Monday, November 6, 2017

How Well Do You Implement Organic Gardening Practices?

When my local country radio station introduces a new song it allows its audience to rate it. They call it smash or trash. So how did the garden do this year was it a smash or trash?

No matter how many years you garden, there are always successes and failures.  Perhaps after looking at a disaster you've said,  "Well, I am not doing that again!" (Hopefully you don't say that about gardening as a whole.)  Yet when the planting season rolls around, we usually forget both our successes and failures.

Perhaps before you forget you should write down successes and failures you experienced in the growing season. Keeping a garden journal is a great way to document the happenings in your garden. Not only recoding successes and failure but dates when certain pests arrive, unusual weather patterns,  and a map of your garden are all extremely beneficial and will be helpful for the next growing season.

Sometimes our failures are due to our own cultural practices or maybe lack of good organic gardening practices.  Here's a short checklist to evaluate how you are doing.  

Checklist of Organic Gardening Practices:

____ I incorporate organic matter into the garden as a soil amendment.  Best Organic Gardening Tip to Build Healthy Soil

____ I limit any tilling to only new areas or poorly producing areas  Choosing a Site, Building Raised Beds, & Preparing Your Soil

____ I do not walk on my soil causing compaction

____ List crops that did extremely well this year: (Include variety and if you want to plant again)

____ List crops that did poorly and why I think they failed:


____ My plants had protection from harsh winds.  I have some kind of wind break.  Hedgerows, Shelterbelts, and Windbreaks

____ My garden's watering system provides even moisture and I monitor it to be sure all areas are sufficiently covered.  Organic Principles: The Living Soil

____ I know what type of soil I have and water accordingly.  Sandy soils require short frequent waterings and clay soils need water applied at a slow rate and less frequently.

____ I apply fertilizers at the proper time.  Preparing the Soil & Fertilizing

____ I mulched after seedlings were up

____ I know what pests are a problem in my area and monitor for them.  Summer Garden Pests  Tips for Controlling Slugs  Controlling Squash Bugs

____ I have an integrated pest management program IPM to deal with common pests in my garden

____ I use good quality, disease free seed.  Sow Many Seeds

____ I know how deep to plant a seed.

____ I weeded regularly

____ I trellised plants that need to climb or provided cages for crops such as tomatoes

____ I harvested regularly

____ I spend time in and enjoy my garden.  I monitor the condition of my plants.

____ I use organic pest control and avoid broad spectrum pesticides that kill native pollinators.  Native Pollinators

____ Which crops were high producers?

____ Which crops gave a disappointing harvest?

____ Which crops had the best taste?  D0 you think it was the variety or due to your cultural practices?

____Which crops did not taste good?

____ Which crops were both high producers and good tasting healthy crops?

 ____ I planted crops in the proper season.  Cool season crops in early spring, warm season crops in summer, and another round of cool season crops for fall and winter.  Seed Planting Schedule

____ I have ways to protect spring crops from a late frost.  Row Covers  Low Tunnels

____ I do some companion planting

____ I do staggered plantings of the same crop to have a continual harvest.  How To Have Continual Harvests

____ I cleaned out my garden for the winter and destroyed diseased plants.  Preparing the Homestead for Winter

____  I use cover crops or add a layer of mulch to avoid leaving the soil bare through the winter.

____ I rotate the planting location of my crops.   Rotate, Rotate For Healthy Soil

So how did you do?  We all have room for improvement.  I find that most people neglect their soil and water inconsistently.  Both of those practices stress plants effecting not only the size of your harvest but the quality.

So that you do NOT get discouraged remember mistakes are proof that you are trying.  So congratulations!  

Garden is a verb as well as a noun. It does require consistent dedicated effort.  Enjoy the experience and opportunity you have to garden.  Make the best use of the time and resources available to you.  You have the winter to forget about your failures and the promise of a new growing season and a new opportunity to reap what you sow.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Principles of Fall and Winter Gardening

Most gardeners focus their attention on the summer season, but you may be missing the best time of the year. Fall gardening is a pleasure:  pests, weeds, and disease are less of a problem so you have fewer chores. Much less water is needed so watering isn't such a chore.

One of my goals has been to produce food year round.  I've been able to preserve food from my garden and eat from it year round but growing year round gives you access to a fresh produce high in antioxidants and vitamins during the winter months. 

Keys to Year Round Gardening

The key is planting cold hardy crops which can be grown for 3 seasons spring, fall, and winter. Basically you are looking at the cool crops of spring including green leaf crops and those in the Brassica family.  The second key is to protect your crops.  Put them undercover.  There is something for every budget to protect plants- row covers, cold frames, hot beds, low tunnels, and green houses. 

Row covers 

Low Tunnels

Persephone Months

Fall and winter gardening requires some insight into what has the most influence on plant growth.  If you guessed day length you are correct.   When there are less than 10 hours of daylight plant growth stops. Seeds planted late in fall may not sprout or will sprout and die.  The diminishing sunlight is a signal to them that they are growing in the wrong season

The Greeks created the myth called Persephone to explain this so year round gardeners call these months, when daylight is less than 10 hours, the Persephone Months. The goal is to have your fall crops 90% mature before the Persephone months.

In New Harmony, the Persephone Months are from November 21- January 21st.

How To Use This Information to Time Planting

 How do I use this information?  Seed packets give us this information. Lacinato variety of kale needs 62 days to mature.  In my area, I need to plant this variety around the month of August which gives the plant 62 days to mature before daylight hours fall below 10 hours. If I put the plant undercover I can continue to harvest from the plant even though growth has slowed. 

Another principle to understand is what you are trying to accomplish by covering your plants.  Soil is warmed by the sun during the day and that warmth can be trapped to protect the plant from the cold nights.  Moist soil will trap more heat.  To trap that heat you are going to place low, spreading covers over your plants.  The covers need to allow sunlight to penetrate to regenerate heat the next day.

These are the basics principles which can help you succeed at extending your harvest.