Tag: organic tips

Right time to Harvest

Right time to Harvest

Harvesting vegetables at their peak maturity is crucial for optimal taste, texture, and disease or insect resistance. Certain vegetables, like lettuce and mustard greens, become unpalatable if they are left to bolt or overheat. The author also warns about losing crops due to procrastination, as waiting too long can leave plants susceptible to pest infestations. Quick harvesting upon detecting such issues is necessary to prevent total crop loss.

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.

Lady Beetles (Mexican Bean Beetles or Colorado Potato Beetles)

Lady Beetles (Mexican Bean Beetles or Colorado Potato Beetles)

Lady Beetles or Ladybugs (Mexican Bean Beetles or Colorado Potato Beetles) which one is it?

Lady Beetles -The most common beneficial insect, of course, is the lady beetle that has about 450 species in the US alone. Most people know what a lady beetle looks like and, at some point, have seen one in their homes or outside in the yard. Some key similarities that exist between the lady-bugs in the garden and a major pest that devours your beans, like the Mexican bean beetle, or your potatoes, like the Colorado potato beetle.

Adult Stage of Lady Beetles

The lady beetle larva and adults eat mostly aphids, but they also eat scales, mites, thrips and mealy bugs. The adult hibernates over the winter under logs, leaves and other protective areas. Those seen around the home were imported to control scale such as the Halloween ladybug. This lady beetle which was introduced some years back; it is orange with seven black spots and also can be all black. This particular species has a tendency to group together and look for shelter in homes before the winter sets, invading houses by the thousands. You can easily vacuum them and put the whole vacuum bag outside in a shed near your garden.

Adult lady beetles vary in color from orange, to yellow, pink, tan and white, with black spots on each of their wings, and others are entirely black, brown or grey. They grow between 5/32 of an inch to 9/32 of an inch long.

Mexican Bean Beetle 

The Mexican bean beetle adult is light brown or orange-brown with a bronze tint and has sixteen black spots on the wing covers. They grow to be about 1/3 inch long. The Mexican bean beetles are vegetarians, unlike their cousins that are carnivores, and consume all different types of beans.

Colorado potato beetle

The Colorado potato beetle has ten alternating stripped bands of black and light yellow to tan on their wing covers.  The head is tan-yellow with black spot all around.  They grow to about 3/8 inch in length. Colorado potato beetle are also vegetarians that eat potatoes (their favorite plant), peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.

Get my paperback copy:  ‘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. https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

The Larva Stage

The biggest distinctions is between the larvae stages of each one: The ladybug has a segmented body that is black, long (at their maximum development 3/8”) with black spikes protruding throughout the body and red, orange or black stripes or markings.

Larva of lady beetle

The Mexican bean beetle larvae are bright yellow with short spikes protruding throughout its body, like a porcupine, and are oval and chubby. At maturity they are about 1/3 inch long. The Mexican bean beetle larvae cause the greatest damage to plants. They consume the underside of the leaves leaving a skeleton look that causes the leaves to die. Crushing the larva is the best solution- or the eggs, provided you readily see the other stages of the Mexican bean beetle around the plant and know you are not killing a lady beetle.

The Colorado potato beetle has a salmon-pink larvae with black spots along the side, a soft glistening look, humped-backed and approximately ½” long. The larvae feeds on the leaves of their host plants.

Egg Stage

Now we come to the eggs. I doubt that they are distinguishable to the average person. They are all very similar in shape and color, ranging from yellow, cream-yellow to orange in color. The lady beetle will lay eggs wherever there is food for the young larva to feed on. The adults can lay anywhere from 20 to 1,000 in a given season, from spring to summer. The eggs of the lady beetle tend to be slightly smaller (about 1/25” long) than those of the Mexican bean beetle or Colorado potato beetle.

The Mexican bean beetle has a yellow orange tint to their eggs while the ladybug is a brighter yellow or yellow with a tint of red. Mexican bean beetles can lay from a mass of 40 to 75 eggs in one sitting.  They always lay their eggs on the plant they are feeding on- the beans.

The Colorado potato beetle eggs are orange-yellow also lay in mass or small clusters on the underside of the leaves.

Encouraging Lady Beetles to Stay in Your Garden

They have to have food in order for them to stay. The adult lady beetle needs about fifty aphids per day to feed on in order for them to lay eggs. The seven spotted lady beetle can consume 200 eggs and their larva around 300 hundred aphids in order to develop. If you have an abundance of aphids it may be worth the expense to buy some ladybugs. Keep in mind that, once the aphids have consumed all their prey, they will move on to the next garden. The adults will feed on pollen, nectar and sweet water. Therefore, having flowers around the garden, like alyssum, yarrow, marigold, nasturtium, coreopsis, fennel and dill, will help them stay around longer.

Controlling Mexican Bean Beetles and Colorado Potato Beetles

As mentioned earlier, if your garden is small enough, crushing them is the best solution.

  • Inspect plants three to four times a week under the leaves where they deposit eggs and develop. 
  • Rotate your crops. This way, when the adults emerge, they don’t find the food ready for them to eat but rather a whole different crop, thus forcing them to travel out of the area to eat.
  • Encourage lady beetles to stay around; lacewings, parasitic wasp and spiders all help in controlling these pest.
  • Plant different varieties than those used commercially.
  • Use a seasonal row cover or fabric covers; for more information see my blog on “Season Extenders Comes in all Sizes”. In the case of potatoes, they are self-pollinating and you can keep the cover on all season.
  • Colorado potato beetles are difficult to control, even commercially, as they have become immune to all different insecticides- even DDT.  Therefore, hand pick them and crush them.  Plant a commercial variety of eggplant, one that is most common. The eggplant will serve as a trap crop and draw the Colorado potato beetle in ways that will amaze you.

You can also purchase ‘Garden the Organic Way’ as an eBook http://Amazon- Garden the Organic Way

Growing Asparagus

Growing Asparagus

Planting Asparagus Growing asparagus is fun and relatively easy. Asparagus crowns can be put in the moment the soil can be worked. Asparagus can be planted from four to six weeks before the last frost. If you have raised beds, it will be the first 

Planning the Vegetable Garden

Planning the Vegetable Garden

Best time for planning the vegetable garden and get ready, for spring is during the winter. This is the time to evaluate last year’s harvest, and to see what variety of vegetables did well and what didn’t. Planning the vegetable garden is one of the 

Beneficial Insects and Their Habitat

Beneficial Insects and Their Habitat

The Beneficial Insects and Their Habitat

It’s important to develop the right environment for the beneficial insects to establish proper habitats.  This seems pretty obvious but different insects require different habitats. We know bees, which are essential to pollinate our vegetables, also need flowers. But other beneficial insects have the same needs.  They are drawn by scents, color and the abundance of food. Pollen is highly prized and insects are drawn to it. A diversity of plants and varieties of flowers and herbs help create the balance and draw good guys to your garden. See video on discover the power of flowers

Avoid Using Chemicals

Bees are extremely sensitive to any type of chemical including the “natural” ones that are available to control grubs, etc. When using any chemicals, even organic ones, be aware that a habitat is being destroyed for all beneficial insects. Using any chemical applications, the balance is automatically lost.

The insect population has to build up high enough for the good guys to move in and feast. Plants are capable of tolerating a certain percent of damage before their production starts to go down. It doesn’t mean you can’t do some controls: hand crushing and disposal. The scent given out by these pests is picked up by the predators (the good guys), and they will move in to feast and help you control the infestation. See video on Organic garden pest control

Multiple Helpers

There isn’t any one insect that does the job of controlling the bad guys. It’s the combined effort of all these insects that will keep pest under control and help reduce their populations. Get my paperback copy: ‘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. https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

Beneficial insect – Ground beetle larva

Black Ground Beetles

Common black ground beetles need undisturbed areas to reproduce, like grass areas where they can hide and emerge in spring to look for prey. They eat grubs, maggots, caterpillars, pupae, to name a few and other invertebrates. Though we don’t want them to eat our worms or good guy, they do help keep the balance in the garden. Their diet is diverse and, in the larger scheme, their overall function is considered beneficial, as they eat a lot of the aphids and other bad guys. They get eaten by snakes, birds, other beetles and toads.

Beneficial insects like praying mantis are amazing

Praying mantis

Another beneficial insect that grow to be the size of one of your larger fingers. They have six legs and come in various colors from brown to green, which are the most common, to pink, white and yellow. The larvae or nymphs are adult looking and, as they morph, they look more and more like the adult version. It’s the only insect that has the ability to turn its head one hundred and eighty degrees. This ability to turn their heads makes them great predators as they are able to detect their prey with greater ease. They have great vision as they have a set of complex eyes that have a lot of lenses located at the side of the head and then three simple eyes in between. Cockroaches are their relatives but there is a debate about their classification.

Feeding habit of praying mantis

They eat just about everything, as long as they overpower them, and may even become cannibalistic and eat other mantis. After sexual reproduction, the female is known to eat the male; in some cases during reproduction they eat their heads and leave the abdomen to finish the job. They are great for insect control keeping in mind that good or bad they will consume it.

Their front legs come together as if praying (hence how they got their name) and are very powerful. They fly at night, making themselves available for bats to consume. Eggs are laid in (up to 400 eggs) around a tree or shrub stem, the mass hardens to form a brown-like foam. The egg cases can be mistaken in their look to a very small wasp nest but brown. Once they hatch, they tend to eat each other, as it’s the only food they have nearby. Read about another beneficial insect Wheel bugs

The best habitat for them to survive is grasses and trees. They can easily hide within grasses that camouflage them.  You can also purchase ‘Garden the Organic Way’ as an eBook http://Amazon- Garden the Organic Way

Biocontrol Agent – A Wasp Attack

Biocontrol Agent – A Wasp Attack

Shows a video of a biocontrol agent – the blue-wing wasp attacking the grub of a Japanese beetle. The wasp is depositing its eggs inside the grub.

Putting the Garden to Rest

Putting the Garden to Rest

Putting the garden to rest and preparing for spring is very important as it will determine the following year results. It’s when the nighttime temperatures start dropping into the 30°’s F and during the day they are staying in the 50°’s F to low 60°’s 

How-To-Grow Garlic

How-To-Grow Garlic

Garlic Lovers – Grow Your Own!

It’s the end of October about four to six weeks before frost hits – the best time to plant garlic.  If you choose to plant very early in the spring, you will get a smaller yield. Garlic has many benefits due to the high levels of allicin, a sulfur compound, and other sulfoxides. These sulfur compounds are what give it the stinky smell but at the same time they are responsible for various health benefits.

Garlic is very easy to grow, has a great shelf life and gives a generous crop. Get a good organic supplier, as those sold in the grocery store may not work. Most store-bought garlic cloves have been sprayed with a deterrent to stop them from germinating. If you use them, you may get very poor germination at best, and the varieties may not be suited for the local area. Therefore, purchasing good seed is the way to go.

Get my paperback copy: ‘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. https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

Temperature and Planting Season

Garlic is a cool weather crop that resists frost. In order to get bulb development the cloves need to be exposed to temperatures below 65° F . The bulbs are broken apart into individual cloves and planted. Each division of a clove will develop into a full garlic bulb. The seeds of garlic are mostly sterile. They take about eight to nine months to mature, depending on variety. Therefore, a late October planting will be ready to harvest sometime in late June to early July. When you break apart the bulbs into the various cloves the papery husks that protects them from diseases and rot can not get damaged.

Soil and Sun

They like well-drained, rich soil in order to prevent rot from occurring. A raised bed is the best growing condition for this vegetable. Garlic develops a deep root system over the growing season. In the fall, you will not see any top development– only root development will take place. Therefore, before planting, incorporate lots of compost, or composted manure. The extra organic matter will loosen the soil and give it a fluffiness for the bulbs to develop in and absorb the extra moisture to prevent rot.

They need full sun but will grow under partial sun. The more shade they receive the less prolific they will be.

On SALE now! great price on my soil course until February 7, 2024. Learn about soil microbes, creating black gold and restoring the soil into a fertile ground. Just some of the topics covered: Soil, The Key to Organic Gardening

Stiffneck cloves

Varieties of Garlic

There are three different varieties of garlic: the softnecks, stiffnecks and giant elephant varieties. The softnecks can be braided, as the tops stay soft and pliable. They have a strong flavor. The stiffnecks have a central core as a stem and a ring of cloves around them. The cloves are larger in size and are the most cold-hardy of the varieties. They have a milder flavor. The elephant variety has very large cloves and just a few of them. They are the least cold-hardy.


Plant them 2” deep, with the point upwards and the wider part down, and about 4” to 5” apart within the row and the rows about 15” to 24” apart. A raised bed with good organic soil, allows you to plant them closer together than a soil that is low in organic matter. Elephant garlic gets planted 3” to 4” deep and 6” to 10” apart. The bigger the “seed”, the bigger the plant.


Once planted, mulch with three to four inches of straw or some type of mulch to prevent heaving during the winter months.  Also, mulch keeps the temperature of the soil regulated between strong freeze to thawing out, and may fool the plant too early on to start growing.


Harvesting happens when half the leaves toward the bottom turn brown, even though the tops may still be green. Leaving them in the ground longer may cause them to split and then insects or diseases may come in.  In the Northeast is usually in June or early July.


Garlic will store only if properly cured. This means hanging the whole plant in a dry, well-ventilated area for it to fully dry out. If you live in an area of high humidity, place a ventilator nearby or a dehumidifier.  Drying takes about 3 weeks. Save the best and the largest cloves for next year’s crop.

You can also purchase ‘Garden the Organic Way’ as an eBook http://Amazon- Garden the Organic Way

Season Extenders for Gardening

Season Extenders for Gardening

Season Extenders Comes in all Sizes Season extenders are simple ways that we can extend or lengthen our growing season through various means using different methods, materials or products. The concept is to start the spring earlier and end the growing season later. Some things 

Restoring The Soil

Restoring The Soil

Restoring the soil is the key to having a fabulous organic garden. By nurturing and feeding the soil organisms, we bring the soil back to life. Understanding the soil and its composition is the key to this process. Some of the main helpers that keep 

How To Grow Turnips

How To Grow Turnips

Delicious, Nutritious Turnips- Not Just a Root but Amazing Greens.

When we think of growing turnips, we naturally think of the root crop. The reality is that turnips are probably one of the most nutritious vegetables you can possibly eat. Therefore, how to grow turnips is easy and important for good eating.

A Generous Vegetable

They are prolific vegetable that keeps on giving. The production of turnips during the cool month be it spring of fall is simply awesome. You can broadcast them or plant them along the row.  Either way, the harvest will be double what you expect.

How to grow turnips

  • From the Brassicaceae family, known as the mustard family or cabbage family.
  • They require full sun to partial shade and a well-drained soil.
  • A cool season crop that tolerates some light frost.
  • For good root development, they need lots of moisture.
  • Growing them in a raised bed works best, as the soil is loose and will give them ample space to expand. Before planting add lots of organic matter.
  • You can plant in the spring or midsummer too early fall for a fall harvest. 
  • Get my paperback copy: ‘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. https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

Spacing of Turnips

You can plant as close as 1” to 2” apart and, as the plant develops, pull every other plant out. This will give more space for those left behind. Eventually pull out enough turnip plants to a spacing of about 2” to 3” wide. It takes 40 to 60 days for turnips to mature. You can leave some in the ground another two to three weeks extra to allow for them to further develop.  To increase my greens harvest; once the plants are spaced out to where I like them to be, I harvest the outer leaves only for a few weeks.  This way, I benefit from the greens and then I leave the plant alone in order for the bulb to develop.

Turnip Greens

Delicious turnip greens

Going for the greens only? Then you leave all the plants in place and use them for greens. Harvesting the outer leaves, the plant will continue to send out more shoots from the middle and, as the leaves develop, they can be harvested. You can do this until the temperature gets too hot in the late spring/early summer or too cold in the winter. In the summer heat the turnip greens bolt (go to seed) making them bitter. To keep them growing longer in the summer plant near the shade or see that they don’t get sun in the afternoon sun. Plant them near a tree on a raised bed. This way, the tree will provide the necessary shade. You will probably not get any root development during the summer growing under partial shade conditions.

Read about cabbage another member of this nutritious family. How to grow cabbages easily.

Fall Harvest

In the fall they will be more prolific and will continue to grow late into the fall. They will tolerate light frost, making them sweeter in taste. Harvest before they get hit with a hard frost as the leaves will die, and the roots will get damaged. See video on using a row cover to lengthen the season

How To Grow Cabbages

How To Grow Cabbages

Cabbages – are used as a detoxifying agent in many cultures. Cabbage has lots of fiber and can be eaten raw, cooked, or fermented into sauerkraut. It has very few calories and highly beneficial to the body. Cabbage belongs to the Brassica Family, along with 

Controlling Pest in The Garden

Controlling Pest in The Garden

Pest in the garden and its infestations– All year long we have to be vigilant of what’s eating our gardens. If it’s not the squash bugs (as seen in the nymph stage along with its eggs on featured image), or cabbage worms early in the 

Growing and Transplanting Seedlings

Growing and Transplanting Seedlings

Unless you live in a climate with enough of a growing season for many vegetables, growing and transplanting seedlings is a must. These seedlings take 6 to 7 weeks to be ready for transplanting outdoors. At this point of development they have  4 or 5 sets of permanent leaves. They are also sturdy enough to handle the harsher climate.

Transplanting seedlings of cabbage family

Seasons and Temperatures

Some examples of cool weather crops that we start in the Northeast are: the cabbage family (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts) and celery. These vegetables take 90 days on average to fully develop. Some of the warm weather crops that need to be started indoors, are the nightshade family (tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant). Also some of the squashes. Booth families are intolerant to cold weather below 50°F. These and various other vegetables have a long season and would need transplants.  See video on What kind of seeds should I buy?

Sunshine and Placement For Seedlings

A nice sunny windowsill is needed where the seedlings can be kept moist and get enough sun for 6 hours a day. This will allow you to grow the seedlings indoors. If you put them outside on a warm spring day they have to come in during the evening. If not, I recommend using a full spectrum grow light as an ideal alternative. Seedlings can be started in flats, small pots, or peat plugs. Read more about season extender’s.

Sterilizing the soil

The medium or potting mix is loose, t should also be sterile. There are many on the market that can be used. If you decide to make your own soil or compost mixture, you can bake it in the oven on trays covered with aluminum foil for about 45 minutes in order to sterilize it. You would place moist soil, (not overly wet), on the trays and stick an oven thermometer through the aluminum foil. Once the thermometer in the soil reaches 180°F then you would bake it for an additional 30 minutes. Keep below 200°F, as the soil can emit toxic substances that are not beneficial to the plants.

The same can be done in the microwave oven. Place 2 lbs. in containers or plastic bags and microwave for 2 ½ minutes.

Allow soil to cool off and then mix in peat moss or perlite to make sure you have enough drainage and looseness in the soil. To read greater detail starting your own seedlings


One advantage of transplanting seedlings is you have full control of the spacing. Also, there is no thinning to do as the thinning took place when you were starting the seedlings. You will have better control over pests like slugs, and cutworms, which will show up when they are placed outdoors. Summer seedlings can be kept in a cool shaded area in the middle of the day to avoid scorching by extreme UV rays. Water on a regular basis and move them around, if need be, to the proper light, unless you are using grow lights.

When do you place them outdoors?

Transplanting seedlings must first be hardened off. What this means is you have to get them used to being outdoors. Place them outside for longer periods of time and bring them in only if the temperatures are going to drop. The seedlings get used to having more sun, wind and a harsher climate than what they have been used to indoors. You need to toughen them up.

If they are spring crops and the leaves are formed, plant them once the temperatures in the soil are above 50°F. All dangers of frost are gone. If they are the summer vegetables; then I would wait until the soil temperatures are above 55°F and the evenings are above 50°F. See video on How to take care of seedlings

Get my paperback copy: ‘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. https://gardentheorganicway.etsy.com

You can also purchase ‘Garden the Organic Way’ as an eBook http://Amazon- Garden the Organic Way