This is an entry in our current non-fiction writing contest By CB
Simple Organic Gardening Tips – Garden Like a Pro!
I’ve been meaning to do an article on gardening for a while, but work has been keeping me busy. I have some information about seed starting, but by now, in most, if not all, geographic zones of the US, seed starting is too late. We’re about two weeks away in the central/south central US from putting in our plants in the garden.
We have a half-acre garden that sits in an area with sun most of the day. We have a few trees on one side of the garden, ad depending on what/where you plant, you want to take in consideration the daily sunlight that the area gets as well as what you’re planting. We tend to plant the “viney” plants such as cucumbers, pumpkins, zucchinis, etc. in the area of the garden that is partially shaded by the trees during the day.
This is because during July/August our summer heat is brutal, and those plants tend to wither and die under our humid, unrelenting heat. Geographically, you also want to take note of the sun rise/fall and whether or not you plan to plant corn or any other tall crop. One year when I was a kid, we mistakenly planted our tomatoes on the wrong side of the corn and they were soon dwarfed by corn stalks and didn’t do well at all.
You can also benefit your plants by planting certain vegetables next to each other. Plants like tomatoes and peppers or tomatoes and carrots or tomatoes and garlic, just to name a few, are plants that have a symbiotic-type relationship where they benefit each other and tend to grow better. Smaller plants, such as carrots could even be planted between the approximate 24” that tomatoes need between each plant. Conversely, there are plants that do not like to be next to each other. An example of this is onions and beans or cabbage and beans.
Last year, I decided to go as “organic” or pesticide-free that I could. We used to use Seven ® and other products to keep potato bugs off of our tomatoes and potatoes when I was growing up. Then, I read articles online and decided that I would go as organic as possible. We have a deer problem in our neck of the woods, so I take 2-3 tablespoons of a hot sauce, 2 tablespoons of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon of Dawn® dish soap and a gallon of water. I let it sit overnight and then strain out the garlic.
The garlic and the hot sauce are smell and taste deterrents for deer. The dish soap helps the mix stay on the plant as well as it helps keep bugs off of the plants. I reapply after 1-2 weeks or after a heavy rain. Alternatively, you can take human hair or urine and spread around the perimeter of your garden. They would have to be regularly re-applied to keep the human scent present and the deer at bay. Our local hair salon will give us hair by the gallon-full if we ask.
I also shied away from commercial fertilizer. Instead, I also use a fish oil emulsion, which smells horrible and can be found at our local nursery, but I take 1 tablespoon with 32 ounces of water in a spray bottle, shake well and apply every other week to my tomatoes and peppers. On the “off” weeks, I apply 1 tablespoon of magnesium, which I get from Epsom salts (which can be found in the Pharmacy section), shaken until the crystals dissolve in 32 ounces of water. If you go fishing and bring a catch home, you can bury the dead carcasses of the fish in your garden near your plants, like tomatoes or peppers, to give them an extra nutrient boost. A teaspoon of dish soap in 32 ounces of water will also keep bugs off of your plants. You have to reapply about every 1-2 weeks or after a good rain.
I tend to focus on tomatoes and peppers in my examples because that’s what I usually start early indoors (starting in February) and take the most time and energy to produce those plants. A good, consistent weekly watering, at the least, is very important for your garden. It’s said that a tomato plant needs about a gallon of water daily. I know a guy that takes a Folgers ® can, which is about a half-gallon, and waters each of his two dozen tomato plants daily. I try to water at least twice a week and hope it rains a day, as well. When the plants start flowering and when they start producing are the most important times to give good, consistent watering that will allow the plants to put enough water into the produce. Conversely, over-watering will cause cracking, for example, on tomatoes. Heat-loving plants like peppers thrive in dry, arid climates so they can be afforded to be watered less, but should be, at minimum, be watered weekly with a good soaking. When watering, I try for early morning before the heat of the day. If necessary, I do water after 5-6 PM, but tomatoes and the “viney” plants do better if they are watered in the AM. For some reason, they do not like evening watering.
Another pest that seems to run amok in our garden is the plethora of squirrels we have. They go after the water content in the produce and leave little bite marks in our tomatoes and drop pounds and pounds on the ground before they’re ready. To try and combat this, I put five-gallon buckets around the garden that are filled with water. Theoretically, the squirrels will drink from the buckets instead of consuming the produce. In reality, it DOES work, but they still knock off a few tomatoes weekly. I recycle the water on the plants after a week or so because it starts to grow algae and then refill the buckets.
For the tomato plants, you can find a plethora of articles on whether or not to de-sucker the plants. De-suckering tomatoes (Google ®to see a picture – I don’t want to copyright infringe any pictures) is where you remove the tomato shoot that grows between the main stalk and a branch. You can find articles supporting each side. I do de-sucker my tomato plants. Well, the indeterminate ones. The indeterminate (as opposed to determinate) are the ones that produce tomatoes for the length of the season. These are the most common type of tomato. Determinate tomatoes include Roma, San Marzano, and some cherry/grape type tomatoes. It’ll say on the tag/seed packet if it’s determinate or indeterminate. De-suckering your tomato plants gives you a less bushy plant, but it provides more sunlight to the plant and takes energy away from producing more foliage, an, theoretically, into producing more tomatoes. It’s time consuming and depending on how many tomatoes you plant, it can take an hour of your day per week (I usually do ~200-250 plants).
I’m by no stretch a gardening guru or gardening professional, but I do consider it a hobby as I finish college. If you have any questions that I didn’t address, or need any clarifications on stuff I did address, leave a comment and I’ll attempt to clarify.
Prizes for this round (ends May 31 2014) in our non fiction writing contest include…
- First place winner will receive – A $150 gift certificate for Hornady Ammo courtesy of LuckyGunner, a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain millcourtesy of Kitchen Neads, a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and Three Survival Seed Vaults courtesy of LPC Survival.
- Second place winner will receive – Brand New, Sealed Case of Military MREs (Meal, Ready-To-Eat) a $119 value courtesy of Campingsurvival.com and a Survival Puck courtesy of Innovation Industries.
- Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net and a copy Herbal Antivirals and Herbal Antibiotics .