Monthly Archives: November 2015

Tips on Gardening for Beginners on a Budget

In this economy people are staying home more, and that’s led to a renewed interest in gardening.  Gardening is an excellent hobby for those who like being outside.  It’s fun for everyone from children to seniors. Plus, with these tips on gardening, you can save money by growing vegetables that you like to eat.  So with a nod to today’s economy, here are some tips on gardening for beginners on a budget.

Tip Number One: Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  If you’re just getting started with a garden, start small.  Decide what you want to grow (a salsa garden, a salad garden, favorite herbs), and what you’ll get the best use of.  Think in terms of a manageable garden that you can grow over time.  One of the best tips on gardening is to keep it to a minimum until experience proves you like gardening and can handle more.

Tip Number Two: Decide where you want to plant your garden.  You’ll need a place in your yard that gets plenty of sun and easy access to water.  It needs to be an area that does not hold water when it rains and that has good drainage.  If you’re limited on space, you can consider growing vegetables in pots on a patio or deck.  Herb gardens can do well in small spaces, as well.

Tip Number Three:  Prepare the soil.  No matter what you’re planting, it is bound to do better in good soil.  Not all geographic areas have naturally good soil for growing.  If you’re in Iowa, your soil may not need any added nutrients, but sandy soils in the southern U.S. can benefit from some good soil preparation.  Visit a local gardening store or nursery and ask about the right mixture of soils for your area.

Tip Number Four: Research the types of vegetables you plan to grow to determine the optimal growing season.  Growing seasons vary with your location.  Gardens in Canada are planted at different times than a garden in Texas for obvious reasons.  Some areas are great for growing vegetables from seed, others will do better with plants that have a good head start. Fall is a great time to plan your garden, prepare your garden plot, and read up on what you want to grow. That way you’ll be ready in the spring.

Tip Number Five: Find the tools you need at garage sales or flea markets, and check the sale bins at garden centers in the winter.  With used tools, you’ll save money, and there’s nothing wrong with a trowel that has chipped paint on the handle. To have everything you need, get a spade or shovel, a hoe, a garden rake, a hand trowel, a hand rake, a spading fork, a wheelbarrow or two-wheeled cart, a watering can and a hose.  If you feel you must have new tools, buy them over time and watch for sales.

Tip Number Six: Dress for success.  When working in the garden, you’re dealing with the elements.  The garden is no place for your good tennis shoes or your best t-shirt.    Designate a pair of sturdy old shoes (slip ons work best) as your “garden shoes.” Consider wearing an apron with pockets to keep your clothes clean and your hand tools handy.  Invest in a good pair of gardening gloves and don’t venture to your garden without them.  A wide brimmed hat will protect you from the elements.  Sun screen is another essential when working in the garden.

Tip Number Seven: Set aside a regular time for gardening.  If Saturday mornings suit you, try to head out each Saturday to check on the status of your garden or to put in a few hours of prep time during the winter months.  You will find that throughout the growing season your garden may need daily attention.  Weeding, watering, and protection from bugs or other critters are really all that is needed to ensure that vegetables that are planted in good soil grow into something you’ll enjoy at your dinner table

Tips on Gardening would not be complete without a discussion of the concept of sharing.

Gardeners love to share – both tips and plants.  If you’re getting started in the fall, check with your neighbors to see if they have any plantings that need to be thinned.  You can start a nice flower bed in your yard using free donations from your neighbors.

Daffodils, Iris’ Cannas, Bachelor Buttons, and other colorful perennial flowers can be shared among friends, and someone else’s hardy lilies will probably be surprisingly easy to grow in your own yard.  Put your donated plants into prepared soil in the fall and trim them back for early spring activity.  The first blooms of spring are a signal that it’s time to begin planning your vegetable plots.

A final tip on gardening: don’t forget to share the fruits (and vegetables) of your labors.  Neighbors and friends appreciate a fresh tomato or a sauce made from tomatoes, peppers and onions from your garden.  Give your garden produce as gifts in a second hand basket tied with a pretty ribbon and adorned with flowers you’ve grown in your yard from your neighbor’s cast offs.  It’s a great way to enjoy a hobby, share with friends, and save money too.

Tomato Gardening – Growing your own Tomatoes

There are different types of tomatoes and the best way to organize the many varieties is through the following categories: Plum Tomatoes, Salad Tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, and Beef Steak Tomatoes. There are several tomatoes that fall into each category.

Plum Tomatoes: These are the best canning tomatoes because they have less pulp and the skin on the plum tomatoes are thick so they will hold their shape longer than the other tomatoes. Some varieties of Plum Tomatoes include Amish and Roma.

Salad Tomatoes: These tomatoes do not hold up as well when cooked so that is why they are preferred in salads. They have more pulp too. Some varieties under the Salad Tomatoes variety include Cherokee Purple, Early Girl, Heatmaster, Mr. Stripey, Tigrella, and Zobra.

Cherry Tomatoes: These are small red tomatoes that you can use in salads or just to eat right off the vine. Some varieties under the Cherry Tomatoes include Green Grape, Tommy Toe, Yellow Pear, Spoon Tomato, Sun Gold, Tumbler F1, and Gardeners Delight

Beef Steak Tomatoes: This is another type of canning tomato because it too has a thick skin and has less pulp. Some varieties under the Beef Steak variety include: Brandywine, Giant Belgium, Mortgage Lifter, Pineapple, St. Pierre, Big Rainbow, Evergreen F1, Marvel Striped, and Yellow Brandywine.

An heirloom variety is one that has been around for quite some time. They can be reproduced from their own seeds to preserve the variety every year.

Starting Tomato Plants from Seeds

If you plan on raising your own plants you will want to start your seeds about 6 weeks before you plan to put them out. Starting seeds can be done by purchasing a growing kit at the store or buying potting soil and Styrofoam cups. The directions are provided if you are using a growing kit. If you are growing seeds using cups and potting soil there are a few things you want to remember. Before adding potting soil, poke a small hole in the bottom of your cup for drainage. Fill the cup up ¾ of the way with potting soil. Plant 3 seeds per cup. They need to be planted in three’s in order to help them grow. Cover the seeds up with soil and water them. Growing seeds need about 12 hours or more of sunlight to help them grow. Keep the soil moist but not excessively wet.

Plants grow healthier and are more productive when you use fertilizer. You can find several homemade fertilizer recipes online or you can create your own. Coffee grounds are one important and natural ingredient to help your plants grow healthier. Your plants can receive a slow dose of nitrogen by spreading coffee grounds on top of the soil. If you add water it will go to work sooner.

There are several commercial fertilizers available in any plant store. Following the directions on the package is very important. Too much fertilizer can actually burn the plant and kill it. Using the fertilizer as directed will result in productive plants that will yield a wonderful harvest.

Keeping the Insects off Tomato Plants

 Have you ever smelled a tomato plant? It has a peculiar smell and that is its own natural way to ward off insects. But sometimes this does not stop certain bugs and you need to act fast before they destroy the plant. It doesn’t matter if you are growing your tomatoes in containers or in a garden in the yard bugs always seem to find their way to your tomato plant. Most insects should be picked off or sprayed off with water but if they keep finding their way back on the tomato plant and start eating the leaves you want to control them by purchasing organic insect repellent. The organic insect repellent is not harmful to you, your pets, or the environment. You can use it for the duration of the growth of the plant.

Remember as the tomatoes grow they tend to rot on the bottom because they are close to the ground and they don’t get enough sun. The best times to pick the tomatoes are when the skin looks smooth and somewhat shiny like it has a layer of wax on it. Sometimes the top of the tomato may not look ripe but that is how some of the tomatoes, especially the heirloom tomatoes, ripen.

If you have several tomato plants you soon learn that there is more than you can eat. What do you do with all the extra tomatoes? You don’t have to let it go to waste. There are several things you can do to them to preserve them so you can use them all year around. You can freeze them, can them, or dehydrate them. Canned tomatoes can be stored for up to one year as long as they were canned properly. Freezing the tomatoes is easy to do and you can enjoy them anytime during the year. Dehydrating occurs when food is cooked at a low steady temperature for a certain amount of time. This process stops the spoiling process and preserves the food without refrigerating or canning.

Tomatoes are probably the most common plant you will see in gardens everywhere. If you don’t have a garden then you may want to consider making yourself one by using a large container on your porch or balcony.

A Vegetable Gardening Guide for the Beginning Gardener

Planting, reaping and eating vegetables you have grown yourself is one of the great pleasures of life. In fact, many gardeners take great pride in sharing vegetables they have grown themselves. Apart from the pleasure of gardening, the exercise obtained is an added bonus.

A vegetable garden can be large or small depending on the space you have. In fact, living in an apartment is no deterrent to having a vegetable garden, once you are creative. Many vegetables can be grown successfully in containers.

Getting Started

The first step is to decide what to plant. For many first timers, tomatoes tend to top the list. Tomatoes are great for both outdoor and container gardens, and are easy to grow and care for. Other vegetables to consider are:

  • Sweet peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes
  • Corn

Don’t be limited by this list, just make sure to choose vegetables you enjoy as you will be more motivated. Do some research, especially if you are planting outdoors to find out which crops grow best in your area. Some plants tend to do better in certain soil and climates than in others.

Picking a Spot for your Garden

Don’t just make your garden anywhere in your yard. Most plants need a minimum of six hours of sunshine to do really well, so choose a spot that isn’t too shady. Also, don’t plant in a spot where drainage is poor. Most vegetables do not thrive in areas that are constantly wet.

Once the soil has been prepared it’s time to do the actual planting. It is a good idea to plant in rows. You can even place a marker in each row indicating what you have planted there. This will be helpful when the tiny plants start popping up.


In the beginning your needs are very simple. All you will need are:

  • Fork for turning the soil
  • Small shovel for lifting soil
  • Spade
  • Hoe

When to Plant

Although some crops grow year round it is a good idea to follow the planting guide available on seed packets. This is especially important if you live in an area where the temperature changes drastically. For indoor gardens this is not such a big issue. You can have vegetables year round if you set up your containers in the right way and provide the necessary lighting for growth.

Space plants about two to three inches apart. Some may need even more space, but check the planting guide to be sure.

Caring for the Plants

One of the biggest issues beginner gardeners have is how often to water. Read about caring for the plants you have and follow the guidelines. Observe how the plants react to the watering schedule and adjust accordingly. If you are watering weekly and growth seems stunted or the plants look droopy, water more frequently. Over time you will know what works best.

Help keep your soil rich and healthy by making compost. Depending on your needs this can be as simple as turning kitchen waste (except for meat and grease) into the soil before planting. If you have the space for it, get a compost pail and go all out making real compost by storing food cuttings and allowing it to decompose before use. You can find useful information on making compost online.

Natural Ways to Control Pests

For home gardens it is best to control pests naturally. One tried and proven method for most pests such as whiteflies and aphids; combine one cup vegetable oil with about four ounces of dishwashing liquid and a gallon of water. Shake together and use on plants every two weeks. You can use more or less often depending on need.


With some vegetables, like tomatoes, the color can indicate their readiness. Most vegetables ripen based on how long they have been planted. For example, cucumber normally ripens within 55 to 67 days depending on the variety.

Tip:  Start small for your first garden. If you start too big you may find yourself overwhelmed with how much you have to do.

When To Plant Vegetables – Gardening for your Region

Do you dream of fresh mouth-watering produce but don’t know where to get started?  Have you thought that someday you would like to plant a vegetable garden but haven’t decided when or where to start?  Do you like the idea of vegetable shopping in your backyard?  Would you prefer a healthier lifestyle and are concerned with freshness or pesticide use?

This article will tempt you and empower you to growing your own vegetable garden by discussing the following:

Where do I start?

Know Your Zone and Frost Dates

Plot out your garden

Planning your Garden

When to Plant a Vegetable Garden?

Plant in fall

Seed indoors

Sow directly

Purchase plants

Harden off

Planting tips and strategies

Planting companions

Protecting your plants from frost

Crop Rotation

Plan to Succeed

 Where do I start?

Start with deciding you are actually going to plant your garden this year.  It is simpler than you think.  Plan a small garden as you can always expand next year. Recruit a friend, your children or spouse to help you and make it a group effort.  Choose vegetables that you love to eat.

Know Your Zone and Frost Dates

Locate your plant hardiness zone.  Most vegetables and herbs are annuals with a few exceptions.  The zone and dates will help you plan for plant selection as well as time lines for planting and harvest.  It is easy to locate this information on the internet or by person.

You can do a search specifically for plant hardiness zone, or go to The United States National Arboretum website at, which includes Canada, Mexico and the US. Simply click on your region or on the state abbreviation.  Zones are color-coded and numbered from 1 to 11 in the US, with 1 being the coldest region, 11 the warmest. The legend indicates the average annual minimal temperature range for each region.  Knowing your zone can impact on seed selection and perennial vegetable plants.

For more detailed Canadian information, visit The charts for Canada similarly range from 0 to 8.

For frost dates, you will need both the spring (last frost) and fall (first frost) dates. These vary by zone, region and sometimes year to year.  They are based on historical data.  Changing weather patterns can alter these dates.  Generally, plant outdoors after the spring frost date in your area, and try to cultivate before the fall frost date.  Seeds may be planted before the spring dates, however they should not have germinated above ground during a frost.  This may kill a plant which is susceptible to frost.

The farmer’s almanac which has been around for more than a century also has helpful weather-related predictions both short and long term for the upcoming year and is available online at  or in book format.  It is good to glance at occasionally for planning and interest.

In person, it is easy to ask a gardening neighbor or buddy, or ask at your local gardening center.  They have an idea of what zone and what are typical frost dates for your area. This will help you with your planning.


Zone – Spring frost range (Last of season), Fall frost range (First of season)





May 1-31

Aug 1-31



Sept 1-30

















Jan 30-Feb28



Jan 30 or before



No frost

Plot out your garden

Choose a sunny level location for your garden with at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, whether it be a traditional plot of land, raised beds or container gardening.  If possible, prepare your soil in the fall by adding compost or nutrients, ready for spring planting.

Measure your garden space and prepare a grid on paper as this space will determine the amount of plants.  Be sure to take into consideration the traditional spacing of plants, usually found on your seed packet.  The height and width of the plants is also important.  Plan to have taller plants in the northern areas to avoid the blocking of sunlight on the southern side of your garden. Garden rows should run East / West, to allow as many plants as possible direct contact with the southern sun.  Draw your garden on paper, using your list of desired plants.  This will help you determine the amount of seed or seedlings to buy.  Make notes of anticipated planting times to help keep you organized for planting and harvesting.  Keep your notes year to year, to help you remember planting times and locations to help with plant rotation.

Planning your Garden

Obtain or make a year at a glance calendar January to December, with space for 52 vertical weeks per year.  Mark the typical frost line for spring and fall.  What is in between shows your outdoor growing season.  List your selected plants in the left hand column, and mark off in weeks the amount of growing time needed, starting form the fall frost line and moving backwards.  Make sure your plants are finished growing and vegetables are ready for harvest before the fall frost line.  This may mean more than one harvest as in the case of lettuce that has a short growing season.  It may mean purchasing live plants or starting seedlings indoors where the estimated time to plant maturity exceeds the growing season ex. Celery, tomatoes and watermelon in this example.


PLANTS Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May June Jul. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec.
Carrot       xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xx    
Celery       xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xx    
Corn         xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xx  
Cucumber            xx xxxx xxxx xx        
Green Bean         xxxx xxxx xxxx          
Lettuce         xxxx xx   xxxx xx      
Peas           xx xxxx xxxx          
Pepper         xxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx      
Potato         xxxx              
Pumpkin         xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xx    
Tomato       xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx      
Watermelon     xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx xxxx      

Growing season

When to Plant a Vegetable Garden?

Seeds are available almost everywhere from your grocery and hardware stores, to gardening centers and seed distribution centres.  They can be ordered over the internet directly with seed companies.  For the greatest variety and special criteria ex. Organic or locally grown, consult a garden centre or the internet to meet your needs.  Why not try exciting new varieties that differ from your usual grocery store fare such as purple radishes or string beans, heirloom tomatoes or cayenne peppers.  Also, consider planting some herb varieties to tempt your palate.

Some plants will need to be started indoors or to have seedlings purchased at a greenhouse.  Some plants such as lettuce and corn are best sown every 2 weeks to ensure a steady supply.

These general guidelines can be adapted to your specific area, based on your vegetables of choice and your frost dates.  These are for direct seed sowing in the soil.  Other vegetables can be grown by starting seeds indoors to prolong the growing season.

Plant Days to harvest Region 1


Zones 3-7


Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Rocky Mountain West

Region 2


Zones 6-9


Pacific North West

Region 3


Zones 8-10

Southern California,

South Western States

Region 4


Zones 6-7


Mountain South incl. NC, TN, VA,WV, KY

Region 5


Zones 7-11


Deep South and Hawaii

Early spring to mid-summer direct seed sowing into the ground
beans 55-85 June-July June-July July-August July April-June
beets 60-80   June-August     April-June
carrots 55-70 June-July June-August June-August June-August April-June
chives 80 May April April May April-May
corn 60-110 May-June   April-July June-July May-June
cucumber 45-60 June June-July April-June June  
eggplant 50-60   June-July      
green pepper 140-180   June-July May-June June-July May-June
leaf lettuce 45-60 May-June May-July April-July May-July April-June
onion 90 May-June June-August April-July May-July April-June
parsley 65-75 May-June May-July April-July May-June April-June
peas 60-70 May-June May-July April-July May-June April-June
potato 90-120 May May-July April-July May-June April-June
radishes 25 May-June May-July April-July May-June April-June
sunflowers 95 May-June May-July April-July May-June  
Swiss chard 40-50   June-August April-July May-June April-June
tomato 140-190     June   June-July
Late summer to early fall seed sowing
Beans 55-85   Sept-Oct Aug-Sept   Aug-Sept
Cabbage 55-100 Jul-Aug Aug Aug-Oct Jul-Aug Sept-Oct
carrots 55-70   Aug Aug-Oct Aug Sept-Oct
cucumbers 45-70     Aug-Sep   Aug-Sep
lettuce 45-60 Aug Aug-Sep Aug-Oct Aug-Sep Sept-Oct
onions 65-110 Aug   Sept Aug-Sep Aug-Oct
peas 60-70 July July Aug-Sept July  
radishes 25 Aug-Oct Aug-Oct Sept-Oct Sept-Oct Oct
spinach 30-40 Aug Aug-Sep Aug-Oct Aug-Sep Sept-Oct
Late fall to early winter seed sowing
carrots 55-70 *Oct Sept-Oct Oct-Dec *Nov Oct-Dec
collards 70-80   Sept-Oct Oct-Nov *Nov Oct-Nov
kale 30-42   Sept-Oct Oct-Nov *Nov Oct-Nov
lettuce 45-60 *Oct Sept-Oct Oct-Dec Sept *Nov Oct-Dec
peas 60-70 *Oct Sept-Oct   *Nov Nov-Dec
radishes 25 *Oct Sept-Nov Oct-Dec Oct Oct-Dec
spinach 30-40 *Oct Sept-Oct Oct-Dec *Nov Oct-Dec
turnips 55-90 *Oct Aug-Sept Oct-Nov *Nov Oct-Nov

* planting for next year’s crop

Plant in fall

Cool weather plants are best grown in spring and fall, thus planted late just before the final frost or early in spring.  If your zone permits, you may plant a second crop by planting early in the fall to have a second harvest.  These vegetables include lettuce, peas spinach and radishes by seed.  Onions are best planted by bulb, and can also be planted before the final frost.

Seed indoors

Depending on your zone, you may need to plant seeds indoors for some varieties of seed.  Simply count backwards from the frost date in your area for the specific variety of seed selected. Ranges for typical seeds are present below.  If your days to harvest exceed your growing season, planting seeds indoors is the least expensive option.  Ensure you have shallow trays of typical dirt and natural light from a window if south or west facing. An option is to use a grow light that has full-spectrum lighting. This is important because seeds will not prosper without it.  Typical plants to start indoors include tomatoes, celery, peppers, watermelon or seeds with a large number of days to harvest.  Plants do best with seedlings that have been transplanted from the tray beds to small pots or containers after germination as this is more soil depth for the root development.

Sow directly

Depending on your area, most seeds will be transplanted directly into the soil.  Onions and rhubarb should be sown from a bulb and root stock respectively.  To keep your lines straight, place a piece of string between two wooded sticks and have a person hold each end for the length of your row.  Mark the soil with a hoe a few inches deep.

Purchase plants

Look for healthy dark green firm well-developed plants instead of pale, long lanky ones.  The latter have been starved for light and typically do not do well. Avoid flowering plants if possible, as a lot of the plants energy will go into the development of the root system, rather than developing a vegetable at planting time.

Harden off

All seedlings should be hardened off prior to planting. Place plants outside in their containers for a gradually incrementing amount of time over 2 weeks.  Typically start off with 2 hours and add an hour or two a day, until the plants have been outside for a full continuous 24 hours.  This acclimatises them to the sun’s heat, wind, humidity and temperature for your region prior to transplanting.

Planting tips and strategies

Tomatoes – To prevent blossom end rot, place 1 tbsp calcium (powdered milk or ground eggshells) in the freshly dug hole prior to planting your tomato seedling or seed outdoors.

Lettuce – To minimize worm infestations from eating your leaves, sprinkle Epsom salt lightly with your seed as you are planting.  Some regions benefit from protective wire to prevent animals from munching on your plants.

Corn, peas, beans, tomatoes are said to be best planted on the eve of a full moon.

Another way to extend the growing season and stagger plant harvest is to use a protective surround such as Kozy Coats or a cold frame around delicate tomato or pepper plants in the spring.  This helps keep the temperature surrounding the plant a few degrees warmer, allowing you to plant your seedling earlier and get a head start for the growing season.

 Plant climbing vines and plants near tall plants such as corn, as the latter provides a natural place for peas and pumpkin vines to climb as they grow.

Planting companions

These pairings generally help against disease and bug infestations.  It can be helpful to plan at least one helpful plant near potential troublesome target plants.  Avoid planting target plant near plants that reduce their mutual efficacy.

Plant Benefited by Impeded by
bean Corn, cucumber, strawberry onion
beet cabbage, lettuce, onion bean
cabbage Celery, onion, potato Strawberry, tomato
carrot Chive, lettuce, onion, pea, dill
corn Bean, cucumber, pea, potato, pumpkin tomato
cucumber Bean, corn, onion, pea, radish, sunflower potato
eggplant Green bean  
green pepper Basil, okra  
kale Cabbage, potato, sage Wild mustard
lettuce Cucumber, radish, strawberry Bean, tomato
onion Chamomile, savoury Bean, pea
parsley tomato  
pea Carrot, rash, turnip  
potato Bean, corn, eggplant  
radish Mustard, nasturtium  
spinach strawberry  
tomato Asparagus, carrot, celery, onions, parsley Corn, potato
turnip pea mustard

Ref: Carrots Love Tomatoes

Protecting your plants from frost

Near the actual dates, you may need to listen to weather forecasts to find out what the overnight temperature will be (Above 32º F or 0ºC).  Being aware of the temperature patterns in your area may help you to anticipate a frost. In the South, be aware of Northern air currents that can cool off the night air by 50ºF.  In the North, be aware of a sudden clearing of wind and a drop in temperature of 40ºF in the evening with a clear sky and an absence of dew.

If your plants are in the ground, you may need to protect them by covering them with a tarp or covering that reaches all the way to the ground. The idea is to trap radiating heat form the ground. Mulching, watering them overnight or harvesting early or other alternatives.  You can do this once or twice to save your plants and produce from a light frost, but it generally is a sign that the growing season is over and your harvest should be removed as soon as possible.  If your plants do not survive a spring frost, they can easily be replaced, either by re-sowing seeds in the ground if you have enough growing time or by purchasing plants at your local greenhouse.  Fall frosts can damage your harvest.

Some plants are more frost hardy than others.  The very susceptible plants include tomatoes, watermelon, and lettuce.  Corn, carrots, potatoes and pumpkin are more frost hardy plants.

Crop Rotation

To minimize disease, bug infestations and soil mineral depletion, it is best to change the location of specific plant types from year to year.  This allows the soil to rest and minimizes the return or proliferation of specific insects in your garden.  A rotation plan set over 3 years is recommended.


There is no better time to start planning your garden.  Roll up your sleeves and dig in.  Do your homework by finding out your frost dates and zone.  Select interesting varieties of your favourite vegetables and include your family.  Carefully choose your garden location.  Plant your seeds and seedlings to maximize garden productivity, obtaining multiple harvests of the same vegetable where possible.  Protect your plants from frost. Minimize the effects of disease and insects by rotating the position of your plants in your garden year to year.  Bite into the vegetables of your labour!


Buczacki, Stephan, The Conran Beginner’s Guide to Gardening, Stoddart, 1988.

Heriteau, Jacqueline, Ortho’s Complete Guide to Vegetables, Ortho Books,1997.

Hole, Jim & Lois, Vegetables: Practical Advice and the Science Behind It, Vol 4, Hole’s, 2001.

Riotte, Louise, Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, Storey Communications, 1998.

Stewart, Martha, Gardening 101: Learn How to Plan, Plant, and Maintain a Garden, Clarkson Potter Publishing, 2000.,

Organic Gardening: Tips and Theory

In an age when the political right has, out of whatever motive, jumped on the “go green” bandwagon, increased interest in organic gardening comes as no surprise.  Of course, like new ideas such as alternative medicine and hormone-free animal husbandry, the fact of the matter is that organic gardening has historically been the standard practice.  The misleadingly named conventional farm is a recent development, a productive, if somewhat problematic marriage between technological innovation and increased population.  While synthetic fertilizers and chemical pesticides have increased crop yields in the short term, many people have begun to question the long term effects on human health, as well as the role these practices play in soil depletion and ground water contamination.  Many gardeners have opted to return to the old ways, ways that are not incompatible with a certain kind of technological help.

Like alternative and holistic approaches to human health, organic gardening is comprehensive.  Though there are methods and products to treat specific problems, the focus is on the health of the soil as the basis for success.  For decades now, the conventional approach has been to feed plants to the detriment of the soil.  The effect is to get a quick fix that will produce a robust looking plant that is essentially unhealthy.  Over time, the plant suffers, the soil has nothing to offer, and solutions become increasingly expensive.

When it comes to fertilizing, conventional wisdom has always stressed high N-P-K values.  The result is two-fold: lack of concern for the proper chemical balance of the soil beyond these three elements; and synthetic fertilizers that contain concentrations of N-P-K that are too high for the plant to use before the highly water-soluble chemicals are leeched away to contaminate ground water.  The first step in any organic program is to stop using them, as well as any other synthetic herbicides and pesticides.  Organic fertilizers, though generally having lower N-P-K values, are not readily water-soluble, and remain available to the plant for a longer period of time.

So, once you have responsibly disposed of all the old chemicals, what do you do? Well, if there is one word that could be used to describe the key to an organic approach, that would be biodiversity, with balance following closely as the desired effect.  The healthy organic garden is one in which large numbers of organisms thrive, nourishing one another in a variety of ways.  Healthy soil, teeming with microorganisms, produces healthy plants which are resistant to pests and disease.  Birds, butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects thrive, pollinating plants and preying on any harmful interlopers.  And it all begins in the compost pile.

Composting is one of those things that can sometimes appear dauntingly complicated to the neophyte.  However, just keep in mind that composting will occur no matter what you do; all the effort gardeners put into it merely speeds up the process.  Make a pile of organic refuse in a convenient place, add to it constantly, turn it occasionally, keep it a bit moist; that is all there is to it.  Once finished, compost will be black, crumbly, and redolent of a forest floor.  Add as much of it to your native soil as possible.  Although the N-P-K value of compost is very low, it is the most important fertilizer you can use.

Aside from compost, there are a number of soil amendments available to bolster the health of your yard and garden.  There is almost certainly a nursery, garden center, or feed store in your area that carries organic products.  They will be able to help you decide what are the most helpful products for your soil type.  Many amendments are variations on common household items, such as cider vinegar, molasses, and corn meal.  By all means, feel free to use these common household items in your efforts.  For example, my own soil is a highly alkaline black clay that when wet surpasses in density the heaviest Christmas fruitcake.  I can raise the acidity of the soil by adding coffee grounds and molasses directly.  In addition, both are good fertilizers and assist in pest control, slugs with the coffee grounds, fire ants and pill bugs with the molasses.  But it goes beyond the simple cause and effect approach of conventional thinking; it is the interconnection between the parts that make up the health of the whole.

Once you have begun to work on the health of the soil, here are a few final tips to keep in mind.  First, whenever possible, choose native plants and well adapted introductions; these plants already thrive under your existing environmental conditions.  Also, mulch bare soil, preferably with organic matter from your own yard.  Mulching helps regulate soil temperature and moisture, and also greatly assists with weed control.  Each element in the system reinforces the others, resulting in a synergy and symbiosis unavailable to the conventional gardener.

In the end, whether or not food grown organically is healthier, whether or not a plant knows one nitrogen source from another, and all the rest of the pros and cons of organic gardening  really mean very little to me.  Finally, it comes down to how you view the world and your place in it.  Organic gardening allows the individual to take a hand in nature’s processes, not by vainly attempting to control them, but by creatively participating in them.

Vegetable Dishes – Baking Your Garden

Gardening is one of the most popular hobbies for millions of people around the world.  If you are a novice, you might fear what to do with all of the produce you have coming from your garden.  Or while you might be an avid gardener, you can always use more recipes for your harvest. Take advantage of the following vegetable dishes by using your own vegetables fresh out of the garden.

One of the easiest vegetables to grow is zucchini.  Mound up a little dirt, put a seed in the middle and wait for the rain.  After a few weeks, vines will start sprouting and away they go!  Since zucchini are the easiest, many people grow them and end up with surplus.  So even if you don’t grow zucchini, you may get some from a neighbor or relative who has too many.  Here’s one of the vegetable dishes you can make with them:

Fried Zucchini

This recipe is so simple, but so good, that half of the batch doesn’t make it to the serving platter.  We eat it right out of the pan and don’t mind the burned fingers!

Cut zucchini in to ¼” to ½” inch slices.  You can choose to fry them as slices or cut in to quarters for smaller pieces that cook faster.  Pre-heat a skillet or fry pan and add pat of butter in the center.  Once it is melted, pour in your zucchini and spread out so they are thin over the bottom.  After several minutes, stir the cubed pieces or flip the circles to brown on the other side.  Once the zucchini is soft and browned to your liking, salt the top.  Serve warm.

Carrots are another easy vegetable to grow that has many healthy benefits for you.  It is also a vegetable that you can get kids to eat rather easily.  If they don’t, one of the most delicious vegetable dishes is a sweetened version that may get them to like carrots.

Glazed Carrots

After you pull carrots from the ground, clean and peel them.  Depending on the variety you use, you may need to cut them in half or slices of about 3 inches long.  Prepare about one pound of carrots.

In a large pot, bring several cups of water to a boil.  Add carrots and cook until slightly tender, but yet still firm.  While carrots are cooking, heat a skillet and add ¼ cup of butter and 2 tablespoons of honey.  Stir together and keep warm over low heat.  When the carrots are tender, discard the water and place carrots in skillet. Add one pinch of ginger and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.  Stir to coat and cook until they are heated through.

Lastly, this dish combines four of the great elements from your garden: corn, green beans, peas and carrots.

Mixed Veggie Bake

Prepare vegetables so you have half a cup each of peas out of their shell, snipped green beans, sliced carrots and corn off the cob.  Pour all of the vegetables in a greased casserole dish.  Add one can of cream of mushroom soup and 1/3 cup of sour cream.  Stir until mixed.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes and remove from the oven.  Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and add fried onions if desired.  Return to the oven for the cheese to melt, about five minutes.  Serve warm alone or with a meat dish.

Creating the Perfect Gardens with Flower Gardening Tips

Flowers are some of the most beautiful plants that can be readily seen anywhere. Flowers, which are bright and full in color, can instantly draw the instant attention of the eyes, and add a great deal of character and charm to a yard or garden. For those that love to plant flowers, there are several great gardening tips that can be used for making the best of the garden, as well as the flowers that are planted.

One of the greatest flower gardening tips is to plant vibrant and various colored flowers together. This array of flowers will make for a beautiful effect for any garden area. Another great flower gardening tip to keep in mind is to remember that small gardening spaces do not need to be bombarded with a large amount of flowers. In this instance, less is definitely more. Many people believe that if they were to plant a large amount of flowers that it will create a full effect, when in fact, it can hinder the flowers from spreading out and growing properly.

When planting flowers, it is important to remember one of the main rules of thumb with this flower gardening tip: flowers that are planted in the shade need to be flowers that do not need excessive sunlight. Although there are flowers that do not need a lot of sunlight, these flowers are few and far between. When planting flowers under shade, such as a tree, it is imperative that the root of the tree will not effect the growth of the flower and vice versa. Both the flower and the tree need adequate room to grow.

Some of the most basic flower gardening tips can be easily forgotten. For example, when planting flower bulbs, it is best to create one hole per bulb that is planted in the ground. Depending on the size of the bulb, and the flower that will be produced, the bulbs should be a fairly good distance from one another, typically several inches. As with all flowers, it is important to water on days that are not windy, and to water the flowers in the morning or at night, to avoid evaporation.

There are also those flowers that will attract certain kinds of birds, hummingbirds, and bats. These flowers are beneficial to plant in a flower garden, as these animals will consume the pesky bugs that will try to attack the flowers. Flowers that are planted for this benefit can not only create beautiful flowers in the garden, but will bring the added benefits of being able to bird watch in the comfort of one’s lawn.

Having the beauty and the comfort of a garden that is full of flowers is the reward for a job well done. Creating and maintaining a flower bed is truly hard work and a labor of love. With some of the most basic flower gardening tips in hand, even the beginning gardener can plant a captivating and breath-taking flower bed for all to enjoy.

Organic Vegetables

The days of the small family-run corner stores, offering organic vegetables from the nearby farm, are thankfully returning in a strong way.

However, instead having to buy the organic vegetables in a remote location from Mom and Pop Farmer, these chemical- and pesticide-free vegetables are coming to us. Organic foods are now widely available in practically every supermarket chain.

Within the U.S., organic food sales have experienced up to a 20 percent growth rate in the last few years. Comparatively, conventionally grown vegetables are experiencing only a 2 to 3 percent growth margin.

So, What are organic vegetables?

Apart from using growing techniques that help ensure environmental protection, organic vegetables are free of conventional pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, sewer sludge or genetic modification.

Similarly, organic meat, poultry, eggs and dairy products come from animals that are not given antibiotics or growth hormones.

Wal-Mart, General Mills and Kellogg are some of the more notable companies that are producing more organic products. Organic vegetables and other food come at a higher price, however, because of the extra detail to grow and breed them.

Farming without pesticides and fertilizers is not easy. Laborers weed the fields by hand. Farmers control pests with sticky flypaper and ladybugs.

Manure and soil fertility is closely managed. Organic farmers contend that they can ultimately exceed the crops of conventional farmers through smarter soil management.

Consumers who are paying 50 percent more for organic vegetables believe humans should be prudent not only with their own health but also with the land they walk on. They prefer organic vegetables produced through fair wages and family farms, not the conventional fare grown by underpaid workers and Big Business.

They cringe about the data that reveals pesticides seeping into the food supply and genetically modified crops across the landscape. The Environmental Protection Agency recently measured pesticide exposure in a group of elementary children. What they found was shocking.

Immediately after substituting organic vegetables into their diet, the concentration of pesticides found in their bodies decreased substantially to non-detectable levels.

A strong debate exists whether organic vegetables are more nutritious than conventional vegetables, but there is no arguing the fact that organic means are safer for the environment and purer for the body.

It is true that the Vitamin C content of a conventional tomato is practically identical to the amount in an organic vegetable. However, again, consumers of organic vegetables disregard this fact with the belief the tomato was grown as it should.

In summary, is it not true that Mom and Pop Farmer selling their organic vegetables at the corner store sound good? It brings all of us back to our traditional, old-fashioned values of eating what is pure. To be sure, the economics of buying organic vegetables might be difficult for many, but at what cost is purity in our diets and how we treat our Earth’s soil?

Vegetable Gardening Tip

How many of you out there dream about having your own vegetable garden? What better way to impress friends who come to dine than by picking and cooking your own. What about that for freshness and taste. The experience too would be sublime.

Growing your own vegetables in your own garden sounds too scientific for some. You need to select your vegetables to plant correctly, which is mind-boggling in itself because there are so many vegetables out there and so many varieties of each. You need the right soil type, the right amount of light, the right fertilizers and you need to know when to plant and when to pick. All this scares many people away and they end up picking up a tin of freeze dried mushroom mulch off the supermarket shelf.

It need not be like this. People have been growing vegetables since man started walking upright. How did man first learn to grow his own? Trial and error. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. If your green beans don’t grow well you could have planted them during a frost. Leave them next time until the ground is frost free. If the broccoli has small plant heads then you have planted them too late in the spring. Next time plant them earlier in the spring before the temperature gets too warm.

Trial and error is all well and good, but people today want instant delicious success. In this case, there are rules that can be followed to help rubber stamp success. The size of the garden does not change these rules.

The first thing to do is plan the garden. Decide what vegetables (and how many) you will plant and where you will plant them. Then you need to select the plot of land that will become your garden. Choose a site in an area that will not be shaded by buildings or trees If you have animals, protect the garden with a small fence.

To grow vegetables successfully the soil needs to be fertile, deep, and well drained. Unless you are very fortunate your soil is unlikely to meet these criteria. Over a period of time you will be able to increase the fertility of the soil by following good cultivation practices.

The first task is to dig over the whole of your site. Dig to a depth of 8-10 inches and continue working the soil making it loose. Do not dig when the soil is too wet. The soil will be improved by the addition of organic matter. It helps release nitrogen, minerals, and other nutrients for plant use when it decays. Well-rotted compost or manure can be dug into the soil.

The selection of varieties of vegetables to grow should be largely influenced by those which will form your daily fare throughout the season. If you are planning on selling your vegetables, there will be a demand for those vegetables which come earliest in spring such as asparagus, radishes, lettuce. There will also be demand for vegetables which may be stored such as sweet corn, beans, peas, and beets, cabbage, cauliflower, and tomatoes.

Beginners should study the back of the seed packets because it is a mine of practical information regarding that particular vegetable. It will tell you the height and breadth the vegetable will grow to, the period at which they are in season, and the distance apart they should be planted.

The taste from organic vegetables is truly wonderful and is a true representation of what a vegetable is all about. Organic food is free from artificial chemicals, pesticides, antibiotics, growth-promoters and fertilizers. It is produced using environmentally friendly methods and is free from genetically modified ingredients. Organic foods according to some studies show that they have more vitamins and beneficial trace elements than conventionally grown food and so may be more nutritious.

Organic foods are not mass-produced and traditional organic farming often produces lower yields than modern intensive farming methods. That is why organic food is generally more expensive than non-organic. For example, a single juicy organic peach can often cost twice as much as a non-organic peach. If you are willing to pay the extra price then go organic. You won’t regret it.