Monthly Archives: July 2017

Organic Gardening

How-To Basics of getting started with Organic Gardening.
No matter whether you are an experienced organic gardener or you have simply decided that you would like to become more self-reliant by growing some of your own food, planting a garden requires planning. A properly planned and planted organic garden will naturally resist disease, deter pests, and be healthy and productive. With the spring planting season fast approaching, winter is the ideal time to get started.

Set Goals
What do you want to do with your plot of earth this season? Begin planning by setting goals. Grab your garden map, a pencil, your gardening guide, catalogs, and your thinking cap. List the areas of your yard and garden separately (i.e. lawn, vegetable patch, flower garden), and, keeping in mind the size and conditions of your site, brainstorm! Are you planning a garden for the first time? Do you want to expand your existing garden? Did you have pest or disease problems last year that you’re hoping to prevent this year? What map? To create a map of your yard or garden, measure the dimensions of your site as a whole, and then the individual dimensions of your vegetable patch, flowerbeds, and lawn. It’s easiest to draw your map to scale on a sheet of graph paper. These measurements will be necessary later, when you are determining how much of a plant or seeds to buy. Once the map is drawn, write in any information you know about soil characteristics, drainage, environmental conditions (sunny, shady, windy), and the names of trees and perennial plants that already exist. Your map will let you know exactly what you have to work with, and will give you a realistic idea of problems that need attention or features you’d like to change or add.

Gardening 101
It is important to understand the magnitude of your project before you begin. Getting the background information necessary to fulfill your goals may take an hour or a week, depending upon your level of experience and how involved you plan to get. Consulting your garden guidebook is a great way to begin – I suggest Warren Schultz’s The Organic Suburbanite, The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman, Rodale’s Chemical-Free Yard & Garden, or The Handy Garden Answer Book by Karen Troshynski-Thomas. You can also go to your local library and investigate their resources or contact your local garden club for their suggestions. As you research, write down how long each project will take, what tools you will need, and the approximate cost of everything you will need. This information will be invaluable when you make up your shopping list and schedule of activities. Scheduling and Organization. A schedule of activities lists what you hope to accomplish in what time frame. It will help keep you on track. It is important to be realistic about what you are capable of.

Tool Tutorial
You have a plan! You have knowledge! Do you have tools? Chances are you may be able to obtain most tools at your local lawn and garden store. Bring the list that you assembled in Gardening 101, and, if you are a seasoned gardener, assume that the same pests and plagues will be back that you dealt with last year and buy your supplies now. If you are new to the gardening scene, buy the basic tools that you will need, and then nose around the neighborhood and perhaps your local gardening club to see what is recommended for what you are planting and where you live.

Garden Design
Switching to chemical-free gardening will not only mean changing your gardening practices, but also your gardening design. Gardening in beds, as opposed to rows, provides for better weed, disease and pest management. Beds are also more attractive and easier to maintain. In a garden bed, everything is planted within arm’s reach. The leaves of adjacent plants shade the soil, reducing weed growth. Diversity in a garden bed also has many advantages. A variety of plants in a mixed bed provide some natural pest protection by making it difficult for pests to find and eat their target plants, or helping to attract insects that are beneficial to your garden and prey on pest insects. It also reduces the chances that pests and disease organisms will build to epidemic levels, as they won’t be able to hop from tasty host to tasty host, as they would if you had planted in rows

Incorporate Garden Compost Into Your Garden

You can obtain ready prepared bags of garden compost from most garden nurseries or garden supply stores. Many garden supply companies and gardening websites offer an online service and will deliver. It is important that you choose the right garden compost for your soil and particular needs. Some plants and garden shrubs such as rhododendrons and azaleas require special ericaceous compost to make the soil more acid. While other garden compost is suitable for general use for vegetable and flower gardening.

The main advantage of using compost on your garden is to improve the soil structure. Good garden soil needs to be loose and be able to hold water but with adequate drainage. Clay soil can be very heavy, so adding garden compost will improve the structure and drainage. For soils that are sandy, garden compost will absorb water and improve the water-holding capacity of the soil.

As well as improving the structure and water retaining properties of soil, the decomposing compost will gradually release nutrients vital for healthy plant growth. Nitrogen is a vital nutrient in plant growth which can be obtained from garden compost. The use of adding manure as well as compost will ensure a good supply of nitrogen if growing highly productive crops.

For those who do not want to buy their garden compost, making your own compost in your garden has several advantages. Firstly, it allows the gardener to recycle garden wastes. This means less waste to have to dispose of. Secondly, you will know what has gone into your garden compost. So if you want to be an organic gardener, you will have control over what has gone into your compost.

When deciding on your home garden compost bin it is best to design it into your garden. Making a home compost can be made from ready made plastic drums which turn, to wooden enclosures made yourself or from kits ready to assemble. Having some sort of structure for your compost will save space and hasten decomposition. If you find that the thought of your compost bin may spoil the look of the garden, then garden screens can be useful to hide it from view.

When you have to dispose of garden waste those garden jobs can become harder. But with your own garden compost patch or bin, garden clearance becomes a whole lot easier. Most organic materials will decompose, but not all garden wastes should go into your home compost. Leaves, grass cuttings, non-woody plant trimmings can all be composted. If putting grass cuttings into your compost, it is advisable to mix with other garden waste to keep it aerated. Branches, logs or twigs greater than 1/4 inch thick should be put through a garden mulcher or shredder first, as they will not decompose fast enough..

Once you begin to fill your compost bin, decomposition can take from six months to two years. The process can be sped up by mixing dry and wet materials and chopping or shredding waste as small as possible. The stage of decomposition will vary from top to bottom as you continually add more waste. The more finished compost will be found at the bottom of your bin and should be removed first.

Garden Design Inspiration

The best known are the large gardens opened by organisation such as the Royal Horticultural Society and National Trust. The former’s RHS Garden Wisley is rightfully one of the most visited in the country. It can at first glance seem a mix of botanical garden with ‘features’ thrown in but after many visits you understand that this garden stands apart as both scientific collection and centre as well as giving inspiration season by season.

If you have limited space in your own garden this is a great place to see how borders can be designed to give year round interest. Or if you’re interested in a specific species then you’ll likely get something from a particular area. A top tip, check out the orchards in the spring when they blossom, its an oasis from the crowds that hover down in the main body of the garden.

The National Trust is well represented in Surrey as well. Clandon Park, a Palladian mansion is set in 7 acres of garden, Claremont however os probably more widely known. Claremont is a beautiful garden surrounding a small lake and featuring an unusual grass amphitheatre. The garden’s creation and development has involved great names in garden history, including Sir John Vanbrugh, Charles Bridgeman, William Kent and ‘Capability’ Brown. In 1726 it was described as ‘the noblest of any in Europe’ and the garden today is of national importance. For something more subdued Runnymede is the riverside site of the sealing of the Magna Carta, historically significant with one of the few easily accessible designs of Jellicoe.

These gardens are significant and you can sometimes get inspiration from them, especially for planting but if you want some ideas for smaller gardens than a year of visiting the Surrey gardens open under the National Gardens Scheme is well worth a try. They won’t always be to your liking but some will strike a chord. Small gardens such as Stuart Cottage in East Clandon, Heathside in Cobham, Walton Poor House in Ranmore and Chinthurst Lodge near Guildford are all interesting for the plantaholic in you. Vann in Hambledon and Cleeves near Haslemere are Surrey gardens worth a look for their design ideas for older buildings. And there are other gardens such as Timber Hill near Chobham, a garden that glories in fine trees as well as great planted borders.

And of course these Surrey gardens are all owned by enthusiastic gardeners so it’s always good to go back and see what has happened over the years. A garden such as that at The Round house in Loxhill is constantly evolving often, in this case because of an owner gradually creating a new garden from once neglected market gardens. So the National Gardens Scheme gardens in Surrey are well worth an exploration but be prepared to be both delighted and exasperated

Successful Garden Program for Kids

When working with an urban gardening program for elementary school age kids, it is important to understand what will make a successful vegetable gardening program for children. One must first realize a child’s gardening goals differ from those of adult. Middle school and high school gardening programs differs than those for younger children in methods and presented curricula.

Kids will use all five senses to explore and discover the garden setting. Vegetable gardening for children will not only stimulate their senses but build a lifelong connection with nature, healthier choices and caring for our environment. Children are curious about the wonders of nature; they like to learn by doing, and will love to play in a garden space designed with them in mind. A kid friendly gardening program should be presented and planned as a fun learning activity surrounded by a world of discoveries. Whether you work with one child or a dozen of them, you’ll find these tips helpful to customize your gardening program.

As mentioned earlier, children’s interest in gardening is different from those of adults. Adult’s aspiration in vegetable gardening is grouped into three categories all based on the “green thumb factor” they are; a sustainable source of fresh produce, the economic factor, health and organic nutrition. These three goals can be incorporated into a curriculum for a balanced children’s gardening program. When presenting gardening curriculum it works best when presented as “teaching moments.”

1.Define the goals for forming this young gardeners club.What do you hope to accomplish in this gardening situation? Will it be a place for quiet meditation, teaching science, creating a farmers market or a venue for healthy eating? Knowing this will help guide you in deciding the type of garden environment to create, such as native plant, heirloom, organic, herbal or exhibition.

2.Rely on the experts.Borrow gardening rules, tips and techniques from successful community gardening program in your area. The most successful community type gardens are supported by an involved group of people. This is the time to pull together a group of like-minded teachers, and helpers from your circle of influence. Local Master Gardeners, Farm Bureaus, botanic and organic garden organizations and nurseries can provide guidance and support.

3.Give the kids their own garden space for the principle of possession. This will give the children a sense of ‘ownership’ of a familiar space and encourages a commitment and responsibility to the gardening project. Whether you use raised beds, repurposed containers or a traditional ground plot, be sure to give children their own separate garden space and encourage them to get their hands dirty

4.Make the garden appealing to the senses, Colorful blooms adds to the visual; aromatic crops that appeal to the nose as well as produce that can be eaten off the vine.Choose a variety of vegetable plants well-suited to your region and growing season. It would also be great to include a few edible flowers for color and herbs for fragrance.Children will be fascinated by the different shapes and textures. To get off to a good start plant easy-to-grow vegetables such as cucumbers, collard greens, zucchini, leaf lettuce, beans, peas, summer squash, bell peppers and Swiss chard are all easy to grow.

5.Set young gardeners up for success with the best soil and light conditions available. This is part of the planning strategy. In urban settings it is common to find predicaments such as poor soil conditions; pollutant, gardening in awkwardly shaped areas surrounded by asphalt or cement. Remember most vegetable gardens requires at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day. It is also helpful to have easy access to water.Don’t be discouraged if your garden site has too many obstacles it is possibly a sign that you should consider container gardening.

6.Start the garden from seeds. Children will learn more by seeing the growing process as it begins. This is an important part of the discovery process; they will notice the root system and make their own observations on plant development and life cycles. The care given to sprouting seeds and nurturing the young seedling are a valuable part of the gardening experience. Also seeds will develop into healthier plants if started indoors in a warm room. Once the true leaves have sprouted they can be transplanted into the garden bed according growing season.