Organic Gardening Tips

Organic Gardening Tips from A 2 Zuege

1. Know your zone, which helps you know your gardening season - the first and last frost dates for your area. Knowing your zone and planting dates will help you plan and plant at the right times for your area so your plants will thrive.

2. Know your sun & shade areas. Mark out the areas in your yard where it's the sunniest, part shade, and shadiest. You'll want to plant vegetables in the sunniest place you have, a minimum of 6 hours of full sun a day, but more is better (8-10 hours) for the healthiest plants that will bear the most for you.

Once you know your yard's light pattern, then match plants to your growing conditions. Using the information on the plant tags, put sun-loving plants into a sunny spot, part-day sun plants in partial sun areas (3-5 hours a day), and plants that do well without sun in your shadiest areas.

Deep shade and dry shade are some of the toughest areas to garden in, but it can be done.

3. Learn about plants. When you're just starting out you'll want to figure out the difference between an annual plant and a perennial, plants that deer won't eat, plants that grow in the shade, and more.

There are heat-tolerant plants for warm climates, plants that tolerate standing water, and plants that will come back even after sub-zero winter temps.

Shrubs can be evergreen or deciduous and can bloom in spring, summer or fall (there are even a few that bloom in the winter).

You'll want to know how tall vines grow and if it's better to grow them on the ground (like pumpkins and melons) or on a trellis to be trained or climb (like clematis or cucumbers).

4. It's all about the soil. Adding organic amendments such as compost and well-aged manure to your soil is probably the #1 principle of organic gardening, both for natural feeding and to improve soil quality.

(Note on using manure: if you get manure, make sure you use it on a bottom layer if you think there's any chance for weed seeds - this is especially true with horse manures).

Laying a layer of compost every year will provide most, if not all, your shrub and perennials needs (I never added extra fertilizer to the flower beds you can see in this tour).

Vegetables will need an extra feeding at planting time and sometimes mid-season - you'll want to use a balance organic fertilizer with nitrogen, phosphate, and potash.

5. Don't till or dig large areas to be planted. Tilling vegetable gardens brings up weed seeds that sprout all season long and also hurts the soil composition.

For flower beds, you can layer cardboard, soil, and compost when creating a brand new bed right over the grass - it's SO wonderful.

6. Plant at the right time. In addition to knowing your last frost date, you'll also want to look at your soil at planting time.

If it's wet and holds together in a ball when you squeeze it, then you'll want to avoid digging or planting until it dries more, as it can damage the soil structure. Wait until the soil is crumbly and no longer forms a ball in your hand to dig (though not bone-dry).

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