trace minerals and salt. It does have what some people perceive as a high carbohydrate content of six percent per ear of corn. When you take into account all the other benefits from ten percent protein, vitamins and minerals, as well as the ten percent of fiber per ear, has high antioxidant content, it’s really not a fair evaluation. To learn more about how to grow corn along with many other vegetables purchase ‘Garden the Organic Way‘ https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

GMO, Treated Corn and F1

Most genetically modified (GMO) corn is the field corn not the sweet corn. Though Monsanto has introduced GMO sweet corn, the percentages in its usage are way less than the field corn. Don’t hesitate to ask the farmer if the corn is GMO. There are usually labels with numbers in the field that are the identifying mark of GMO corn. Look for packaging that says non-GMO corn.

F1 seed is not GMO but rather a hybrid that is usually resistant to some types of disease.

Lastly, when you buy the seed, it will say treated if it is treated. This means that some type of fungicide or the like has been applied to it.  Otherwise, the seed will be white, yellow or the natural blue for the blue corn or the true color of the popcorn that you requested. There are companies selling organic corn seed and non-hybrid seeds.

Growing Corn

Growing corn for best results is best in blocks

You need a good amount of space for the kernels to get fully pollinated and developed. Otherwise, it’s easy to grow, provided you have lots of warm weather, full sun, good fertile soil and a lot of water.

Spacing and Planting

You shouldn’t just plant one or two rows of corn. The reason is that corn is cross pollinated by wind and each kernel has to be individually pollinated in order to develop. Therefore, it should be planted in blocks or squares of at least four rows around ten feet by ten feet.

Within the row the plants should be between eight to twelve inches apart, and between rows they should be thirty to thirty-six inches apart. The seed should be one inch deep. Do not use transplants for corn.

If you add lots of compost and have a good amount of fertility, you can plant using the closer distances; otherwise, use the distance with more space.

Continuous Harvest 

Now that the space is settled, you may choose to plant multiple varieties in order to have a continuous harvest all season long. To learn about companion planting see my blog https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/?s=growing+beans

You would start the first planting after the soil temperatures are above 65°F; in the Northeast it would be sometime in May. Corn will not germinate at temperatures below 55°F. If you want to get a jump on the season, you can cover the area with a thick layer of straw mulch in the fall. Then you can remove the straw, which may be partially frozen, and allow the soil to warm up naturally. You can also use black plastic for a week but it is not recyclable or truly organic. Either technique will increase the soil temperature. There are a few ways to stretch the growing season for corn:

  1. Plant the same variety every two weeks until the time to fully develop will begin to run into the fall. Go backwards from the time temperatures begin to drop. Let’s say it is October 15th. Working it backwards, you would plant the last crop on August 15th.
  2. Pick different varieties with different maturity dates. There are corn varieties that mature in sixty days, while others mature between a hundred to one hundred and ten, and everything in between.

Distance Between Varieties

Keep in mind that all varieties will cross pollinate with each other. Say you plant a popcorn variety with a sweet corn. These will cross, giving you a lesser sweet corn and a popcorn that will dry slower. Therefore, leave fifty feet between any given varieties if they happen to mature at the same time. If your neighbor is also growing corn, make sure you have at least this distance, as they could be growing GMO corn. This is how Monsanto was able to wipe out thousands of acres from farmers across the world, by planting their own seed corn next to their original heirloom varieties, and then claiming the seed as theirs, because Monsanto’s seed is proprietary.

Different Types of Sweet Corn

Depending on the variety, the sweetness and taste will vary lightly. Kernels of corn comes in multiple colors: white, bicolor, yellow. The sweetness of the corn varies depending on the hybridization they have gone through.

My recommendation is to plant a few varieties of corn or at least different varieties each year. A lot of the original seeds are no longer available, and I’m always concerned about using the “standard” currently grown commercially. How dependent are they on chemicals? And how prone are the popular varieties to insects and diseases?  Not having tried all these varieties, I will not comment, but rather ask you, the growers, to take note and be observant.

Fertilization and Weeding

Corn is a heavy feeder. Therefore, add lots of organic matter and composted manure; plant a cover crop, such as clover, the season before and incorporate it, followed by compost. This way, the soil will be rich in nutrients.

Once the tassels and silks appear, give it a side dressing with an organic fertilizer or some compost tea.  You may need to give it a second side dressing if you notice the leaves turning light green – this means that nitrogen is lacking. Maintain consistent moisture in order to allow the nutrients to be available to the plant.

Corn only has to be weeded in the early stages. Once the corn is around a foot tall, you don’t need to weed it.

Harvesting Corn

You want to wait until the ears get fully developed and are plump. The silks start to turn brown and begin to dry up. It is important to harvest the corn shortly after it matures, as it will start to turn to starch and lose it’s sweetness.

Traditional Three Sister Plantings

I have been asked about doing the traditional corn, bean and squash planting. Some have stated that it didn’t work or they had problems.  A few tips to keep in mind is that you should use popcorn, field corn that will be used for flour or meal or animal feed, or ornamental corn. This means that the corn will have to be fully mature and dry before harvesting.

Happy planting, and enjoy a real treat, sweet corn!

How To Grow Sweet Potatoes

How To Grow Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, native to South America, are diverse; some resemble yams, and others, “Jerseys”, which cater to northern climates. They thrive in warm conditions, are drought-resistant and require well-drained soil. Plant slips derived from stored sweet potatoes in fertile soil and maintain adequate lighting and temperature for growth. These vegetables need periodic fertilization but refrain from pruning. During dry summers, water them thoroughly and reduce water prior to harvest to prevent rot. The whole plant is edible and can be harvested around 85 days post-planting. Ideally, sweet potatoes should be cured for 4-8 days before storage.

Growing Watermelon

Growing Watermelon

Growing watermelons during summer requires adequate sunlight, warmth, nutrition, and moisture. They should be planted with ample humus. Proper spacing depending on the variety is essential. Planting should take place once the soil warms up to 70° F. Use trellising to conserve space for smaller varieties. The fruits should be harvested when ripe, as they don’t post-harvest ripen. Challenges include controlling pests and diseases that can be mitigated through plant care and using resistant varieties.

How To Grow Summer Squash

How To Grow Summer Squash

How To Grow Summer Squash

Summer Squash is a seasonal vegetable that requires warm temperatures in order for it to grow nicely. We actually consume the immature fruit while the skin is still soft and edible. They are relatively fast producers not requiring a lot of space as heavy producers. Don’t grow too many plants or you will be inundated with squash.

Zucchini squash

Types of Summer Squashes

There are four different types of summer squashes.  Yellow summer squash, both straightneck and the crooked neck, grow like a small compact bush. Patty pan squash or scalloped squash are scalloped-shaped and can range in color from yellow, white to green.  Zucchini are straight and mostly dark green. The last is the Mideast or Cousa varieties; these are smaller than the zucchini and are lighter in color.

Squashes can go from mid-summer to early fall, producing continuously. They produce fruit and edible flowers that can be stuffed or battered and fried.

Summer squash- patty pan squash

Growing Requirements

In Northern parts, planting season can vary depending on weather conditions, but temperatures should be above 60° F.  You can be direct seed or you can utilize transplants. If you direct seed, place two seeds per spot and thin down to one by cutting the extra versus pulling it. They germinate very quickly.  The warmer the soil, the better they grow.

Plant about two to three feet apart between plants and usually spread to about four feet wide. Because they tend to produce quickly, you can also plant them as late as mid-July. They require full sun and need well-drained soil with good fertility.

Watering and Fertilization

They require lots of water for proper fruit development; therefore, incorporating compost before planting is a good idea in order to help hold in the moisture. Using straw mulch helps keeps the soil moist, especially in the hot dry summer months.  Water the base of the plant and avoid watering the actual leaves in order to prevent the spread of powdery mildew.

For more watering tips see my video: https://youtu.be/7MJw3IJ2CG8

It is best to wait until the plant starts blooming before applying a side dressing or watering with compost tea.

Male Versus Female Flowers

Many varieties will send out the male flowers one to two weeks before the female flowers appear.  It is to attract bees needed for pollination. The female flowers need to be cross pollinated by the pollen from male flowers. But if there is a heavy rain period or if the temperatures get real hot, the bees don’t come out.  The result is that the flowers drop or don’t develop.

Plant a variety of flowers and keep the garden free of chemicals in order to attract the bees.

Harvesting zucchini a prolific summer squash

Harvesting Tips

Yellow squashes and zucchini should be harvested during the early stages while they are six to eight inches long and a few inches thick. The patty pan should be around five to seven inches wide.  If you allow the fruit to develop longer, a few things will happen: first, the seeds will harden and so will the skin, which make it tough to eat; secondly, the plant will stop sending flowers.  Purchase ‘Garden the Organic Way’ and become an expert gardener. The gardening book offers multiple topics and comprehensive list of vegetable plants, how to attract pollinators, as well as various topics that will make you an expert gardener. https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com 

Squash plants quickly grow their fruit, which can easily become hidden under large leaves. Check the plant daily. They only store for about a week in the refrigerator.

For further reading about other summer vegetables take a look at my blog on other summer plantings. https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/vegetables/summer-plantings/

Insects and Diseases

Squash vine borer – if you don’t cover the plants, then the best way is to inspect them daily.  If you see any residue coming from the base of the plant, it’s probably the squash vine borer.  You can perform surgery on the plant and save it. To remove and kill the borers, cut the stem lengthwise.  Then, you wrap a cheesecloth around the stem. Most likely, the plant will be weaken but will probably finish out the season.

Stripped cucumber beetle and spotted cucumber beetle – the only thing I found that works is using row covers.  I use the lightweight ones during the summer months.  These beetles fly quickly, bury themselves in soil and spread bacterial wilt.

This video provides additional information on the use of row covers for insect control, including their availability in different sizes and weights, their effectiveness in preventing insect damage, and their role in protecting crops from pests and extending the growing season. https://youtu.be/w8Gp2QkqFXo

Why Don’t I Get Beets or Radishes?

Why Don’t I Get Beets or Radishes?

Why don’t I get beets or radishes, only leaves?  I often get asked this question.  Watch  video for a complete answer. When you are getting only leaves in beets or radishes without bulb formation can be attributed to several reasons. The following factors may contribute 

Fabric Row Covers: Keeping Bugs Out!

Fabric Row Covers: Keeping Bugs Out!

Lightweight row covers offer several advantages for protecting your crops. The biggest benefit is their effectiveness in controlling insect infestations. By placing the row cover immediately after planting, whether in spring, summer, or fall, you can prevent pests from damaging your crops. Additionally, the extra warmth provided by the fabric promotes faster vegetable development in spring and extends the growing season in the fall. This method is highly effective in controlling insects without the use of any chemicals.

Pruning Tomatoes

Pruning Tomatoes

It’s hard to explain on paper how to prune tomatoes. I’m providing some pictures. Therefore, if I don’t do a good job in explaining this process now, please email me. You can also take my full course on the tomato family. The link is further down

Intermediate and indeterminate tomatoes are the ones that need pruning due to the vast amount of suckers they send out. The suckers can be from the base of the plant or in between the main stem and the leaves. These suckers develop into full-fledged plants that bloom and produce tomatoes.   

Why prune them at all?

Many studies have been made to determine the value of pruning.  The results are very consistent in showing that pruning will increase your yield, as the tomato plants tend to send so many suckers.  These suckers take up a lot of the plant energy by producing lots of leaves and a whole new plant.  Therefore, less energy is going into fruit production; instead it’s all going into making leaves.  So, if all the energy is going to produce leaves, there will be less fruit.  So many leaves increase the potential for disease due to decrease in circulation and aeration.

When you see suckers coming up from the roots or the base of the soil, prune these away.

To learn all about growing tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplants, take my course. It includes videos providing additional information on how to prune tomatoes, the growing practices of this whole Solanaceous family which includes tomatoes. Videos created to explain this process.  Course on tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and potatoes

Pruning tomatoes the right way

Otherwise, the yields will be less.  Many people think it’s the top that gets pruned, and the tips.  This is not the case at all. You can prune the top but the suckers will continue to grow.

  • There is one sucker that does not get pruned. You must look for the first flowers to appear.
  • Once this flower appears, there will be one sucker right below it, no exceptions. This particular sucker is not pruned.
  • All other suckers between the main stem and the leaf get removed at the junction. Except that one right below the first flower.

Why don’t we prune away the one sucker right below the first flower? Several studies have found that the additional growth hormones, which come into play as the plant transitions from a growing stage to a fruiting stage, are found in great numbers right by the first flower. The yield is just as high as the main plant. Proportionally, the fruit ratio is higher than the leaf ratio. Unlike the rest of the suckers, which produce a lot of leaves and less fruit by comparison. 

Pruning tomatoes and removing a sucker.

You will then remove all the other suckers growing between the stem and the leaves.  You will also remove any suckers from the one sucker that you have allowed to develop, as all suckers behave in the same way as a regular plant.

The end result is a two-plant system developing with one root stock.  When you stake the main plant, also have a second stake for the extra plant you will allow to develop.

To read more about growing tomatoes read the blog  https://www.gardeningtheorganicway.com/vegetables/grow-great-tomatoes/

Purchase ‘Garden the Organic Way’ and become an expert gardener. Garden the Organic Way is a comprehensive guide to organic gardening, designed for all skill levels. The book provides methods for growing delicious, pesticide-free vegetables using sustainable practices. Garden the Organic Way presents an engaging, practical guide with lots of tips on how to garden successfully. 

Happy growing!