Are you a gardener? Do you like super fabulous and delicious healthy food? Are you interested in combating stress? Would you like to avoid next-day soreness after gardening?
Me too! I’ve done the research for you. Enter your name and email below and you’ll receive the Garden for the Health of It newsletter and instant access to my four Fit to Garden guides to get you started. From me, to you, for free!
A smile appears on my face when I think of autumn. Many of my favorite things occur in autumn; sunny, crisp weather, football, Halloween…and one of my all time favorite plants is ready to harvest, PUMPKINS!
Pumpkins are technically a fruit, and belong to the same family as melons, cucumbers, and squash (“Cucurbitacae”). Follow these tips to grow your own fabulous organic pumpkins:
Standard bush, semi-bush types, or miniature pumpkin vines are more suited for the small backyard gardener.
Plant seeds in healthy organic soil in late spring when all danger of frost is past.
For well-formed pumpkins, water well during peak summer months, and be careful of bruising young fruit to avoid later scarring.
To avoid powdery mildew; a white fungus that forms on leaves, water plants only during the day allowing moisture to evaporate quickly. Or use a soaker hose which waters roots while not soaking the leaves. If powdery mildew has already shown its ugly face, research organic damage control options.
Be prepared for a visit from cucumber beetles and squash bugs, which usually attack young plants. Research organic control options for these pests.
Harvest in late summer, as soon as pumpkins are bright orange and stems are rigid and woody
Nutritional Value of Pumpkin
- Calcium – 37 mg
- Carbohydrate – 12 gm
- Dietary Fiber – 3 gm
- Folate – 21 mcg
- Iron – 1.4 mg
- Magnesium – 22 mg
- Niacin – 1 mg
- Potassium – 564 mg
- Protein – 2 grams
- Selenium – 0.50 mg
- Vitamin A – 2650 IU
- Vitamin C – 12 mg
- Vitamin E – 3 mg
- Zinc – 1 mg
- Calories – 49
Health & Nutrition Benefits of Eating Pumpkin
- Pumpkin is very rich in carotenoids, which is known for keeping the immune system of an individual strong and healthy.
- Beta-carotene, found in pumpkin, is a powerful antioxidant as well as an anti-inflammatory agent.
- Being rich in alpha-carotene, pumpkin is believed to slow the process of aging and also prevent cataract formation.
- Pumpkin has been known to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, a serious eye problem than usually results in blindness.
- High fiber content aides in healthy digestion.
- Being loaded with potassium, pumpkin is associated with lowering the risk of hypertension.
- The presence of zinc in pumpkins boosts the immune system and is said to increase bone density.
Health & Nutrition Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
- Promotes overall prostate health
- Seeds contain L-tryptophan, a compound that has been found to be effective against depression
- The seeds are known as a protector against osteoporosis
- They have been known to reduce inflammation, without causing the side effects of anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Studies have revealed that the seeds help prevent calcium oxalate kidney stone formation.
- Being rich in phytosterols, they have been associated with reducing the levels of LDL cholesterol.
Here’s to growing your own organic jack-o-lanterns!
You don’t have to be an expert gardener to start seeds indoors! It’s easy, start with this tip…
ALWAYS MOISTEN THE SEED STARTING MIX BEFORE YOU PLANT THE SEEDS.
Watch this quick video to find out WHY you need to do this and exactly HOW to complete this step:
Garden on, peeps!
The United States is one of the unhealthiest countries in the world. Lifestyle challenges, including obesity and physical inactivity, have contributed to increased utilization of our health care system. Moreover, scientific advancements ensure that Americans using the health care system are living longer. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than 75 percent of an employer’s health care costs and productivity losses are related to employee lifestyle choices.
Savvy companies have implemented corporate wellness programs to combat rising health care costs. Over the last ten years, companies of all sizes have benefited from the positive return on investment that corporate wellness programs can provide. The Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) estimates that for every $1 spent on comprehensive wellness programs, companies can expect an average return of about $3 resulting from reduced employee absenteeism as well as fewer workers’ compensation and health insurance claims. Despite the challenge of the current economic climate, WELCOA reports that more than 81 percent of American companies with 50 or more employees have some form of health promotion program.
Conventional corporate wellness program shortcomings
It’s evident that corporate wellness is a fitting, and near requisite, approach to combating health care costs. Unfortunately, many corporations go for the low-hanging fruit and don’t commit to a fully-integrated approach. The most popular conventional wellness programs address physical activity, smoking cessation, back care, and stress management. Many of these programs incentivize “one and done” activities driven from the top down. Conversely, a successful program must include customized, integrated, comprehensive, diversified programs strongly linked to the corporate business strategy and be supported (not enforced) by senior leadership and managers.
Recent studies have shown the “carrot and stick” programs pushed on employees by upper management do not result in long-term behavior changes. It’s the employee-driven, grassroots wellness programs that are far more effective, in terms of both participation and return on investment. This is because, in order to adopt permanent lifestyle changes, employees need the tools, support, and resources to empower them to take personal responsibility for their own health and well-being. Grassroots employee participation is what drives behavior change and the only true way to achieve the coveted “culture of wellness.”
Corporate gardening as a timely and sustainable wellness strategy
Three themes are setting the stage to turn a spark of a trend toward corporate gardening into a full-blown explosion of interest. 1) with health care reform beckoning, Corporate America’s need for a lucrative wellness solution is palatable, 2) there has been a sharp rise in backyard edible gardening fueled by the local-food movement and concerns about food safety and the environment, and 3) many companies are now focused on environmental stewardship and greening their businesses. This trifecta phenomenon has created a perfect storm of need for the right resource at the right time.
The act of gardening, itself, is a comprehensive wellness program that effortlessly offers dynamic physical activity, creative expression, emotional reward, an enhanced connection with nature, a sense of environmental stewardship, nutritional awareness, and the satisfaction of cooking with the organic fruits of one’s own labor. Corporate gardening is an inexpensive corporate wellness solution, an enjoyable employee perk that boosts morale, while also helping employees (and their families) be healthier. It’s a win-win-win.
In May 2010 The New York Times was the first to publish an article highlighting gardening as a corporate benefit. The article profiled the emerging trend in corporate gardens at major companies like Google, Yahoo, Kohl’s, Target, PepsiCo, Aveda, Best Buy, Intel, and Toyota, among others. To date, there is little data available capturing the number of existing corporate gardens or the associated return on investment. Regardless, dozens of companies have installed gardens within the last two years or are making plans to get started and will dig in soon.
It’s becoming so popular in fact, that Human Resource Executive magazine named an employer-sponsored garden as one of the top five employee benefits of 2010. Corporate gardening also provides companies with subsidiary “green initiative” and “local food donation” public relations perks, as well.
Employee benefits include:
- Nutritional Awareness
Employees learn to grow and eat fresh vegetables, are motivated to cook more at home and eat less fast food. They will eat more produce not exposed to chemicals and use herbs in recipes resulting in less salt and refined sugar intake.
- Physical Health
Employees enjoy an ergonomic break from their desk, will increase caloric expenditure, produce Vitamin D, and practice core stabilization and increase flexibility.
- Mental Health
Employees receive a mental break therefore reducing stress and anxiety, experience positive social interaction, partner with fellow employees, and experience a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.
Increase overall activity, instill healthier eating habits, ultimately manage weight, decrease stress, and improve general well-being.
Employees can trade or share the harvest amongst themselves, or donate the harvest to community organizations.
Ready to implement an employee garden? Contact Stacy Walters at email@example.com for more information!
Second only to walking, gardening is a favorite home-based leisure activity for older adults in the United States. Researchers from Texas A&M and Texas State Universities surveyed adult gardeners and non-gardeners on their perceptions of personal life satisfaction and levels of physical activity. The study suggests that gardening can improve energy levels and quality of life for older adults. I feel as though I inadvertently conducted my own study and arrived at the same conclusion, but my study also resulted in an idea that would change my life.
I always knew I wanted to be in the healthcare industry and eventually focused on physical therapy and fitness. In my third year of college I finally decided that I wanted to become a Registered Kinesiotherapist. I began working with older adults during my clinical internships and quickly realized that I was passionate about helping this particular population recover from injury and improve overall physical health.
Over and over again patients would tell me their goal was to get stronger so that they could start gardening again. The combination of moderate physical activity and increased consumption of fruit and vegetables that gardening provides can dramatically reduce an older adult’s risk for many chronic diseases, so I agreed that getting them back to gardening was the perfect goal!
My personal interest in gardening was sparked by my Mom at a young age; however, I also have to credit the patients early in my career for luring me into the world of gardening. Of course their horticulture stories fascinated me, but it was their gardening journeys that really excited me. The stories of hard work, family, food, intergenerational bonding, and community truly inspired me.
Several years later my career path took a detour and I landed in corporate wellness, but my interest in gardening and working with older adults didn’t falter. I went on to become a master gardener and also volunteered at a local assisted living facility. The facility agreed to construct raised beds so that the residents could garden with me with their walkers and from their wheelchairs. I was looking forward to getting the group outdoors to connect with nature and get a bit of physical activity…but what I got was a whole lot more.
Working with the memory care group has been my most rewarding gardening experience to date. The residents couldn’t say my name or engage in conversation, but they recognized my face and that I was there to take them outside to garden. Some of them actually watered and nurtured the plants, and others just raked and dug in the soil. Regardless, all of them had smiles on their faces, and mine was the biggest.
The active assisted living resident participation was so overwhelming that I scheduled gardening shifts so that everyone would have the opportunity to get their hands dirty.
Their enthusiasm and sense of teamwork delighted me! In the beginning I just showed up with a smile plus bulbs, plants and seeds for them to plant. I eventually involved them with the off-season planning, succession planting, and growing herbs that the cafe would incorporate into their meals.
The minute the residents got their hands in the soil they began talking about their gardening experiences. I started calling this “Grow & Tell” and had to implement a system so that everyone would have the opportunity to share their stories. I discovered that most of them hadn’t been able to garden for many years because they could not physically tend to their gardens. It was heartbreaking for me to realize that they missed out on years of gardening because they simply didn’t know how to modify the activity.
This experience had a significant impact on me and was the final push I needed to create the Fit to Garden program. I wanted to build a program that would help gardeners enjoy the activity they are so passionate about. I teach older adults how to modify the garden work space, and recommend ergonomically correct tools and proper body movements so that they can enjoy gardening throughout all seasons of life. What I learned from this group ultimately led me to the most rewarding aspect of my Fit to Garden program.
Gardening is an activity to enjoy for a lifetime.
Starting plants from seed has many practical benefits. You save money, get a head start on the growing season, choose from varieties far beyond those locally available, and can control the organic environment from start to finish. You also get to experience the joy of watching a seemingly lifeless seed sprout into a living plant.
Varieties such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, perennials and some annual ornamentals really benefit from an early start indoors. Understanding when to start seeds indoors takes some backward thinking. Find out the average date of the last frost in your area and the number of weeks before that date you should start a particular seed. The number of weeks varies and is listed on the back of each seed package. Then count back on the calendar from the average last frost date.
As a general rule, start most seeds six to eight weeks before your average last frost date. If you start seeds too early, you’ll have to keep the seedlings inside too long, and they will be weak by transplant time. Ready to grow? Check out these simple indoor seed sowing tips.
Almost any container can be used to start seeds including milk containers or egg cartons. I chose fiber pots because they are the most biodegradable way to start seeds indoors. When it’s time to transplant, set pot and all right into the soil! To retain soil moisture until the seeds germinate, cover the container with a clear lid. Remove the cover immediately when you see the first seedling sprout.
Invest in high quality organic seed starting mix. I typically use growing pellets. Place one pellet in each cell and add warm water, the growing media expands in seconds, and no mess (plus kids love it!). The pellets are an excellent soil alternative derived from coconut fiber–a renewable resource.
Seedlings must be kept moist but not soggy. If they completely dry out just once, the seedlings will die. On the other hand, if they’re too soggy, fungal problems can occur.
Insufficient light is the most common mistake that rookie seed sowers fall victim. Long, tall, skinny seedlings which eventually fall over and die are the result of not enough light. Seedlings crave 14-16 hours of light per day.
Harden the seedlings off for about a week by taking containers outside and placing in a filtered sun/shade location away from harsh winds during the day. Gradually increase time outdoors and then plant them in their new “digs”.
Nurturing the plants as they grow is physically engaging and provides stress relief. The best reward is cooking with the “fruits” of your own labor. Sow…get growing!
Soil testing takes the guesswork out of organic gardening. Saving money, time and effort; healthy soil produces healthy plants and healthy plants are more resistant to insect damage and disease. With spring right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start making plans for your garden. Soil tests are available through local cooperative extension offices or private laboratories. Fairly comprehensive and informative tests can be performed for $5-$10, and some extension offices even provide the service for free.
5 Steps for a successful soil sample 1. Start with a trowel and a bucket. Be sure neither is rusty or made of galvanized (zinc-coated) metal, which could skew results.
2. Scrape leaf litter from the soil surface. Dig out a wedge of soil about 6 to 8 inches deep, and set this wedge aside. Then dig out a half-inch piece of soil from the hole and pour it into your bucket.
3. Repeat step 2 at least a several times in different parts of the garden (where you would like to grow edibles or ornamentals) so that the soil sample represents your whole garden when mixed.
4. Use your trowel to mix the soil together thoroughly.
5. Fill the soil sample bag or container with the mixed soil, complete the paperwork and mail it or drop it off at the lab. Keep in mind that you should have your soil tested as close to home as possible so that the recommendations you receive make sense for your climate and soil.
The results will provide the specifics as to what organic additives your soil will require. Tests provide specific nutrient levels and chemical characteristics including:
- Nitrogen (N): Nitrogen promotes plant development and is necessary for encouraging green leaf growth.
- Phosphorus (P): This nutrient is necessary for the development of healthy cells and encourages root growth, especially in fibrous roots.
- Potassium (K): Potassium is needed for chlorophyll formation and is necessary for strong cells that promote the formation of flower and fruit. Strong cells are also necessary to resist diseases, pests and the cold.
- Calcium (Ca): Calcium is needed to build cell walls and encourage tissue growth. Since calcium occurs naturally in organic soil, in most cases supplements are not required. However, if your soil is extremely acid, you may need to amend the ph level. High amounts of acid deplete the calcium in soil.
- Magnesium (Mg): This is another naturally occurring nutrient found in organic soil so chances are magnesium levels will not need to be amended.
- Sulfur (S): Although sulfur is naturally found in organic soil, most organic fertilizers do contain sulfur.
Here’s to your first dirt manicure of the season!
I love to hear about companies developing innovative ways to decrease garbage going into landfills, especially when it involves kids’ toys AND gardening! This fun little indoor gardening kit is made out of recycled milk jugs. It contains no PBA, no phthalates, and no lead paint. Moreover, it’s 100% manufactured, assembled, and tested right here in the USA.
The kit includes nine pieces: a planter tray, three planning pots, a trowel, three soil disks and three packets of organic seeds – teddy bear sunflower, sweet basil and zinnia. Grab the kids and follow these simple steps:
Place the soil disc in each pot and add one cup of warm water. Wait 30 minutes for soil disks to expand–the kids love this part, it’s like magic!
Fluff the soil with the trowel, then pat the surface down flat
Open the packet of seeds and ask the kids to place 3-5 seeds on top of the soil. Carefully push the seeds about one inch into the soil and cover with soil (do not pack the soil down).
Place the pots in the window sill, give the kids the responsibility of keeping the soil moist, and then work together to transfer the plants outdoors later this spring.
It’s time to teach the kids where salad comes from, and this is a great place to start.
For many people, the act of gardening satisfies needs beyond appreciating, harvesting, and even enjoying the fruits of one’s own labor. The fresh air and physical exertion involved in garden care allows people to improve physiological health; for instance, cardiovascular endurance, muscle tone, coordination and balance, as well as reduce stress and improve confidence and focus, while pursuing a constructive outcome that results in nutrient-dense crops, an attractive landscape or an improved environment.
Gardening IS Exercise
Gardening tasks recruit all the major muscle groups: legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back and abdominals. In addition to the exertion involved, gardening has other pluses that make it a fabulous way to burn calories. There can be a great deal of stretching involved with gardening, like reaching for weeds or tall branches, bending to plant and extending a rake. Lifting bags of mulch, pushing wheelbarrows and shoveling all provide resistance training similar to weight lifting, which leads to healthier bones and joints.
Nutritional Benefits of Gardening
Garden vegetables, fruits, and herbs offer a diverse nutritional profile including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that benefit health. Organic home grown edibles are generally low in calories, promote weight loss and should be a fundamental part of a healthy eating plan. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends consuming approximately nine to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Despite an increased attention on dietary health, vegetables, fruit, and herbs still suffer from their inability to advertise; it is important for gardeners to teach others! Folks who learn to grow and eat organic fresh vegetables are motivated to cook more at home and eat less fast food. They will eat more produce not exposed to chemicals and use herbs in recipes resulting in less salt and refined sugar intake.
Stress Relieving Benefits of Gardening
Stress is a part of everyday life, and more and more people are searching for ways to reduce daily tension. There are many ways to manage stress—such as relaxation, exercise, meditation, and enjoying creative hobbies. Garden therapy, or horticultural therapy, is a fantastic combination of all of these stress management tactics.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to have a large space to enjoy the health benefits of gardening. Start out small and get growing this spring!
In this difficult economy many of us are challenged with increased demands at work with fewer resources in addition to hectic family commitments. Our stress levels increase and we find ourselves exercising less and making poor food choices. Planting a garden can be a wonderful form of recreation. It’s a great physical activity, helps us relax and connect with nature, and can be an exciting way to learn about organic nutrition!
How do we share the environmental, physical, and mental benefits of gardening with our friends and colleagues? A great way to get people involved is to start a Corporate Garden at your business or organization.
So, let’s Get Growing…it’s as easy as 1-2-3!
1. Contact someone in your corporate facilities or benefits department for approval. Simply discuss the benefits employee participants will experience:
- Educational-General education for new and experienced gardeners (flowers, vegetables and herbs). Beginner gardeners have a wonderful first gardening experience and have their co-workers as mentors!
- Mental-Horticultural Therapeutic Effect including decreased stress and anxiety levels, increased patience, increased creativity, increased self-esteem, improved sense of well-being, improved confidence and focus, and an improved connection with nature and environmental stewardship awareness.
- Physical-Ergonomic break from work station, increases calorie expenditure, increases blood flow, and vitamin D production.
Employees will experience even greater benefits when they begin gardening at home! Studies show that physical activity associated with backyard gardening helps prevent heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, adult onset diabetes. Additional benefits include increases muscle mass, flexibility, coordination, and balance.There are also many nutritional benefits as a result of home gardening. Employees grow fresh vegetables and actually have the interest to eat them, cook more at home and eat less fast food, eat produce exposed to fewer chemicals, and use herbs in recipes resulting in less salt and sugar intake.
2. Design the Square Foot Garden and Get Planting! I recommend Mel Bartholomew’s square foot gardening method!
Mel Bartholomew, Square Foot Gardening Creator
It is easy and inexpensive. The method benefits include:
- Very little water is required-only 20% compared to conventional gardening
- 4×4 garden boxes can accommodate 16 co-workers each-very little space is needed
- Produces five times the harvest compared to conventional gardening in rows
- No weeding, no thinning, no heavy digging
- My personal favorite-no fertilizers or pesticides, it’s all natural
Visit www.squarefootgardening.com for more details
Corporate Garden BEFORE Corporate Garden AFTER
3. Harvest the Vegetables and Enjoy! Some creative ideas include:
- Your corporate chef can whip up café dishes using the fresh vegetables and herbs
- Create a corporate garden cookbook
- Support the greater good and donate produce to a program such as Plant a Row for the Hungry/Give Back to Gro
Ready to start a corporate garden? Feel free to contact me and I will be happy to offer suggestions and help get you started. Happy growing!
So you’re plant-curious, but just can’t seem to commit to “digging in”? Well, you’re in luck because you don’t have to be a frou frou gardener to enjoy the physical, nutritional, stress-relieving, social, and economical benefits of growing your own food. Here are three simple ways for the anti-gardener to get involved with growing organic food in 2011.
Not interested in perfect flowers all lined up in rows? Community gardens are definitely for you. I can’t think of a better place to meet passionate gardeners who are interested in three things, 1) growing food as efficiently as possible, 2) teaching others the tricks of the trade, and 3) feeding the community. What could be better than that? Check out the American Community Gardening Association to locate a community garden near you and get growing! The American Community Gardening Association (ACGA) is a bi-national nonprofit membership organization of professionals, volunteers and supporters of community greening in urban and rural communities. The Association recognizes that community gardening improves people’s quality of life by providing a catalyst for neighborhood and community development, stimulating social interaction, encouraging self-reliance, beautifying neighborhoods, producing nutritious food, reducing family food budgets, conserving resources and creating opportunities for recreation, exercise, therapy, and education.
2. GROW SOMETHING AT HOME
Yes, even you can grow one little plant at home. Throw an easy-to-grow herb or vegetable in the ground or container and get to it. If you can feed yourself, then I’m convinced you can make sure your plant receives enough sun and water. Consider starting with a popular herb that you will use in the kitchen, such as basil or scallions. One plant….you can do it!
Whether you’re growing food in a community garden or at home, most likely there will be leftovers available to donate. Visit AmpleHarvest.org to find a food pantry near you. Even if you can’t share your harvest, you are welcome to donate canned goods.
So don’t put it off any longer. I guarantee you’ll love it. You’ll love the connection you feel with the earth. You’ll love the sense of accomplishment. You’ll love that you are providing your family with living, healthy food. You’ll love the TASTE!
It’s official; a staggering one out of three children in America is identified as obese or overweight. For the first time in American history, children may be facing a shorter lifespan expectancy than their parents. Our nation’s culture of convenience has plagued the adult population with unhealthy habits, and is now infecting our children. The Rx? Nutrient-dense fresh food + exercise and outdoor recreation = medicine. Let’s figure out how to get there.
The first obstacle is nutrient deficiencies.
Families are busy, kids are overscheduled, and parents are constantly on the go. There is no time to plan meals, scurry to the grocery store, and prepare fresh food. Eating is just another item on the checklist. It is more convenient to hit the drive-through or reach for readily available processed foods. Urban communities often face an even bigger challenge due to a rise in food deserts. Grocery stores cannot survive in urban neighborhoods. Backyard vegetable gardening has vanished and our children cannot even identify common fruits and vegetables.
The second obstacle is sedentary indoor routines.
Advanced technology has changed the way we move our bodies, interact with nature, and function overall. Author Richard Louve pinpointed this epidemic when he coined the term “nature-deficit disorder”. Children spend the majority of their time indoors in front of the television, surfing the web, and playing video games. There is minimal genuine outdoor play and recreation.
At long last, there is a national action plan demanding attention.
First lady Michelle Obama has pledged to tackle the challenge of childhood obesity with the recent kickoff of the Let’s Move campaign and the 2009 White House Organic Garden project. These two crusades combined serve as the vehicle necessary to acknowledge and address the issue. Thanks to White House Organic Garden bang, edible gardens are now identified as the new “trend”. It certainly is a disturbing sign of the times when victory gardening is considered trendy, but it’s a welcomed spotlight nonetheless.
I’m convinced we can take this one step further. Gardening ultimately addresses every aspect of the epidemic discussed thus far. It’s inexpensive and easy, we can grow our own organic nutrient-dense food, we can connect with nature, and it’s great exercise. It’s time to cultivate a change, let’s get growing!
The White House efforts alone will not be enough. Each of us can make a local impact by introducing children to the profound physical, nutritional, mental, social, and environmental benefits of gardening with these three tips.
1. Enjoy the Physical Benefits
- Lawn and garden care facilitates weight loss*
- Gardening provides an adequate and challenging workout, but is not as stressful on the body as other exercise options, like jogging or aerobics.
- Gardening could well be viewed as cross-training for all fitness levels
2. Enjoy nature; discuss environmental stewardship and the nutritional benefits of gardening.
3. Get Active in School and Community Gardens
- Volunteer locally
- Have fun!
-Children can’t wait to get their hands dirty. Be sure to include a gardening warm-up and cool-down.
-Consider incorporating a seed-spreader race or garden obstacle course challenge.
The fight against childhood obesity can begin in your own backyard.
Commit to teaching the children where salad comes from.
It just wouldn’t be summer without GF pasta salad. Can’t wait to pick some of the ingredients straight from the garden.
Waaaah Hooo! We have cucumbers….
Now if I can just keep the critters and insects from enjoying the salad before I can.
The cold, hard truth? Vegetable gardening isn’t simple and glamorous…it’s a constant learning curve. As the reality gardener, I’m here to share both my triumps and pains.
My cukes, zukes, and squash starting showing signs of trouble. The leaves had white spots and the plants seemed to be struggling. I researched the problem and decided that powdery mildew was the culprit! (Oh, by the way, “PM” is the cool, hip term that veteran veggie gardeners use.) I even noticed that the PM appeared to be spreading to the marigolds. Dang it, I’m an experienced ornamental gardener and I want everything to be perfect.
Ok, so what does an organic gardener do now? I discovered that a milk and water solution would at least control the PM from spreading. I read about all kinds of crazy antidotes, but decided that non- fat milk made the most sense (regular milk straight on the plants? Yuck! That can’t be good for anything). I also decided that a solution of 1 part non-fat milk to 9 parts water would a safe place to start.
I sprayed all of the plants with the solution and of course we experienced hair-raising thunderstorms for several days in a row. I read that the solution should be applied every 5-7 days, but the rain kept washing it away. Great, now what? So, I just reapplied the solution each time it rained.
The squash and zucchini really seemed to suffer. I cut off all of the sad looking leaves to see what would happen, the poor plants looked pathetic. Shoot me. But good news…after 1 1/2 weeks I am seeing growth and blossoms. Even better news, the cucumber seems very happy and the plant has grown like crazy.
I’m still concerned that the garden is not getting enough sun due to the huge sycamore tree in the backyard. I’m sure that doesn’t help the PM situation. Next year I will move the garden to FULL sun and potentially avoid the evil PM.
I’m still having fun, this drama is better than prime-time TV. I’ll keep you posted.
I must confess…I have become obsessed with companion planting! I recently invested quite a bit of time researching the appropriate layout for the plants that are growing in my kitchen garden, and have subsequently moved some plants and added plants to my original layout.
Here is my updated Plangarden layout:
- Strawberries have been omitted (couldn’t find an organic option)
- Sweet potato, borage, and nasturtium have been added
- Asparagus and sage have been relocated
I relocated the asparagus and sage because through my companion planting research I discovered that asparagus does not like onion, garlic, and potato (duh, that’s exactly where I had it!), but loves basil and tomato. I learned that sage deters cabbage moths, so I moved the sage over near the brassicas.
How do companion plants work?
Every plant releases different chemical agents, either above ground through its leaves, or below ground from its roots. Every plant has special characteristics and growing habits. Companion plants provide one or some of the following benefits:
Produce a chemical that deters pests that are attracted to its companion
Produce a scent that reduces the pest’s ability to find its companion
Attract the same pest as its companion (a.k.a trap crop)
Provide food and shelter for beneficial natural pest predators
Reduce weed seedling numbers, by shading or choking weeds
Produce nutrients or growth stimulants for companion
Provide support for climbing plants
Provide shade for its companion
Change or enhance companion plants flavor
I would like to highlight two of my favorite new companion plants. Using these two beautiful plants is making my life a lot easier in the garden.
Nasturtiums are a gardener’s best friend because they fend off garden pests from neighboring plants. I’m growing them near my cucumbers, summer squash, and zucchini to help repel cucumber beetles and squash vine borers. This interesting annual also repel many different kinds of aphids. Though they do attract one species of aphid, the black aphid, you can use this to your advantage. If black aphids are already a problem, grow nasturtiums to keep aphids from destroying other plants. Then when the nasturtiums are covered in aphids, pull those plants up and destroy them, aphids and all.
In addition, nasturtiums produce decorative foliage, provide an ocean of brightly colored blossoms, and the entire plant is a tasty addition to salads! I’m anxiously awaiting the first blooms.
Borage is an annual plant with gorgeous blue flowers and leaves with the flavor of cucumbers. It is considered an herb, but is often grown in vegetable gardens because the plant attracts bees and is considered a good companion plant for tomatoes, squash and strawberries. I planted borage near my tomato plant because it’s even supposed to deter my arch enemy…tomato hornworm. If that’s not enough, borage is said to enhance the flavor of tomatoes growing nearby.
Here’s the garden on June 6, 2010.
There’s nothing better than witnessing nature’s wonder. Mother nature sure knows what she’s doing. Happy gardening!
The excitement of move-in day…fresh soil, room to grow, and TLC!
I had a grand time shopping for all of my organic edibles at Marvin’s Organic Gardens. So far I’ve planted:
- Asparagus crown
- Certified seed potato
- Summer squash
- Green pepper
- Swiss chard
- Leaf lettuce
- Brussels sprouts
- Carrot seeds
- Beet seeds
I planted everything according to the Plangarden layout that I prepared. I still need to find and plant strawberries, garlic, and marigolds.
The Backyard Botanical Oasis Garden kit came with a rubber soaker hose. I was concerned that the rubber hose would leach lead into the garden, so I purchased a Gilmour flat soaker hose. This hose is 100% lead free and has black and green plastic ends, no brass. The actual hose is black nylon. The flat hose is actually easier to handle and fits better around the plants.
I had to travel for work last week and checked in on the baby plants every day as if I was calling the babysitter. I think I scared the ONE, he was nervous that something was going to happen to the plants while I was away. It was easy for him because it rained for several days. The tomato and cucumber plants doubled in size while I was gone, I was thrilled to see the plants so happy.
I was also delighted to see the potatoes poking through, yippee! I sowed the carrot and beet seeds directly into the soil and crossed my fingers. I thought it was too late, but I see several seedlings popping up. I’ll take it.
I’ve been spending about 10 minutes a day in the kitchen garden just checking on the plants and plucking a few random weeds. Off to get the rest of the plants.
This will be my first growing season in the new garden, and I can’t wait to get my hands dirty! The zone and the soil are very different here, I know it is going to be a summer of new discoveries.
I decided that my first project would definitely be a kitchen garden. I’m an experienced gardener, although there is still so much to learn about veggie gardening, and there are so many new edible plants that I want to grow (a.k.a. try to keep alive). As I learn more about growing in the new space, I definitely think a raised bed for veggies would make it easier for me to get growing. I got to work on the plans and I realized that I was facing several challenges:
- Irrigation woes-I travel for work often, and frequently at the last minute. The ONE also travels for work, and I’m still getting to know peeps. I don’t want to bother my new friends and neighbors for help with the watering…at least not quite yet.
- The backyard is uneven, make that extremely uneven
- The gray squirrels are thriving in this area, and there have already been several bunny sightings
I spent a few days researching and was so excited when I found the Backyard Botanical Oasis Garden. This system is exactly what I need! Bigger than the square foot gardens I have built in the past, enclosed and critter proof, convenient, complete with an automatic watering system. Now we’re talking.
With Christmas morning excitement, we unloaded two large boxes with about 5,000 pieces in each and one encylopedia sized instruction booklet. Okay, not quite that bad, it was actually very straight forward. Although you know how fun kits can be, we just took our time and had a great day together.
We originally planned on building the garden in the side yard, although the terrain is too uneven as well as a bit out of the way. We decided it would be better to build it on the patio, it’s in a central area plus it will be closer to the rain barrel and composter.
The garden requires 40 cubic feet of soil. I choose a mixture of Organic Choice garden soil and Organic Valley compost plus manure. I did not use the compost from my composter yet because I was concerned that the previous home owner may have used chemicals on the lawn and the grass clippings would be contaminated.
I was thrilled with the finished product and couldn’t wait to pick out the plants. I immediately went to the Plangarden website, a virtual garden planning tool, to design my kitchen garden layout.
Now I’m on the hunt for all the organic plants, I’ll post updates on my progress. This simple system will give me more time to focus on the other landscape debacles, I’m definitely going to be Fit to Garden this summer!
I am very fond of ornamental grass. I like to experiment and cultivate the grass as a ground cover, border, screen, accent, and have even used it in my container garden. Ornamental grasses cover a broad palette of colors, textures, blooms, and heights. Every variety that I have planted has been beautiful and extremely low-maintenance.
Ornamental grass provides wonderful winter interest so I prefer to cut it back in the Spring. The weather has been beautiful in Kentucky and I knew I needed to get out there and cut it back before the new growth popped up!
The more full and beautiful an ornamental grass is, the more difficult it is to cut back. I recommend bundling sections of the grass then securing the sections with rope. This makes cutting the grass back 4-6″ with pruning shears much easier.
Then after I clean up the random blades, all I’m left with a neat bundle of grass ready to compost!
All set, the new growth is welcome to shine through. Happy Spring!
New to vegetable gardening? Start out simple this Spring with a Square Foot Garden!
This method was developed by Mel Bartholomew and involves building a manageable 4×4 box and filling it with organic mix resulting in ultimate yield. Benefits include:
- Space saver
- No weeding
- Less water
- All natural, NO CHEMICALS needed
Gather the materials and build the box. I attached wheels so that I could move my garden around the patio as needed.
(Or purchase your box here.)
Fill with Mel’s mix: I/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 coarse vermiculite
Paint your Square Foot Garden, then you are ready for the fun…planting and harvesting!
Details on all of the steps mentioned above can be found on www.squarefootgardening.com.
Five years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of the final week in June as “National Pollinator Week” marked a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. In just a few years Pollinator Week has grown to be an international celebration of the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles.
Pollinating animals, including bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles and others, are vital to our delicate ecosystem, supporting terrestrial wildlife, providing healthy watershed, and more. Therefore, Pollinator Week is a week to get the importance of pollinators’ message out to as many people as possible.
Whether you are a farmer of many acres, a backyard gardener, or an urban container gardener, you can increase the number of pollinators in your area by making conscience choices to include plants that provide essential habitat for bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Invite pollinators to your neighborhood by planting a pollinator friendly habitat in your garden, farm, school or park. Click here to find out the perfect plants that attract pollinators and help you build beautiful pollinator habitat in your specific area!
Interested in growing organic goods but have no time, no space, no experience, no money, no chemicals, no BPA?
EarthBox-a MUST try!
Maintenance-free, award-winning, high-tech growing system that controls soil conditions, eliminates guesswork and more than doubles the yield of a conventional garden-with less organic fertilizer, less water, and virtually no effort.
- Water tube & reservoir (this is a life saver, literally!)
- Organic potting mix
- Organic fertilizer
Visit the EarthBox website for a list of easy instructions and detailed instructional videos.