Category Archives: Garden Plan

DIY Gardening Tips From The Capital City Organic Gardeners

Our meeting in June was chock full of unique tips from the Capital City Organic Gardeners. Instead of having a speaker come and talk on one topic, CCOG gardeners shared their favorite gardening tips with the group.  This is what creating community is all about, we all learn from each other and come away  richer from our experience. So, without further ado, here is what we learned!

Pea Fence/Trellis and Wattle Fence

Joining the conduit at the corners.

Sturdy Pea Fence/Trellis

Eleanor had problems in the past with her delicate pea fences being blown over in the wind, so she decided to build a sturdy pea fence that was inexpensive and easy to disassemble at the end of the season. For about $10 she was able to buy the following materials: Two short lengths of Rebar (2′ by 1/2″), 1/2″ electrical conduit (store will cut pipe to size), two 1/2″ conduit corner connectors, and string. She simply hammered the rebar into the ground about a foot leaving a foot above the ground. Then, she placed the conduit over the rebar, joined the top bar with the conduit corners and then wove the string to make a trellis. This trellis design will NOT blow down in the wind, is easy to move and is sturdy enough for all sorts of vegetables.

Wattle Fence

Eleanor also designed a beautiful wattle fence to separate her yard from her neighbor’s driveway. It is about 2′ high and the only materials she purchased were 3′ the stakes she hammered about 1′ into the ground. She then wove green branches she cut from trimming shrubs around her yard. In the end, she had to get branches from friends to finish the fence, but the end result is inexpensive, lovely and should last for several years.

Pea Fence/Trellis and No Till Garden Beds

Judy's raised beds early in the season.

Judy took the  No Till  Gardening lecture that Dot Perkins gave last year to heart and redid all of her vegetable beds out at the community garden. She dug out the paths and used tha soil to make the raised beds. She uses straw in the aisles and landscape fabric in the paths to cut down on the weeds. No Till gardening is also know as Lasagna Gardening. This method gave Judy a great start on the season.

Another sturdy trellis design.

Judy also constructed a very study pea trellis as well. She designed her trellis as a box structure so that it won’t topple in the wind. Like Eleanor’s trellis, it is also easy to take apart at the end of the season. Removable pegs at the top hold it together.

No Till Garden Beds and Grassy Path Permaculture

Scott's long rows between grassy paths.

Scott also showed off his No Till garden beds. His method used only three layers. First, he dug out the paths and made the raised beds. Next,  he covered the beds with corragated cardboard or six layers of newspaper. Then he added about 3″ of chopped up leaves and topped it off with 6-8″ of grass clippings. The end result was hardly any weeds coming through in the spring, which is a HUGE accomplishment in the community garden where weeds run rampant. To plant, he simply teases back the top layers until he hits soil and then plants his seeds or seedlings. He planted grass and clover in the paths and when he mows, he catches the clippings and puts them back on top of the garden beds. This is a great example of using permaculture methods for gardening. Nothing goes to waste.

Pulling the top layers away for planting.

CCOG Inventor!

John shared with us an invention he is working on to measure conductivity in the soil. Good electrical conductivity indicates good soil conditions for healthier plants, bad conductivity indicates poor soil quality. It was exciting to see his work in progress and discuss its potential for helping farmers and gardeners determine their soil needs in and instant.

Rabbits: Not only super cute but helpful in the garden as well!

Waffle the Rabbit

Claudia brought her rabbits, Waffle and Nudge. (Unfortunately, Nudge would not stay still for a photo op, so Waffle is the star of this post! ) Rabbits make great pets but, contrary to their reputation,  they are also very helpful in the garden. Their manure is a fantastic fertilizer. One rabbit can produce enough fertilizer for 500 square feet of garden. Rabbit manure is a “cold” manure and will not burn your plants if you put it directly in the garden. It’s pellets are more like slow time-release fertilizer. Opinions are mixed as to whether you should let rabbit manure compost first before putting it in the garden. If you are uncertain, then compost the manure first before spreading it in your vegetable beds. Here is a link to more information about rabbit manure in the garden.

Voles are NOT our friends!

You need a box and a mousetrap.

Mary, our resident vole-catcher, shared her simple design for catching those nasty voles that love to chew on your potatoes (and just about everything else!). Lacking a reliable cat, Mary had to come up with something ingenious for her vegetable garden.  Here is her surprisingly simple solution:

Get a box and cut little doors on all four sides. Next, get a simple mousetrap. Put the mousetrap inside of the box, no need for bait. Put it in your garden (your potato patch might be a good place). Place a rock on top so it won’t blow away and check daily. Voles are curious creatures and love to get into small little spaces. They explore the mousetrap and, unfortunately, meet their maker. If you are squeemish about killing the vole, then you could try a Have a Heart trap, but just don’t release them anywhere near our gardens!

Speaking of Pest Management…

Laura does have a reliable cat that takes care of the voles, but her issue is what to do with the cat? Her cat loves to languish in the garden, especially on a newly seeded bed. The soil is so soft and nicely raked, what cat can resist such a pleasure? Laura has devised several methods that work well to deter the cat.

Tomato Cages and Branches over and around hills of squash seeds.

First, she had collected tomato cages over the years and had her husband clip them apart  into short cages or simply rings with little legs attached. She places these over the seeded areas and leaves them there until the plants have grown large. At that point, the cat does not damage the plants. Also, for added protection, she often clips small dryed out branches from her hemlock trees and sticks them in the bed as well. The cat doesn’t like the scratchy branches.

Hardware cloth cage deterd cat, eggshells deter slugs, Remay protects from sun.

Another method she uses is to create an actual cage out of hardware cloth to place over the seeded beds. In this photo you can see that she made a small cage to place over her lettuce seeds. She has also sprinkled a layer of crushed eggshells over the seeds to help deter slugs. Slugs don’t like the sharp edges. The cage method also is nice because she can attach a small square of Remay fabric over the top to create a little bit of shade for the tender lettuce seeds.

So there you have it! In one meeting we learned about how to make inexpensive trellises and create wattle fences. We saw the result of two member’s experiences with No Till gardening. We were able to oogle over two adorable rabbits and learn how they can help us in the garden. Vole catching adventures were shared and appreciated. An amazing invention for testing soil was demonstrated. We also learned how to deter lazy cats from messing up your freshly seeded beds in addition to learning a new method for deterring slimy slugs. Not bad for one evening’s presentation! CCOG gardeners turn out to be the greatest resource for the garden!

Here is a Power Point presentation from our meeting. CCOG Mtg June 2011

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Quick and Easy-Raised Beds 101

Ayn Whytemare from Found Well Farm in Pembroke, NH came to talk with us at our April meeting. She taught us how to create  4′ x 8′ raised beds using the  principles of sheet composting. Her method promises that you can build garden bed and plant selected crops that very same day!

An inspiring vegetable garden!

MATERIALS NEEDED…

• LOTS of newspaper (no shiny advertisements) and/or corrugated cardboard
• A good source of leaves, either raked up in the spring, or leftover from the fall. Chop them up a bit. An easy way to do this is to run over them with your lawnmower.
• A local source of manure or compost. A few wheelbarrows full.
• A few wheelbarrows of good loam, either take from somewhere on your site, or brought in by the bags (or truckload).
• A 20 lb. bag of pelletized organic fertilizer. (Ratios similar to 4-2-3 ) Make sure that any fertilizer you use is OMRI certified (Organic Materials Review Institute) to make sure it is truly organic.

OPTION A: WOODEN SIDES
• You will need 3 Solid Wood Boards (NOT plywood or chipboard or MDF)  that are 2″x 8″ deep and 8′ long. Have one of the boards cut in half to 4′ lengths. This will give you two boards that are 8′ long and two boards that are 4′ long. DO NOT USE PRESSURE TREATED LUMBER! Regular wood is fairly inexpensive and will last you many years.
• You will also need 8 corner brackets and screws to attach the boards to one another.

OPTION B: NO WOODEN SIDES
• No materials needed! Just mark out a 4′ x 8′ space where you want to locate your garden.

LET’S GET STARTED…

A. Mark out your space.
B. Lay down thick layers of newspaper or corrugated cardboard right over the space you are building your bed. You can even go right on top of grass!
C. If you are using wooden sides, build your sides and put frame in place.
D. On top of paper/cardboard, layer the following, making sure you water well in between each layer:
1. Leaves (about 8″). Save some for mulching later.
2. Fertilizer, spread liberally.
3. Manure or Compost (about 3-6″).
4. Fertilizer, spread liberally.
5. Good Loam (about 2-3″).
E. PLANT!  You can plant shallow rooted vegetable right away like lettuces and greens of any kind.  You may want to wait until it composts down the following year before planting larger vegetables like tomatoes.
F. Mulch: Use your leftover chopped leaves as a mulch around your plants. It will conserve water and your layers will compost faster.


You can also do this method in the Fall for a great garden in the spring. The layers will compost down over the winter and the following year, you can plant any vegetable you wish, you won’t be limited to more shallow rooted veggies.

At the end of each year, you can add on thinner layers of manure/compost and leaves to  keep building the fertility of your beds. It’s an easy way to keep your soil healthy and your organic fruits and vegetable will love it!

Raised Beds 101: PDF

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We want to thank Ayn for coming to talk with us in April. As always, her talk was not only informative but entertaining as well! We would also like to thank the Green Team Kids for organizing our Children’s Program. The children created beautiful Earth Journals. We were also very excited to be in our new space at Grace Episcopal Church and would like to acknowledge their generosity in hosting our organization.

Edible Landscaping and Victory Gardens

We had a large turnout for our first meeting of 2011. It looks like a lot of folks are anxious to get out and start gardening this year!

We want to thank George Malette, master gardener, who gave an inspiring presentation on Edible Landscaping and Victory Gardens.

A Victory Garden is a vegetable garden, especially a home garden, cultivated to increase food production during a war or period of shortages. In WWII, Victory Gardens produced up to 40% of the vegetable produce being consumed nationally. During these tough economic times, more people than ever are planting vegetable gardens in urban areas and growing their own food. You can’t get more local than your own back yard! That is what the Capital City Organic Gardeners are all about…encouraging everyone to grow some of their own food for health and sustainability.

George spent a fair amount of time talking about season extension for vegetables.

Here is how he does it…
1. In the late fall, before the ground freezes, he amends his soil.
2. Next, to protect the ground from freezing, he lays down black/brown plastic.
3. Then, he piles on 18″ of leaves.
4. Finally, he puts in sturdy hoops made from gray electric conduit and lays clear plastic tarps over the hoops to create a low tunnel hoop house.

The hoop tunnel is all set for the winter.

Then, in the very early spring as soon as the snow has melted…
1. He pulls off the clear plastic tarp.
2. Removes the leaves by dragging the leaves on top of the black/brown plastic over to the compost pile.
3. He replaces the black/brown plastic on the soil and the clear plastic over the hoops.
4. Using a soil thermometer, he waits until the temperature registers 50 degrees.

(NOTE: This is the point where you can jump in! If you think your garden soil is ready to go for the spring. Thaw it out early using black/brown plastic, put in your hoops and clear plastic and get started! )

Once the soil is 50 degrees, he can plant!
1. He rolls up the clear plastic so he can reach inside the tunnels.
2. He removes the black/brown plastic. Plants his vegetables. Cold weather veggies can be planted at 50 degrees. He waits until the soil heats up to 60 degrees to plant hot weather vegetables like tomatoes and peppers.
3. Then he places clear plastic water jugs filled with water in between his plants/planting areas. The water in the jugs moderates the temperature inside the tunnels so that it doesn’t get too hot or too cold.
4. On a really nice day, he ties up the sides of the tunnels but makes sure to put them down at night so that nothing freezes.

Yummy spring greens!

Once the danger of frost has passed…
1. He removes the clear plastic and lets the garden thrive. He is able to harvest veggies four weeks earlier than most folks!

The hoop tunnel is uncovered for the summer. (Look to the far left in the picture.)

Later in the Fall at the hint of frost…
1. He replaces the clear plastic and milk jugs. This allows him to continue to harvest vegetables up to Thanksgiving. George has harvested tomatoes well into November. Imagine that!
2. Before the first snowfall, he amends his soil, puts back the black/brown plastic, piles on his leaves and replaces the clear plastic so that everything is ready to go the next spring.

Edible Landscaping was another topic of discussion. Edible Landscaping is a way of rethinking your landscaping and replacing many traditional shrubs and flowers with edible plants. So many fruits, vegetables and herbs look  beautiful enough to incorporate into any landscape.

George provided us with a short list of plants suited to NH growing conditions to get us started:

• Ornamental Cabbage in the Fall
• Violas in the spring
• Edging of pot marigolds (Calendula)
• Sweet Woodruff (Shade Tolerant)
• Marjoram
• Daylilies
• Garlic
• Chives
• Dill
• Ornamental Hot Peppers
• Butterfly Weed
• Bell Peppers
• Veriegated Leaf Sage
• Creeping or Lemon Thyme between stepping stones
• Blueberries
• Cherry Tomatoes
• Dwarf Crabapple, Peaches, Pears, Apples
• Cherry Plum
• American Plum
•Chokeberry
•Red Raspberries
• Elderberry
• Red or Black Currents
• Nasturtiums
Use your imagination! So many edible plants are truly beautiful. Tuck them in and around your flowers.

We want to thank George for getting us inspired and sending us pictures to use for this post. Here are some great books for planning your Edible Landscape…
• Edible Landscaping by Rosalind Creasy
• Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway
• Integrated Landscaping: Following Nature’s Lead

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, April 20th at Grace Episcopal Church at 30 Eastman Street in Concord. Ayn Whytemare of Found Well Farm will talk about Raised Beds. Ayn will teach us how to build a raised bed in the morning and be ready to plant in the afternoon. Join us! Check out the Calendar section for more information.

 

No Till Gardening (a.k.a. Lasagna Gardening…

…Sheet Mulching, Permaculture, Composting in Place, French Intensive or Biodynamic Gardening) Whew! So many names, such a simple idea!

For our October meeting, Dot Perkins, Educational Program Coordinator for Agriculture Resources at the UNH Cooperative Extension, came to talk to us about “No Till Gardening”.  This past season, she used her own back yard as a laboratory to experiment with all the different methods of creating garden beds without using a rototiller. She started with a gravel driveway and a cement pad and ended up with a “Garden of Eden” by the end of the season. It was quite amazing! She generously shared her preferred method with our group. The difference between her method and others is that she mixes up all of the layers before ending with a top layer of newspaper and mulch.

To get us started, here is a good definition for  Sheet Mulching from Wikipedia…
In permaculture, sheet mulching is an agricultural no-dig gardening technique that attempts to mimic natural processes occurring in forests. When deployed properly and in combination with other permacultural principles, it can generate healthy, productive and low maintenance ecosystems.

The key words here are LOW MAINTENANCE! By building garden beds using this method, your garden will have fertile soil, fewer weeds and require less watering. What is not to love? Here are the basic steps for getting started…

The beginning: Gravel and dirt.

Late Summer,  Fall or Very Early Spring:
1. If you are starting on top of grass, put down a layer of cardboard or thick layer of newspapers.

2. Then layer on top about 10 inches of compostable materials all mixed together. The materials will compost down on top of your garden beds. Use approximately  3-4 inches of green (manure, animal bedding, grass clippings, chopped green plant/vegetable material) to 6 inches of brown (chopped up leaves are best). You can add in some green sand and bone meal according to the directions on the box.  Mix it all together on top of your bed.

3. If you have finished compost on hand. Layer on top. If not, continue to #4.

4.  Put on another layer of wet newspaper. (You wet the newspaper first so it won’t blow away.)

5. Finish with a layer of  mulch. Chopped up leaves are best, but you can also use grass clippings or straw (not hay!).

6. Water well. If it is fall, you are DONE! Go relax with a beverage of your choice!

7. If it is early spring, you will have to “cook” the beds so that they compost down quickly and will be ready to plant in the late spring. Cover the beds with black plastic for at least six weeks, so plan accordingly. NOW you can go and relax for awhile! After six weeks, remove the plastic. Your beds should be well composted and ready to plant.

 

Beds are finished. Push aside grass clipping to plant seeds or seedlings.

Planting Time:
1. When it is time to plant, top dress your beds with a layer of grass clippings. The grass clippings will provide an additional source of nitrogen, keep in moisture and prevent weeds.

2. Push grass clippings aside and plant directly into the compost.

 

Raised beds don't need wooden sides. The young plants are doing beautifully in their new beds.

Maintaining your garden:
When your beds are done for the season, remove any diseased plant material and dispose. Do not compost.

For healthy plants, leave the roots in the ground to decompose and chop up the tops to add back on top of your soil as green material. You can again put on another layer of plant materials using about 2 parts green to 3 parts brown all mixed together. Top again with newspaper and mulch. Then, in the spring, add on another layer of grass clippings and plant. By doing this every year, you will continue to grow the fertility of your soil.

 

Garden of Eden!

Final notes of interest…

Dot used baby chickens and turkeys that she raises for meat in her garden for pest control. She would let them roam around the garden until they were about 6 weeks old at which time, they started becoming destructive to the plants and she would remove them to the coop. By letting the baby chicks free range in the garden, they ate all of the insect pests. Dot also was very diligent about picking off plant diseases and disposing of the material as soon as she would see a problem. She was very careful to keep her garden tools clean and sanitized so that she didn’t spread plant diseases throughout the garden. She used antibacterial baby wipes to keep things clean.

While not all of us have access to baby chicks for insect control, we all could be more careful keeping our tools clean and keeping an good eye on our plants to nip diseases in the bud before they get out of control. That is just part of being a good organic gardener.

Additional resources...

D Acres Method

www.nodiggarden.org

Capital City Organic Gardeners Take a Tour of Concord Community Gardens

Area gardeners enjoyed an informative tour of several plots at the Concord Community Gardens at the July 21 monthly meeting and program of the Capital Area Organic Gardeners (CCOG). A couple of dozen curious people, most with notebooks and/or cameras in hand, heard stories of garden experiments, successes and challenges, before dark clouds, lightning and a threatening storm brought an early end to the evening. The tour was continued the following week on July 28 under very pleasant conditions.

New Community Garden Kiosk

CCOG President Scott Morrison led the tour, which started at the community garden’s new message kiosk, a CCOG project completed earlier this spring to encourage sharing of information among the community gardeners.

Karen and her garden.

Neat as a pin!

First up was Karen Shields, showing off her very tidy and well-weeded raised bed vegetable garden, which she says has not experienced too many pests this year. “Keep your plants strong, and give them plenty of water, and they can withstand anything,” advises Karen. She, like many others at the community garden, hauls her water from home in garden jugs.

The "Three Sisters" in Scott's garden.

The next stop was Scott Morrison’s garden, the site of a few experiments, including a wheat and oat plot, multiple beds of “three sisters” plantings (beans, corn and squash), as well as the use of clover growing in rows. He mows the clover and uses the clippings as mulch. “It’s always an experiment, and it’s fun,” says Scott. “I learn something; I write it down, and I do it differently the next year.” Scott practices permaculture techniques and has managed his garden with very little extra water during the recent dry spell.

Steve's garden.

Bees love the borage!

Steve Abbott’s garden is a garden that not only encourages volunteers, but also is home to several experiments. Steve left a large patch of volunteer borage in place to encourage pollinators. In full bloom at the time of the tour, it buzzed with activity. Steve is composting comfrey along the edge of his pumpkins. “My pumpkins just figured out they were growing next to a compost heap, and they’re really taking off,” he says. Like other gardeners at the community gardens, Steve has made a commitment to building his soil. “I haven’t rototilled in five years. I’m seeing better soil, more worms and even better weeds!”

Lorna's garden. The much needed rain is moving in!

Last on the tour, before lightning, wind and rain sent the group scurrying for their cars, was Lorna Austin’s garden. Lorna, an apartment dweller, takes advantage of her garden to grow flowers as well as vegetables, and many were in full bloom. Lorna also works hard at organic soil management practices. “I practice no tilling, and I feel like this year, it’s really paying off,” she says. “I’m not seeing very many bugs, and check out this basil. The variety is ‘mammoth.’ I’ve been making pesto like crazy and it just keeps on producing.”
(At this point, the tour ended for the night. We resumed the tour the following week starting where we left off at Lorna Austin’s garden.)

The hot weather veggies love the IRT plastic sheeting.

Lorna wanted to show us the IRT plastic sheeting she bought at Fedco. “It’s inexpensive and the hot weather vegetables like the basil, peppers and eggplant have been loving it. I’ll definitely use it again.” said Lorna.

Flowers and veggies in Lorna's garden. A perfect match.

The next stop was Tom Poirier’s garden next to Lorna’s. Tom has uses raised bed boxes to keep his garden under control. He mulches the paths to keep the weeds down so he can focus his energy on the boxes. He dug down about two feet and amended the soil in each box. After planting, he put corrugated plastic tubes around each seedling. “They help focus the water down around the seedling’s roots when I water. I’m able to water right into the tube.” said Tom.  A handy tip for those who have to water by hand! Tom also sang the praises of using King Neptune’s Fish Emulsion to fertilize his plants every two weeks. He has seen an enormous difference in the health of his plants this year. Like Steve, he is also utilizing the comfrey and borage in the gardens to nurture his compost pile.

Tom also mulches well inside his bozes. Note the plastic tubing around the tomato plant.

Tom's garden.

We moved onto Mary Malan’s garden just down the road a bit. Mary started out religiously following the Square Foot gardening method. Over the years, she has relaxed a bit and now plants according to her intuition. She favors 3′ x 6′ plots. “They are a good size to manage and a row cover fits over them quite nicely.” says Mary. She recommends using row covers early in the season to nurture and protect young seedlings and freshly seeded beds. “They love the heat!”. A trick Mary uses to conserve water is to plant seedlings in a bowl or depression rather then hilling them up. She can then focus her watering very precisely around the plant. Even so, she has spent most of this dry summer hauling water into her garden.

Companion planting and interplanting flowers makes Mary's garden especially beautiful!

Mary lets the amaranth self seed. Isn't it beautiful?

It looks like this watermelon is loving the heat.

Our final stop was at Diana Talbot’s beautifully planned sunburst garden. Diana is an artist and master gardener and it shows! Her garden reminded us of a formal english garden. To create the paths, she dug down and mulched them with straw. To create the edging, she left some of the grass grow. A beautiful detail. We were sorry that Diana was not able attend the tour but we were all inspired by her creation.

Diana's beautifully designed garden!

The edges are outlined with carfully manicured grass. A lovely detail.

A Georgia O'Keefe flower! A perfect flower to spot in an artist's garden.

Thank you to everyone who offered tours of their gardens. You are all an inspiration!

Sunset

Thank you also to Lisa Aquizap for creating a garden scavenger hunt for the children and to Eleanor Baron who took photos and wrote up the copy for the first portion of the tour. It was very much appreciated!

Dealing with Pests and Diseases Organically

At our meeting in June, Larry Pletcher, organic farmer and owner of The Vegetable Ranch, talked about controlling pests in the organic vegetable garden.

Spotted Cucumber Beetle

Larry likes to take a more laid back approach to fighting pests in the garden. His first question is, “Is the cure more expensive than the cost of losing a few plants?” As a production farmer, this is something he has to consider when faced with an infestation or disease. He has to balance the cost of purchasing organic pesticides and sprays against his estimated harvest/income. As gardeners, we are not concerned with selling our produce so we have a lot more leeway. If the damage is basically cosmetic and the plants are continuing to grow and thrive, then he recommends doing nothing. That’s right…NOTHING! How easy is that?

We talk about this time and time again and Larry talked about it some more. The most important thing about organic gardening is to make sure that you have healthy soil. Good soil supports strong and healthy plants. Healthy plants are better able to fight off diseases and infestations.

Even so, there is a lot you can do to help your plants thrive. Here are a few hints…

• Row Covers: Putting floating row covers like Reemay or Agribon over your crops when you first plant early in the season really helps them get a head start. You can create hoops with wire or PVC bent over stakes. The fabric prevents flying insects from landing on your tender seedlings. It also raises the temperature inside the tunnels a couple of degrees which encourages growth of veggies that like warmer weather. The fabric is also porous so it lets the rain water your plants and it helps retain the moisture. Plus, it’s reuseable from season to season. The only drawback is that you can sometimes TRAP pests inside your fabric! Check the plants periodically to see how they are doing. If you have pests, treat accordingly and replace the fabric. Once the plants are well established and flowering, you can  remove the fabric. Bring it out again in the fall to protect against frost.

• Use Cutworm Collars: Take the time to put cutworm collars on your transplanted seedlings. You can make collars using toilet paper rolls, plastic cups, yogurt cups, etc.. There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing your seedlings mowed down by cutworms, especially if you have tenderly raised them yourself!

• Rotate your crops, especially potatoes!: Larry has the luxury of rotating crops miles from the last place they were planted. This is especially helpful with potatoes. As backyard gardeners, we can’t relocate our gardens, but we can plant our crops in different places each year. This helps not only the soil, but might confuse the pests as well! We wrote about planning crop rotation in May.

• Mulch your garden: This prevents plant diseases splashing up from the soil. Especially important around tomatoes. Use straw or grass clippings.

• Check your plants daily: Check your plants daily and hand pick insects and remove/squish their eggs. This is fairly easy to do with a small garden and doesn’t take too much time.  To kill the insects, throw them into a bucket of soapy water.

• Keep your garden clean: Clean up plants at the end of the season.

If it turns out that you have a major infestation, here are a few good products that are safe to use on organic gardens…

• Ladybugs: Ladybugs are especially good at controlling aphids. Release the ladybugs into the garden in the early evening. As long as there are aphids around, they should stick around long enough to eat them. An alternative idea is to cover your plants with row cover and release the ladybugs inside. This will also trap your aphids, but the ladybugs will most likely eat them.

• Use only products that have a OMRI label on them: OMRI stands for Organic Materials Review Institute which is a non-profit organization that conducts independent reviews of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing.

Some of Larry’s favorites products…
Bt is good for cutworms
Entrust is especially good for potato bugs. Entrust is extremely expensive but a tiny bit goes a long way. Consider purchasing some with a group of friends.
Surround: Is a clay based spray. Good for protection against plant diseases and pests.
Pyrethrum: Which is an pesticide derived from chrysanthemums. It is especially good for cucumber beetles.
Sluggo: Great for slugs.

In the end, nothing is better that paying attention to your plants on a daily basis. You can catch infestations and diseases early enough so that you can take action as needed to preserve your plants and the harvest.

For additional information, the UNH Cooperative Extension is a good place to start.

A book that was recommended was What’s Wrong With My Plant? (And How Do I Fix It?): A Visual Guide to Easy Diagnosis and Organic Remedies by Deardorf and Wadsworth.

Planning Crop Rotation

Keep your plans all in one place, a garden journal is a wonderful thing!

When I first planned my garden, I created four beds so I could rotate my crops from year to year. I  spent  a lot of time and effort figuring out what to plant together.  Now that  I have my plan, it’s no big deal to figure out where and what to plant from year to year. I just remember where the tomatoes were the year before and shift over one plot. Easy as pie!

There are several reasons why you should rotate your crops. First, certain plants deplete the soil and others build nutrients in the soil. Second, it’s supposed to confuse the pests (Ha!). Third, replanting a plant in the same place where diseased plants were the year before may recreate that disease. (For example, you don’t want to plant tomatoes in the same patch where there was tomato blight the year before.)

There are so many different options for rotating crops. My advice it to pick one, run with it and don’t sweat the details. You can make adjustments over the years if you come across a plan you like better. Here are two plans that Ayn Whytemare of Found Well farm suggests…

Super Simple:

• Root (Onions, garlic, turnips, carrots, radishes)
• Leaf (Lettuce, spinach, herbs, cabbage, broccoli)
• Fruit (Tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers)
• Legumes (Beans, peas)

Here is a good link from an organic gardener using this method.

Crop Rotation PDF


Crop Rotation using Plant Families…

• Tomato (Tomatoes and Peppers, Eggplant, Potatoes)
• Legumes (Peas and Beans)
• Cabbage ( Broccoli, Cabbage, ,Kale, Pac Choi, Kohlarabi, Brussel Sprouts, turnips, radishes, rutebega)
• Grass (Corn, Sorghum, Grains)
• Squash (Cukes, Pumpkins, Melons, Gourds)
• Carrot (Carrots, Celery, Parsley, Parsnips)
• Onion (Onion, Leeks,  Shallots)
• Sunflower (Lettuce, Sunflowers, Jerusalem Artichoke)
• Bitter Greens (Spinach,  Chard, Beets)