Organic Vegetable Gardening 101 - Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
Organic Vegetable Gardening 101 Workshop manual THE ROBERT A. MACOSKEY CENTER for Sustainable Systems Education and Research at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania 247 Harmony Road Slippery Rock, PA 16057 Phone: (724) 738-4050 e-mail: email@example.com www.sru.edu/ramc
2 The Benefits of Organic Vegetable Gardening: An OverviewWhat is Organic Vegetable Gardening?Organic vegetable gardening is a safer and healthier way to garden, both for the environment as well as for you andyour family. Organic gardeners avoid the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers that contaminate thesoil, air, water and eventually humans as well. Organic gardeners develop an understanding of ecological systems,and use a holistic approach to try and provide the best circumstances for their plants to grow with a minimumnumber of inputs.The Benefits – Safe, Fresh, NutritiousA safer way to gardenIf you take a quick look at your local garden supply store (or big box retailer) you will probably find the “gardeningsprays and fertilizers” aisle quite easily. If you read the labels of these products (put on a pair of disposable gloves first)you will most likely find a warning something like this: “Keep off skin. Do not breathe spray. Wash hands andexposed skin after use. Dangerous to fish/aquatic life. Extremely dangerous to bees. Warning: this product containsmetaldehyde which can kill if eaten. -Everyday low price: $2.49” It might occur to you that perhaps you might notwant to use this product on something that you were eventually going to eat. You certainly would not be anxious tohave your friends and loved ones close by if you chose to use that particular product in the garden landscape! Agarden should be a place where you can spend time with your friends and family, a safe haven from harmful chemicals.Organic vegetable gardening is an activity that the whole family can be involved in.No pesticide residues in your foodFood that comes from an organic garden won‟t have any pesticide residues. A 2006 study by a research team fromEmory University in Atlanta found that children who ate only organic foods had urine samples that contained nearlyno byproducts of two regularly used pesticides (malathion and chlorpyrifos). When the children began eatingconventionally grown foods, the quantity of these byproducts rose rapidly to as much as 263 parts per billion.Another study done at the University of Washington (2003) found that children who ate organic fruits and vegetableshad on average 9 times less pesticide concentration than children consuming conventional produce.Better Nutrition, Better HealthAs soon as you harvest a tomato from the vine, the nutritional value of the fruit begins to decline. Since organicgardeners can pick and eat in the same day, this means the produce can be eaten at it‟s nutritional peak! As well,since the introduction of synthetic chemical-based agriculture in the 1930‟s, the nutritional content of our food hassteadily declined. The breeding of modern plants for quick growth, high yields, and long shelf life rather than fornutrient density is partly to blame; but perhaps the greater problem lies in the use of synthetic chemicals in intensivefarming systems. Agricultural systems that rely on synthetic chemicals for their primary nutrient input don‟t replaceminerals, trace elements and other compounds that crops take up from the soil as they grow. As the soil becomesdepleted, the nutrient density of the harvest declines. Lack of good nutrition is a major factor in the occurrence ofmany diseases including cancer. The organic vegetable gardener adds lots of organic matter back to the soil, whichhelps to balance out what is lost from the harvest. A 2001 report by the British Soil Association reviewed 400different nutritional studies and concluded that foods grown organically definitively have more vitamins and minerals.
3A recent article in the Journal of Applied Nutrition compared nutritional content of organic vs. conventionally grownproduce, and found: 63% more calcium, which helps to prevent osteoporosis, and is key in aiding contraction and relaxation of body muscle tissue. 138% more magnesium, which reduces mortality from heart attacks, prevents muscle spasms, and eases the symptoms of PMS. 390% more selenium, an antioxidant that protects humans from environmental chemicals, cancers, and heart disease. 70% more boron, which prevents osteoporosis 78% more chromium, a micronutrient that prevents adult diabetes and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). 9 times more salicylic acid, which has anti-inflammatory properties and helps prevent colon cancer and atherosclerosis. 15.1% less nitrates, which are thought to elevate the risk of cancer, in organic produce than their conventional counterparts.Better tasteOrganic gardeners can enjoy the benefits of harvesting and eating in the same day. Most conventional produce foundat the grocery store has traveled an average of 1400 miles and changed hands at least 5 times between the farmer andthe consumer. This forces farmers to prefer varieties that ship well, over those with abundant flavor, or nutritionalqualities. The organic gardener can choose varieties that are well adapted to their site, and that have exceptionalflavor too!Better garden performanceOrganic gardens are generally better adapted to climatic stress than their conventional counterparts. Soils with highlevels of organic matter (the organic gardener‟s favorite soil amendment) can help to moderate soil moisturefluctuations, and can improve overall plant health. Soil organic matter also increases beneficial soil microorganismsthat play a vital role in maintaining soil fertility and suppressing harmful pests. Commonly used herbicides andinsecticides kill these microorganisms, reducing your garden‟s productivity potential, and also its ability to weatherenvironmental stresses.Less environmental impactOrganic gardening minimizes the impact on air, water, and soil by avoiding the use of synthetic herbicides, pesticidesand fertilizers. The organic gardener embraces the concept of interdependence of the garden landscape with the restof the planet and practices the ecological paradigm that “Waste Must Equal Food”.Less dependency on nonrenewable resources = Food SecurityOrganic gardening relies primarily on local renewable resources such as; neighbor‟s horses and autumn leaves asinputs. The social impacts of going organic can also include decreased reliance on global corporations and increasedstrength of local and bioregional resource networks.
4 It All Starts with the SoilSoil HealthHealthy soil provides an ideal growing environment for your garden plants. Soil provides the physical structure inwhich plant roots grow; a supply of nutrients upon which plants feed; and a home to a variety of organisms likeworms, insects and beneficial bacteria. Figure 1Soil is made up of four general parts: Ideal Garden Soil CompositionWater (also called soil solution) contains dissolved nutrients and isthe main source of water for plants. AirAir provides roots with oxygen and helps to remove excess carbon 25%dioxide from root respiration. MineralsMinerals composed of three sizes of particles, sand, silt and clay. 45% WaterOrganic Matter is made up of living organisms, fresh residues, and 25%well decomposed residues. Organic Matter 5%Soil TextureSoil texture is a term commonly used to designate the distribution of the different sizes of mineral particles in a soil.This does not include organic matter. The mineral particles vary in proportion from sand to silt to clay. Sandparticles are relatively large, forming large pores with little capacity to hold water and plant nutrients. Silt particlesare smaller than sand and have a better capacity to hold water. Clay particles are extremely small and tend to causesoils to harden when dry and to become sticky when wet. Clay soils hold large amounts of water and plant nutrients,but allow less movement of water and air through the soil into the root zone.Most soil is a mixture of various mineral sizes known as loam. An ideal soil contains sufficient sand to keep the soilporous and sufficient clay to hold nutrients and water for plant growth needs. Thus, the ideal soil texture for agarden is a clay loam or a silt loam. Good soil makes gardening easier and produces higher yields. Yet, many gardensare located on less than ideal soil. This is especially true if a garden is located near a house where construction of thehouse resulted in removal of the topsoil.How to Test Soil Texture at HomeTo determine the percentage of sand, silt, and clay perform this simple jar test. Compare results to the texture classtriangle in Appendix A.Materials: Jar (a mayonnaise jar is perfect) Half that jars worth of water Half that jars worth of soil from your garden area Tablespoon of liquid soap
5First add the water to the jar. Next, add the soil. Finally add the tablespoon of liquid detergent. Screw the cap ontight and shake vigorously for a minute (or until the soil is completely in suspension). Set the jar in a place it canremain undisturbed for 48 hours.Once the soil has settled out of the water, examine the particle distribution of each texture size to determinepercentile. Sand, the largest particles, will settle to the bottom first. Indicate the level of sand with a piece of tape ora marker. Silt will be the next to settle. Mark the top of the silt level the same way. Clay, the smallest particles, willbe the last to settle. Mark the clay level. Organic matter will float to the top; just ignore it when equating soiltexture.Now measure the base of the jar to the top of the clay level; this is equivalent to one hundred percent. Then measureeach section: sand, silt, and clay and compare to the total to obtain each individual percentile. For example: If youhave a total of 8 inches of soil from the base to the top level of clay, that equals 100%. The sand is then measured andfound to be 2.5 inches. To find the percentile you would divide 2.5 inches by 8 inches and then multiply that numberby 100. The final number is the percent sand: 2.5” sand / 8” total soil = 0.3125 0.3125 x 100 = 31.25% SandThe ideal soil texture composition is 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and 20 percent clay. This is classified as loamand is considered the ideal garden soil.Refurbishing Soil TextureIf your soil is too sandy, you can add silt and clay soil particles to improve the soil texture. If the soil has too muchclay or silt, add sand to improve the soil texture. The addition of soil material can be expensive, especially if thegarden is large. Several pounds of material must be added to adequately change the soil texture. For every threesquare feet of garden add one pound of the needed soil texture, mix and test again! Test your soil texture each yearas it will change over time.TopsoilTopsoil is the surface layer of soil and can contain abundant organic matter. Topsoil is the portion of the soil in whichplants and other forms of life are most abundant. As these organisms live and die, they add organic matter to soil.Organic matter is very important in maintaining the health of your soil. Organic matter improves soil tilth, waterholding capacity, promotes the movement of water and air, and supplies plant nutrients. You can use animalmanures, green plant materials, compost, peat moss, and other organic materials to add organic matter to your soils.If it is not practical to add sand to clayey soils or silt and clay to sandy soils, you can add large amounts of organicmatter to the soil instead with much the same effect. However, if you choose to just add organic matter to the soil,you will probably need to replenish that organic matter each year. Keep in mind that topsoil takes many years toform, so dont expect organic matter to immediately correct any problems. It probably will be necessary to repeatthe application of organic material for several years in a row before a poor soil will be greatly improved. Someorganic materials, such as animal manure and green plant materials, supply plant nutrients to the soil. Green plantmaterials decompose or rot much more rapidly than materials such as straw, bark, or sawdust. Compost is anexcellent organic material that can be used with great results in the garden. See our publication entitled“Composting: A Beginner‟s Guide” for more information on how to make your own compost.
6Plant NutrientsIn addition to water, air, and sunshine, plants need nutrients. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium(Ca), magnesium (Mg), and sulfur (S) are often needed in large amounts.Other elements are needed in small amounts, but are still very important for good plant growth. The nutrientsneeded in trace amounts are zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), boron (B), iron (Fe), chlorine (Cl), molybdenum (Mo), andmanganese (Mn).The fact that all these nutrients are needed does not mean that you must add them to the soil each year. The soil hasthe capacity to store and release most of these nutrients as they are needed by the plants. Therefore, you willtypically need to apply only the most heavily used nutrients N, P, K, and S. You can do this by adding one pound ofan organic plant fertilizer for each six square feet of soil. You could also judge your fertilizer needs on a soil test.Soil TestingYou can use a soil test to evaluate the nutrient levels in your soil, soil pH, and organic matter content. You can have atest done by a commercial soil testing laboratory (your county Extension office has a list of labs). Cost variesdepending on the number of elements you choose to test for. There are also small soil test kits available online orfrom your local garden supply store at a modest price. For small-scale gardens a soil test kit will probably be accurateenough. If your potential garden site is now supporting healthy weeds, chances are it will do well to support gardenvegetables too. If your garden is going to be located adjacent to an older house (or in a dense urban environment),sending a soil sample to a laboratory for lead testing is advisable.Guidelines for taking a soil sample:1. The best time to take a soil sample is in the summer or fall.2. Take 8 to 10 random core samples from your garden or lawn area.3. Sample only areas that are representative of the entire space, excluding problem areas or deep furrows.4. Take samples from 2-inch to 4-inch soil depths.5. Collect the samples in a clean container.6. Mix the core samples, allow to air dry and remove roots and stones.Soil pH:Measuring soil pH may be the most beneficial test for the home gardener. Soil pH is an expression of the acidity oralkalinity of a soil. A pH of 7.0 is neutral. Most plants grow best at a pH of 5.5 to 7.5. A pH below 5.5 is too acidic,and a pH above 8.2 is too alkaline for most garden plants. Table 1 lists the pH preference of a selection of commonvegetables.You can correct a pH that is too acidic (5.5 and below) by adding lime. Mix the lime well into the top 6 to 9 inchesof soil. The lime may take a year or more to react with the soil and correct the acidity problem. To correct a pH thatis too alkaline (8.2 and above) you can add sulfur. Mix the sulfur well into the top 6 to 9 inches of soil. Sulfur willreact quickly with the soil particles and may only take a few months to see results.
8 Sustainable Garden DesignA sustainable garden is a garden that is designed for a specific place. It takes maximum advantage of thecharacteristics of a particular location to help you grow healthy, nutritious plants. If you carefully consider the needsof your plants and the uniqueness of your garden landscape; then design a thoughtful relationship between the two,you can reduce your labor, save time and money too!Plant SelectionWhen planning your garden, the first question you need to ask is “What do I want to grow?” The answer to thisquestion will influence all the other decisions you make when designing your garden. Sit down and make a list of allthe plants you are considering growing. Here is where you have to do a little research… for each plant, write downthe following information: Could it use support? How big does it get? What is it‟s final spacing? Solar preferences (full sun to full shade) Planting time (when to start your seeds, when to transplant your seedlings) Planting type (direct seed, transplant) How much should I plant? (how much will I eat?) What are it‟s companion plants? You should also find out: Family name (what other plants is it related to?) Is it perennial, annual or biennial? Soil preferences (pH, fertility) Any special water or maintenance needs?Choosing a Location / Getting to know your SiteWhen choosing a location for a vegetable garden, you should consider: soil type, solar access, windbreaks, slope,water movement, proximity to the home kitchen, circulation routes, tool storage, and water.Soil TypeThe ideal garden soil is a rich loam with good drainage. Loamy soil contains a range of particle sizes ranging frommicroscopic clay to grains of sand, and retains moisture without becoming waterlogged. Heavy clay soils drainpoorly, warm up slowly in the spring, and are prone to compaction. Light sandy soils, on the other hand, drain toorapidly and retain few nutrients. (See the previous section on soil management.)Solar AccessAt 40 degrees north latitude, most annual vegetables require full sun. Plants grown for their fruits, such as tomatoes,peppers, and eggplant, need the most sun; leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach, and chard can tolerate some lightshade during part of the day.Wind BreaksIf possible, choose a garden site sheltered from cold northerly and prevailing winds. The south side of a south facingwall is ideal and will provide some protection from frost. Consider planting a windbreak, but ensure that thevegetation will not reduce solar access. Depending on the amount of space, consider a windbreak of full sized trees, a
9hedgerow or simply rows of tall crops such as sunflowers and corn. In addition to sheltering plants, windbreaks canalso possibly yield mulch, compost, animal forages, nitrogen fixation, edible crops and habitat for insectivorous birdsand beneficial insects.SlopeGiven good solar access, soil drainage, and wind protection, generally a flat area is better than a slope for a gardensite. Slopes are more susceptible to erosion. If a flat area cannot be found, a gentle south facing slope is ideal.Consider terracing or installing permanent garden bed frames. Avoid an unprotected hill top ridge or a low area withpoor drainage.Water MovementRight after or during a heavy rain, walk your property. Observe the hydrology of the site. Where is the waterflowing? Where does water puddle? These are important aspects to consider when choosing a garden location.Avoid water channels and places where water drains slowly.Proximity IssuesEfficient energy, resource, and economic planning involves placing elements according to how much they‟re used orhow often they need service. Areas that must be visited every day are located nearby, while places visited lessfrequently are located further away.Consider the distance between your garden and kitchen. Do you sometimes find yourself neglecting to do somethingbecause of its distance? The same will go for your garden. The closer it is to your home, daily circulation routes, andkitchen, the more likely you are to tend it, harvest, and eat its bounty.In order to save time and energy, plant the herbs, vegetables, and fruits you use daily closest to the kitchen. Plant theextensive, one-time harvest crops farther from the house. For example, plant culinary herbs and leafy greens closestto the kitchen and potatoes and winter squash farther away.Plant vegetables and soft fruits that come into season quickly or briefly along circulation routes that you‟ll naturallycheck daily and harvest readily. For example, you could plant summer squash, strawberries, and low bushblueberries along the path from the garage to the front door.Basic Design ElementsGarden BedsGarden beds should be sized to accommodate a comfortable working reach for planting, weeding, and harvesting.Beds that are too wide are difficult to maintain, while beds that are very narrow are not as space efficient. Todetermine a good spacing for you, kneel down and measure the distance from your knees to the farthest distance youcan reach forward comfortably. Eighteen inches is a common reach. If we account for access to a garden bed fromboth sides, (18” x 2) a 3 foot wide bed would be preferred.Throughout the world, especially in Asia where raised garden beds are a necessity and space is limited, garden bedsare traditionally measured 4 ft. wide. Given that the maximum reach of the average person is 2 ft., the entire surfaceof a 4 ft. garden bed can be reached without stepping on the bed. Therefore, it‟s the most efficient use of space.However, this may be an uncomfortable width for many people. Personally, measure a comfortable reach and doublethat length to determine the width of your ideal garden bed.
10PathsJust like garden beds, paths should be sized to their use. If you plan to kneel and weed, your path width shouldprobably be at least 2 feet wide. This allows you to kneel between beds without touching the growing area (whichcan compact the soil). A 2 foot width also accommodates a wheelbarrow, but not a garden cart. Consider placingwider paths near garden entrances and common circulation routes, such as to the compost pile to facilitate easy use.FencingIt is quite possible that you may not need a fence around your garden. See the section on „pest management- othercritters‟ for information on choosing a fence type. Before placing your fence, consider the following: Locate fence gates in strategic locations, and make sure they are wide enough to easily bring your garden cart, wheelbarrow or other equipment through. A fence placed directly adjacent to a garden bed can act as a trellis, but you may wish to make the bed narrow (18”-24”) to facilitate working from only one side. Fences with broad, round corners are easier to mow around with a riding lawn mower than fences with odd angles.One way to keep your fence free of weeds is to install a “permanent” mulch strip around the fence. To do this,remove a 18-24 inch wide strip of sod (about 3” deep) around the perimeter ofwhere the fence will go. Lay down a weed barrier like landscape fabric orcardboard in this shallow trench. Install your fence posts and fence. Thenbackfill the trench with a “permanent” mulch like crushed rock or chipped bark.WaterAlthough you can depend on a fair amount of rainfall to feed your growinggarden‟s needs, chances are you will have to supplement this rainfall withanother water source. Some consideration of where your water will come fromcan help you plan a more sustainable garden landscape. Rain barrels installedunder the gutter downspouts of your roof can go a long way towards meeting your supplemental water needs.Consider where these barrels are placed relative to the garden, and try to locate them nearby. If you plan to wateryour garden from a hose bib on the house, think about where these are located in relationship to the gardenlandscape.Will you carry a watering-can from the spigot or rain barrel to the garden? Or will you use a hose and hand sprinkleror overhead sprinkler? Know the answers to these questions before your plants are withering and crying for water.Compost PileSome gardeners like to place the compost pile in a location adjacent to or on top of where they plan to garden whenthe compost is finished. This way, the finished material can be spread out right in place with little effort. This takes alittle forethought, but can save labor in the long run. Other gardeners like to have the compost pile away from thegarden to have lots of room for turning the materials. Also, depending on the system, you may consider placing thecompost bin in a shady spot in the summer so it doesn‟t dry out too quickly. Either way, consider how you are goingto travel to the compost pile from the garden and vice versa.
11Tool StorageHaving your garden tools stored far away from the garden canbegin to get annoying after your 4th trip to the basement afteranother tool you forgot to bring with you. Consider where youwill store your growing supply of garden tools, and whatrelationship this has with the garden.A “Place” in the GardenAt times, working in the garden (especially pulling weeds) canbe hard work. Consider leaving a bit of space within yourgarden to sit down and relax. You might use this spot to sortyour seeds, to write in your garden journal, or to take a well-deserved nap. Being inside the garden landscape should be anenjoyable experience, and having a place to sit and admire yourhandiwork can rejuvenate what might be flagging gardening passion!Keeping a Garden JournalDrawing a Garden PlanOnce you have begun to reason out the best location for your garden, it is time to draw a preliminary garden plan.Draw the outlines of major landscape features that will influence the proposed garden area including buildings, trees,and other major landscape elements. Some gardeners like to use graph paper to make it easier to draw to scale. ¼inch graph paper squares can represent 1 foot squares in the garden. A 3 foot wide garden bed that was 8 feet longwould be drawn as a rectangle that is 3 squares wide by 8 squares long. Sketch some ideas of what you might likeyour garden beds to be shaped like. Remember to include paths between your garden beds. Your garden can be justabout any shape you can think of, including triangular and even round! One word of caution: planting crops ingarden beds of non-rectilinear shapes may be more difficult to trellis, overlay with row cover, move a wheelbarrowthrough, etc… Take care to think of how you are going to use the garden, and plan accordingly.Once you have a preliminary garden plan, begin to divide the garden based on your spatial needs for your differentcrops. Group the crops together according to their plant families when possible (see appendix for information oncrop rotation and companion planting). Consider the different requirements of each of the plants and place themaccordingly. You will probably draw several different versions until you get one that satisfies you. Now it‟s time toget out and build garden beds!After your garden beds have been constructed, inevitably you will have made some changes to your plan. Revise yourplan to reflect the changes you have made. As you direct seed or transplant seedlings into your garden beds, recordtheir location on your revised garden plan. This way, if you later forget what you planted in a particular area, you willhave something to remind you!Keeping Yearly RecordsThis can be as simple as saving your garden plans or using a calendar to record garden and weather information. Theimportant thing is to find a system that works best for you.
12 Garden PreparationPrepare the SiteAfter determining the location of your garden, prepare the site for constructing beds and delineating pathways.Remember to compost any sod or plant materials removed from the garden site. What style of garden beds andpathways do you intend to build? There are many choices, each with pros and cons:First, decide if your beds and pathways will be permanent or annual. Permanent Beds and Pathways Pros: Clear delineation of growing area; Concentrates soil building activities and materials; Better drainage; Warms earlier in spring; Provides some frost protection as heavy, cold air settles on the lower paths Cons: Requires more water during hot, dry summers; More initial labor to establish Annual Beds and Pathways Pros: Accommodates use of mechanized tillage (Tractor or Rototiller); Easier to change layout of garden from year to year Cons: Pathways may be difficult to maintain (Weed pressure, Mud); Slower drainage and warming in springNext, decide if your beds will be flat, contained raised, or freestanding raised. Flat Beds Pros: Less work initially; Require less water during hot, dry summers; Easier to redesign from year to year Cons: Slower to warm and drain in spring Contained Raised Beds Have permanent walls made from wood, brick, stone, or almost any building material. Pros: Clear delineation of growing area; Concentrates soil building activities and materials; Better drainage; Warms earlier in spring; Provides some frost protection as heavy, cold air settles on the lower paths; Can easily be fitted with clear tops to serve as cold frames; Arguably more aesthetic Cons: Initial labor and resource investment; Requires more water during hot, dry summers; Relatively permanent garden design Freestanding Raised Beds Made from soil in the garden usually by scraping the soil from pathways and adding it to the bed. Pros: Clear delineation of growing area; Better drainage; Warms earlier in spring; Provides some frost protection as heavy, cold air settles on the lower paths; Good flexibility with changing garden designs and crop rotations Cons: Annual labor; Erosion
13Your next step is to decide if your pathways will be constructed with exposed soil, mulch, or sod. Exposed Soil Pathways Pros: Does not require outside inputs; Easy to harvest soil and add to garden beds as needed Cons: Mud; Weed pressure; Compaction Mulched Pathways Pros: Clean, weed free pathways Cons: Annual addition of woody organic matter; Difficult to harvest soil to add to garden beds Sod Pathways Pros: Provides nitrogen rich grass clippings; Clean pathways Cons: Requires regular mowing; Weed pressureCultivation Methods for PennsylvaniaBecause of Pennsylvania‟s particular soils and climate, there are several cultivation methods that may be bestemployed here, including Standard European-American Vegetable Garden, Mulch Garden, Sheet Mulch Garden,Biointensive, and Animal Tractor Systems. As with beds and pathways, there are advantages and disadvantages toeach method. Standard European-American Vegetable Garden Cultivation of garden by hand or mechanically to prepare seed bed. Re-cultivate to kill weeds. Pros: Can be mechanized; Apparent increase in fertility (temporary due to increased oxidation of organic matter); Less work and fewer inputs (initially) than other methods Cons: Destruction of soil structure; Destruction of soil micro-organisms; Destruction of earthworms; Creation of hard pan; Brings new weed seeds to the surface with each cultivation Mulch Garden In the 1960‟s, Ruth Stout popularized mulch gardening as a polemic to the traditional European-American garden. As opposed to bare soil cultivation, mulch covers exposed soil. Pros: Mulch inhibits weed seed germination and suppresses weeds; Mulch protects the soil from erosion, compaction, and oxidation; Mulch limits evaporation, retaining soil moisture; As organic mulch decomposes, it adds valuable organic matter to the soil Cons: Organic mulch is in short supply; Mulch can harbor some pests, namely slugs; Mulch doesn‟t control perennial weeds Sheet Mulch Garden (aka: Lasagna Garden) Sheet mulching creates a weed free garden by growing above a weed barrier Pros: Relatively quick and easy to establish; Can be used on poor and weedy soils; No disruption of soil organisms; Controls weeds; Soil protected from erosion, compaction, and oxidation; As organic mulch decomposes, it adds valuable organic matter to the soil Cons: Organic compost is expensive; Mulch can harbor some pests, namely slugs; Plants initially unstable; Cannot grow root crops the first year
14 Biointensive Features permanent double-dug beds and intensive planting Pros: Good aeration of soil; Breaks hardpan; Allows deep crop root penetration; Reduces water use through increased capillary rise Cons: One time substantial disruption of soil organisms; One time substantial input of manual labor; Not easily suited to heavy clay soils Animal Tractor System Can be used in combination with other methods. Pros: Animals clear garden beds of weeds and insects; Animals fertilize garden without human labor or double handling of manure Cons: Soil compaction; Under the National Organic Program (NOP), raw manure requires an interval of 120 days between application and crop harvest when the edible portion of the crops destined for human consumption are in contact with soil, and 90 days for crops whose edible portion does not have direct contact with the soil surface or soil particles
15 Selecting and Buying Seeds and TransplantsLocal Seed and Transplant Sources:The Macoskey Center at SRU Three Sisters Farm Three Sisters Farm Wolf Creek Farm Wolf Creek Farm247 Harmony Road Darrel Frey Darrel Frey JohnJohn and Susan Biberich and Susan BiberichSlippery Rock, PA 16057 16057 134 Obitz Rd. 134 Orbitz Road 3175 Scrubgrass Rd. 3175 Scrubgrass Road724-738-4050724-794-4050 Sandy Lake, PA 16145 Sandy Lake, PA 16145 Grove City, PA 16127 Grove City, PA firstname.lastname@example.org 724-376-2797 724-376-2797 814-786-7675 786-7675 Phone (814) email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org www.bioshelter.com www.bioshelter.comMail Order Seed Distributors (check the Internet for dozens of online sources)Commercial Growers Heirloom Seeds Organic Biodynamic Heirloom Seeds: Organic: Biodynamic:* Johnny‟s Selected Seeds * Seed Savers Exchange * Seeds of Change * Turtle Tree Seeds Seed Savers Seeds of Change Turtle Tree Seeds* Seeds SeedsF FEDCO * Heirloom Seed Co. * High Mowing Seeds Exchange High Mowing Seeds Burpee Seeds Heirloom SeedsHeirloom vs. Hybrid SeedPrior to the 1930‟s, commercial hybrid seeds were largely non-existent. All of the seed a farmer or gardener usedwas open pollinated, came from the previous year‟s crop, and would grow true to type. After 1930, hybrids began totake hold and new varieties began to appear in the seed catalogs.Hybrid seed is produced by artificially cross-pollinated plants. Hybrids are bred to improve the characteristics of theresulting plants, such as better yield, greater uniformity, disease resistance, longer shelf-life, and so forth. However,hybrids will not reproduce true to form. Since hybrid seed cannot be saved with certainty, farmers and gardenersusing hybrid seed are dependent on seed companies to supply their seed.Seed SavingSeed saving is the practice of saving seeds from open-pollinated vegetables and flowers for use from year to year. Thisis the traditional way farms and gardens are maintained. Seed saving requires time and energy for gathering andorganizing seeds, and extensive garden planning. A common objection to the use of seed saving is the possibility thatplant diseases from one year may transfer to the next year. However, seed saving is cost effective and resourceefficient, and provides an excellent educational opportunity within the garden.Buying SeedWhen buying seed, try to purchase seed varieties developed or specified for your geographic region. Penn StateCooperative Extension provides a list of proven commercial, hybrid varieties for Pennsylvania soils (for moreinformation go to http://hortweb.cas.psu.edu/pubs/pdfs/veggies/variety_recommendations.pdf )Consider purchasing from seed suppliers in the Northeast region. When buying seed from a smaller seed company orretail store, check the date and germination rate on the seed package. Ensure that the seed was grown out last seasonfor distribution this season. Consider the germination rate when sowing.
16Buying TransplantsOnly purchase healthy transplants. Do not purchase seedlings that show signs ofnutrient deficiency or stunted growth. The first weeks of a seedling‟s lifedetermines its potential as a mature plant. Don‟t spend the time, money, andgarden space on mediocre transplants. Look for stocky plants with dark greenfoliage and strong, thick stems. Tall, leggy, pale-green or yellow plants growmore slowly and will not mature as readily. Avoid diseased or damaged plantsand those with open flowers or developing fruits. Examine the undersides of theleaves for insects and insect eggs. Pull the plant gently but firmly out of the pot.The white roots should hold the potting soil together without a tight mass ofdying roots at the bottom. If there is a tight mass of dying, yellow roots they willhave to be removed before transplanting. Starting SeedsPlant HardinessGenerally, annual vegetables can be divided into two groups, cool-season and warm-season.Cool-season VegetablesThese vegetables thrive in cool weather and tolerate varying levels of frost. Examples of cool-season vegetables arebeets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, collards, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, mustardgreens, onion, Asian greens, peas, radish, spinach, Swiss chard, and turnip.Warm-season VegetablesThese vegetables are less hardy than cool-season vegetables. They thrive in warm weather, and are generally frostintolerant. Examples of warm-season vegetables include beans, corn, cucumber, eggplant, melons, okra, peppers,pumpkin, squash, sunflower, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.Direct-seeding vs. TransplantingDirect-seeding establishes plants by sowing seed directly in the soil, while transplanting involves starting seed indoorsand then replanting young seedlings into the garden.Direct-seedingDirect-seeding is resource-efficient, as it does not require indoor growing space, potting mix or greenhouse suppliessuch as plug trays or pots. This method usually does not require daily watering as potted seedlings do. Structurally,direct-seeded plants have a better change of developing strong, undisturbed root systems. The direct-seeding methodis employed outside, and therefore the gardener has less control over spacing of the plants. Directly-seeded plantsoften require thinning, and are subject to more competition from weeds. Also, this method relies on the naturalgrowing season, which may vary from year to year.TransplantingStarting plants indoors requires indoor growing space with lights or adequate solar access. You must have adequatesupplies for seedling care, such as potting mix, trays, plug trays, and pots. This method requires daily watering ofplants, and plant root systems can be compromised by their containers. Transplanting allows for a longer growingseason, as you can easily start seeds inside before outside conditions are favorable. When transplanting, the gardenerhas more control over plant spacing and mulching, and the plants experience less competition from weeds.
17RecommendationsSome gardeners prefer to direct-seed most root crops, including turnip, radish, beetroot, potato, carrots, andparsnips. It is also the preferred method for growing garlic, Swiss chard, spinach, peas, beans, corn, and okra.Transplanting is the preferred method for leeks, onions, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, Brusselssprouts, kohlrabi, Asian greens, head lettuce, melons, cucumber, squash, pepper, tomato, eggplant, sweet potato,and basil.Reading a Seed PacketThere are several key pieces of information on a seed packet that will help you decide what seeds to buy and plant:days, germination rate, and cultural recommendations. Days: indicates the number of days typically needed after germination for a plant to reach maturity Germination Rate: indicates what percentage of seeds germinated under ideal conditions before seed was sold Cultural Recommendations: may include information such as when to plant, soil temperature required for germination, planting depth and spacingRules of ThumbThere are several general rules to follow when starting seeds. First, determine if the plant is tolerant of frost (seePlant Hardiness). This will determine the appropriate time of year to direct-seed or transplant. Consider whetherthe plant thrives in cool or warm weather; this will indicate the soil temperature required for germination.Remember that appropriate planting depth is 2-3 times the width of the seed. Finally, keep spacing in mind whendirect-seeding or transplanting. Follow spacing recommendations on the seed packet, and try to visualize how muchspace each plant will need when full-grown.Planting guide for Slippery Rock Average Last Frost: May 8 with latest being June 12, 1972 Average First Frost: October 12 with earliest being August 28, 1982
18 Starting Seed IndoorsIndoor Seed Starting SuppliesFor the beginner gardener, hard plastic plug trays and 4” pots are easiest to use when starting seeds indoors. Plugtrays use less potting mix than flats and can be easier to manage. Hard plastic pots are sturdy, reliable, and can beused year after year. However, purchasing plug trays and plastic pots is not necessary to start seed indoors. Usedcontainers (such as from yogurt) with drainage holes punched in the bottom can be used as pots to start seeds. Youcan also make your own pots from yesterday‟s newspaper.Making Newspaper Pots 1. Find a can or jar roughly the size you would like your pot to be. 2. Cut newspaper strips to an appropriate size. The width of the strips should be the desired height of the pot plus an additional 1-2 inches. The length of the strips determines how permanent the pot will be. 3. For example, a 15.5 oz can will make a pot about 3 ½ inches across. Take a strip of newspaper 6-8 inches wide and 20-22 inches long and roll it around the can with two inches hanging off one end of the can. 4. Fold the protruding newspaper over the bottom of the can, folding in the edges to overlap. 5. Place the can and newspaper down on the folded paper end on a hard table or countertop. 6. Press hard while turning so that the folded edges press together tightly. Some people choose to use tape to hold the folded edges together, but the pots should hold together well without the extra support. You may choose to fold the top edges of the paper down into the pot for added sturdiness. 7. Remove the paper pot from the can and use as you would any other transplant pot, but be very careful when moving them so as not to tear the paper. 8. Remember to store your pots on a waterproof surface since some water will leak when you water your seeds and plants. 9. When you plant them in the ground, pierce and tear the pot as much as you‟d like to encourage its decompositionTry different paper thicknesses and see what works best for you and your plants. You may need to make especiallythick pots for large plants or for plants spending longer than average in the paper pots before being transplanted.Also, wooden newspaper pot makers are commercially available. Now that‟s putting bad news to good use!
19 Making Soil BlocksWhat is a soil block?A soil block is a block of growing medium that has been lightly compressed and shaped by a form. A soil block serves asboth a container and the soil for starting and growing seedlings, eliminating the need for plastic pots and trays fortransplanted seedlings. Seedlings grown in soil blocks form stronger root systems than those grown in containers dueto increased oxygen to the roots and the soil block‟s natural tendency to “prune” roots. This creates a substantialadvantage when seedlings are transplanted into the field, because plants establish themselves more quickly and,because of lessened root disruption, they are less prone to transplant shock. The key to making good soil blocks is touse a mix containing the correct proportions of peat, compost, soil, and sand or perlite. A “blocking” mix needsextra fibrous material - peat - to bind the material together and help the block retain moisture. Some commerciallyavailable peat-lite mixes may work, but often contain wetting agents and/or fertilizers that make it unsuitable fororganic use.Soil Block Mix Recipe*A standard 10-quart bucket is the unit of measurement for the bulk ingredients. A standard cup measure is used forthe supplementary ingredients. This recipe makes approximately 2 bushels of mix. Follow the steps in the ordergiven: 3 buckets brown peat (standard peat moss, use a premium grade) ½ cup lime. Mix ingredients together thoroughly. 2 buckets coarse sand or perlite 3 cups base fertilizer (equal part mix blood meal, colloidal phosphate, and greensand). Mix. 1 bucket garden soil 2 buckets well-decomposed compost. Mix ingredients together thoroughly.* From The New Organic Grower, by Eliot Coleman (JSS part #9899).Moisten the mix thoroughly using one part warm water for every three parts blocking mix. Successful soil blockmaking depends on the mix being wet enough, rather than wet like soil mix in traditional flats. The mix should havethe consistency of soft putty or wet cement, so that a small amount of water oozes through small openings in theblocker as the blocks are made, and that the individual soil blocks cling to the blocker without falling outprematurely.How to use the Soil Block MakerBlockers can be used on any flat work surface. Push the prepared soil mix into a mound that is 1¼ to 1½ timesdeeper than the height of the soil blocker. Push the blocker into the mix until it strikes the work surface. Twist theblocker a quarter-turn and lift. Set the blocker where you plan to grow your seedlings such as a wooden or plastictray, push down on the handle while raising the blocker. Rinse the blocker in warm water before making the next setof blocks. Place the seed into the indentation of each block, and cover according to the culture information on yourseed packet. Prevent drying by covering blocks with clear plastic until the seeds have germinated.*From Johnny‟s Selected Seeds: What you should know about Johnny’s Soil Block Maker.Alternative Soil Block Mix Recipe 1 part peat moss/Coir 1 part compost 1 part seed starting potting mixFor instructions on making your own Soil Block mold, please visit the following website:www.toppers-place.com/soil_blocks.htm
20Potting MixThere are as many potting mix recipes as there are gardeners. As with plug trays and plastic pots, you can purchasecommercial potting mix, make your own fancy mix, or like the paper pots, you can use ingredients found aroundyour home. Nonetheless, all good potting media must meet the needs of plant roots for air, water, nutrients, andsupport.The trick is finding the right balance between nutrients, water retention, and water drainage. Dark topsoil, compost,and organic fertilizers can provide nutrients. Peat, coir (coconut fiber), vermicompost, and clay topsoil generallyretain moisture. Vermiculite, perlite, and sand improve drainage.The following is a traditional potting mix:1/3 mature compost or leaf mold, screened1/3 garden topsoil (fine loam preferred)1/3 sharp sandIn How to Grow More Vegetables…, John Jeavonss recommends a simple potting mix of equal parts by volume ofcompost and bed soil (saved from a biointensive production bed during the double-digging process). If nothing else,use your darkest, most humus rich topsoil from your garden or woods. If you‟re already composting, start with yourcompost and work from there. Try a 50/50 soil and compost mix. Add fine river sand to improve drainage. If youwater in the morning and it dries out by the end of the day, add materials that retain water. If your mix holdsmoisture for more than a couple of days or grows algae, you probably want to improve drainage.Do not allow your homemade potting mix to dry out. Your compost-topsoil potting mix is home to innumerable soilmicroorganisms that depend on moisture to live. Keep it slightly moist but not damp.Steps to a Successful StartInstructions on starting seed indoors are usually given on seed packages, in seed catalogs, or in gardening books. Thefollowing are the steps you‟ll likely take when starting seeds indoors.1. Determine when you intend to transplant. This is determined by the frost sensitivity of the plant. Generally, warm season vegetables are transplanted after the last frost while cool season vegetables can be transplanted a week or two before the last frost.2. Determine the number of weeks required before transplanting outside. This in turn, is determined by the usual amount of time a particular vegetable needs to mature before it can be transplanted, as well as the size of its container. A plant‟s root system will fill a small container and need to be transplanted before it can fill a large container.3. Once you‟ve determined when you intend to transplant and the number of weeks a particular vegetable requires to mature before transplanting, count backwards to determine your seed starting date.4. Determine what containers you‟ll use to start your seeds.5. Fill containers just below the top with potting mix.
216. Sow seed7. Either press in the seed to the recommended depth or sift a thin layer of loose potting mix over the top.8. Consider lighting. Some seeds require light to germinate while others prefer total darkness. The seed packet or catalogue should specify if a seed has particular requirements.9. Water from the bottom, top, or both. Consider using a soaker pan to water from the bottom. The water will rise through the container by capillary rise. Watering from the bottom encourages proper root growth and minimizes damping off. When watering from the top, use a spray bottle or watering can with a fine overhead spray. A strong stream of water can wash away seeds and topple seedlings.10. Do not allow the seed container to dry out. Keep potting mix moist through regular watering, but not waterlogged or the seeds may rot before germinating.11. Watch for signs of germination. The first thing youll see will be a set of what appear to be small leaves. These are actually food storage cells called cotyledons. (Germination times vary greatly; again, your seed packet will tell you when to expect the first signs of life.) Continue to water so that the soil stays evenly moist.12. Put the container(s) in full sun.13. Prick out or thin seedlings when appropriate. Pricking out is transplanting a young seedling into a larger indoor container. When a seedling has outgrown its container or has too much competition from other seedlings, it can be pricked out and transplanted into a larger container. When pricking out, use a fork to gently dig out the seedling. Use a fork handle to make a hole in a new container for transplanting. After the seedling is transplanted to the new container, press lightly around its base to ensure good root to soil contact.14. Hardening off: Before transplanting your seedlings outside, they must be hardened off, that is, acclimated to the outside. Transplanting is a shock to a plant. Changing environments is shocking to a plant. Rather than hit a seedling with two shocks at once, gardeners want to transplant in stages. Hardening off can take up to a week depending on the weather. Begin by bringing your seedlings outside on a calm, warm, sunny day. Remember to take them back in at night.
22 Preparing a Seed Bed and Sowing or TransplantingStep 1: Remove large weeds from the garden bed.Step 2: Turn under the residue.Step 3: Break up large clumps of soil with a hoe or digging fork.Step 4: Rake out the remaining clumps of soil and stones leaving a fine tilth.Step 5: Mark planting rows Direct-Seeding: Using a string as a guide or by just eyeballing it, make a shallow furrow in the soil using the handle of a tool or a dibble stick. The depth of the furrow depends on the size of the seed. Transplanting: Using a string, dibble stick, or good judgment.Step 6: Plant Seed or Transplant Direct-Seeding: Generally the depth a seed should be planted is 2-3 times its width. Transplanting: Bury the seedling up to its first true leaves, the adult leaves above the cotyledons. With some plants, be sure not to cover its growing point.Step 7: Ensure good soil contact Direct-Seeding: Cover seed and apply light pressure to ensure good seed to soil contact. Transplanting: Press around the base of the seedling to eliminate air pockets around seedling roots which may cause the roots to dry out.Step 8: Water Direct-Seeding: Maintain a moist seed bed until the seeds have germinated. Transplanting: Thoroughly water seedlings. Check daily to ensure seedlings have taken and water if needed.
23 Garden MaintenanceWeed ManagementEvery organic garden has it‟s share of weeds. Fertile soil with lots of organic matter that is suited to your vegetableswill also be attractive to uninvited guests as well. “A good garden grows great weeds.” Not all weeds are a plague onthe garden, and the organic gardener will learn to value the helpful ones. The others can be dealt with using simple,low-tech tools and well-timed action.Mulch, mulch, and more mulchWeeds (just like your vegetables) need air and light to survive and thrive. Using 2 - 4” of mulch to cover the soil inyour garden will help to prevent weeds from getting started.Reasons to Mulch Mulch control weeds efficiently and safely. Organic mulch improves the soil as it decomposes. Using mulch makes your garden more water efficient as well as more drought tolerant. The insulating properties of mulch can prevent the ground from frost-heaving in the winter. Mulching helps to prevent soil compaction due to crusting caused by rainfall impact.Mulch timingWait to mulch heat loving plants (peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc…) until after the weather warms up. Your coolweather plants (broccoli, kale, etc..) will produce longer if you mulch them while the soil is still cool.Choosing a MulchThe best mulch is whatever you happen to have available… straw, newspaper, leaves, grass clippings, etc. It shouldbe free of synthetic chemicals, and be able to be incorporated into the garden bed or the compost pile at the end ofit‟s useful life. See the chart on the next page for more details on selecting a mulch.A note on plastic mulches:Plastic mulches suppress weeds and increase the soil temperature faster than most other mulches. Heat loving plantswill thrive using plastic mulches. Special consideration has to be made for watering the roots of plants under theplastic mulch. Plastic mulch is made from non-renewable resources and cannot be tilled into the soil at the end of theyear… unless it is made from a biodegradable cornstarch-based material. (Google “Garden Bio-Film” for moredetails)
24 Table 2: Types and Properties of Common Garden Mulches Type Features Best Uses Sources Tips Decomposes quickly; Be careful not to use acidic; good conditioner Pathways; around sawdust from plywood, Aged Sawdust when worked into soil; vegetables, but requires Local Sawmills or from treated lumber (partially rotted) can temporarily deplete nitrogen supplement as these contain harmful nitrogen at soil surface; chemicals. flammable Lay at least 10 layers of Slow to decompose; Tree Service; yard wood Wood chips Pathways newspaper or one layer stays in place chipper of cardboard down first. Around vegetables after Make sure the straw Good insulator; soil has warmed; over doesn‟t have seed heads Straw lightweight; flammable; Local farm garden beds in winter in it, otherwise you are Lasts one season (remove in spring) planting grass! Readily available; decomposes quickly; Let your clippings dry could temporarily Around vegetables; out before you use Grass clippings deplete nitrogen at soil possibly better used in Your yard them, or else they can surface; could contain compost piles be slimy. herbicides; lasts one season or less Good insulator; lightweight; most are acidic; can blow away if Your yard, your Winter cover; cools soil Stockpile leaves in the Leaves not shredded or neighbors yard (ask in summer fall for use in the spring. composted; slugs love to first!) hide here; lasts one season Dark color can help to heat soil; if not well Your compost pile; Make your own Compost composted, could be Around vegetables landscape and garden compost. It‟s good for weedy; will increase soil centers you and your garden. organic matter
25HoeingAn annual weed will die if you sever its stem from the root just below the soil surface. Your hoe should be sharp,otherwise hoeing is more work than it‟s worth. Look for a collinear hoe, a swan neck hoe, or an oscillating hoe asthey are better adapted to weeding than a traditional square-headed garden hoe. Don‟t bend over to hoe and yourback will thank you. Instead, hold the hoe with your thumbs pointed up, as you would a broom. Use a pulling ordrawing motion with the head of the hoe cutting through the top half inch of the soil.Avoid hoeing too deeply around plants with shallow root systems like squash, cucumbers, and melons. It‟s easy todamage these plants, so consider using mulch instead.Hand PullingPulling those pesky buggers from the soil can be a chore, but may be necessary to remove weeds that are in spots toosmall for a hoe. Weeding is easier when the soil is damp, so wait until after a rain, or after you water the garden.One trick to comfortable weed pulling: Put your hands in front of you, thumbs up with palms facing you, one in front of the other. Rolling your hands one over the other, pinch your thumb and forefinger together on the weed as you reach the outermost edge of your reach and pull backwards coming underneath the now forward-moving other hand. As you pull back, fold your arms to the side, not down.Weeds with a deep taproot (dandelion, canada thistle, etc..) can be removed easier with the use of a weed knife asfollows: Grasp the plant foliage near the base of the plant. With your other hand, insert the weed knife into the soil alongside the root of the plant. Rotate the weed knife to loosen the soil around the root. Lever the tool partially out of the soil to lift the root and pull the weed free.Come to know your weedsLearning what weeds are common in your garden may help you to decide not to pull them in the first place. Somecommon garden weeds are edible: Amaranth - Nutritious with many vitamins and minerals Burdock - Healthful root, grown as a vegetable in Japan Dock - Root considered a tonic Chicory - Similar to dandelion Chickweed - Rich in iron and vitamin C Dandelion - Rich in vitamin C and high in calcium. Widely used for diuretic properties, dandelion consumption is also said to reduce serum cholesterol and uric acid. Lambs quarters - High in vitamin C, vitamin A, iron Purslane - Contain alpha-linolenic acid, one of the highly sought-after Omega-3 fatty acids Shepherd‟s purse - Packed with vitamin A, C & K, calcium, sodium and sulphurA Gentle Caution: As with any wild plant, make sure you know what it is, and how to use it before you eat it!
26Water ManagementPlants are sensitive to changes in soil moisture. Too much water in the soil can cause an oxygen deficiency, whichwill result in root damage. Too little water in the soil won‟t allow the plant to carry out it‟s essential biologicalfunctions. Mulching is a good way to conserve water and keep the garden beds evenly moist, especially during thesummer months. Adding organic matter (compost, manure, green manures) to your soil will increase the capacity ofthe soil to hold moisture.Water consistency is most critical: when germinating seeds when plants are young seedlings immediately after transplanting seedlings when forming and ripening fruitsTomatoes are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in soil moisture. Not enough water or irregular watering can causeunderdeveloped fruit, fruit cracking, and blossom end rot.Know when to waterWatering the garden in the morning is your best bet. If you aren‟t able to water in the morning, water in the earlyevening. Watering during the heat of the day is wasteful as most of the water will evaporate before the plants have achance to take it up. Don‟t water your garden late in the evening. The plants will probably remain wet through thenight, encouraging mold and fungus growth. Know where to water Water the roots of the plants, not the leaves and stems. This can be difficult to accomplish with a hose and sprayer, or a conventional overhead sprinkler system. A watering can with a fine rose is easier to control than the hose, but can be tedious when watering the whole garden. Using a soaker hose (or drip irrigation) laid under 2” of mulch is ideal. A soaker hose “sweats” water from tiny holes along the length of the hose. It emits water slowly and continuously along the hose length, and can be woven around plantings in various shapes. Know how to water Don‟t water lightly and daily. Water weekly and heavily. You want the soil to become wet to a depth of 5 to 6 inches. The soil will also be able to retain this moisture for several days. Heavily moisten the soil each time you water, and allow the plants to take up most of that moisture from the soil before watering again. As a rough guideline, your garden will need 1” of water (rainfall + irrigation) every week.
27Look for signs of water stress in plantsSigns of water stress in plants include: droopy plants in the morning or late evening brown edged leaves undersized or misshaped fruit smaller than normal leavesPest Management - InsectsMuch like weeds, there are both „good‟ and „bad‟ insects to have in the garden.The key to insect management in the organic garden is observation andappropriate response to pest damage.Observe the suspectsIt is important to identify the insects in your garden that may be causing yourproblems. Collect a few in a jar and get a close look at them. Observe what theyare doing in the garden. Are they eating your plants, or are they eating other bugs?Do some research and understand the lifecycle of the suspect. Good pest managersthink like an insect, and look for ways to interrupt their lifecycle.Grow a diverse gardenHaving biodiversity in your garden will ensure that a particular pest won‟t decimate an entire section of your garden.It will also discourage an insect population explosion at the expense of your harvest. Multiple plantings of the samecrop in different locations may also ensure some of your harvest remains intact.Grow healthy plantsFrequently, insects attack those plants that are weak and/or stressed in some way. Are you providing the correctenvironment for your crops to grow in? Are your crops well suited to the site? Growing healthy plants will go a longway towards fighting pest pressure.Encourage beneficial predators (good bugs)Include plants in your garden that attract and feed beneficial insects. These include: marigolds, zinnias, cosmos,yarrow, fennel, dill, tansy, daisies and nasturtiums. The beneficial insects will predate on the “bad” bugs. Attractbirds (insect predators) to the garden by including hedgerows, berried ornamental plants, a water source and birdfeeders.Use barriersTo combat flying insects such as flea beetles, use row covers such as Reemay or Agribon. Secure the edges carefully.Take care to remove the cover for at least 3 hours every day if blossoming plants require pollination. Once plants arewell established, (6-10 weeks) the cover may be removed completely. Dust barriers (on the ground around plants)made from wood ashes or diatomaceous earth are effective against cabbage root maggots, slugs and snails; but need tobe reapplied after a rain. Cutworm collars made from newspaper that extend 1” below the surface of the soil willdeter cutworm caterpillars from attacking newly transplanted seedlings.
28Hand RemovalIn smaller gardens, it‟s a simple matter to find and remove pest insects and drop them in a container of soapy water.Check the underside of leaves and stems for egg masses as well as mature insects. Catching the pests early in theirdevelopment can go a long way toward avoiding a much bigger problem down the line.Organic SpraysWhen insect pests are beyond what is reasonable for hand removal, consider an organic spray such as a horticulturaloil, insecticidal soap, and garlic/hot pepper sprays. Some work by smothering the pests, others make the plantsunpalatable to the insects. Choose a product specific to the insect pest you have. Continued application may benecessary after plants are exposed to rainfall.Pest Management - Other CrittersAs mentioned previously, the key to insect management in the organic garden isobservation and appropriate response to pest damage. This same idea holds true for othercritters as well. Pest pressure can be particularly high early in the season, when wild foodplants may be scarce. Be vigilant, and you can outwit the critters and keep your harvest.Identify the suspectsIt is important to identify the critters in your garden that may be causing your problems. Try to observe who iscausing the damage, and you can select a countermeasure that has a good chance of working. Develop anunderstanding what your particular pest may be after, then try the following tactics.Change the habitatIf you can remove the food source, or other things that may be attracting the critter in the first place, they willprobably find someplace else to hang out.Create animal anxietyJust like most people, critters don‟t like being nervous. Introduce things into the garden landscape that will createtension in their lives. Try keeping a dog, cat, or a small flock of chickens near or around the garden to keep thecritters on their toes. Predator imitations (fake snakes, owls), shiny objects (i.e. aluminum pie plates blowing in thewind), or odd sounds may also prove to be successful. Use barriers Most critters can be discouraged through the use of row covers such as Reemay or Agribon. As plants get bigger, you may need to support the row cover on wire hoops. Secure the edges carefully. Take care to remove the cover for at least 3 hours every day if blossoming plants require pollination. Rabbits and groundhogs can be discouraged fairly well with a low (1-2‟ tall) fence made from inexpensive chicken wire. Bury the fencing a few inches below the soil to discourage animals pushing under the fence.
29Particularly stubborn animals that burrow under your fence can most likely be caught in a live trap and relocated. Ifyour neighbor has dogs (or you have sheep or goats) and you want to keep them out of the garden, something tallerwill be necessary (3‟-4‟). If it‟s cats, put your fence posts on the inside of the fence, and use thin wood posts (2” orless), or metal “T” posts as they will have difficulty climbing them. Deer are difficult to control via standard fencing,and have been known to clear up to 6‟ tall obstructions with little difficulty. Consider other management strategiesbefore investing in an expensive deer fencing system.Repel with smellDeer and other mammals are sensitive to unusual scents, so try hanging a few mesh bags with fragrant soap, dog orhuman hair, or even dirty socks around the garden perimeter. Garlic and/or hot pepper spray is also a possibledeterrent. Remember to reapply after a rain, or if the scent is beginning to wear thin!
30 Reference ResourcesBaker, Jerry. Jerry Baker‟s Giant Book of Garden Solutions: 1,954 Natural Remedies to Handle Your Toughest Garden Problems. Jerry Baker Publishing. 2004.Bartholomew, Mel. Square Foot Gardening: A new way to garden in Less Space with Less Work. Rodale, Inc. 2005.Beck, Malcolm & Walters, Charles.The Secret Life of Compost: A “How-to” & “Why” Guide to Composting- Lawn, Garden, Feedlot, or Farm. Acres U.S.A. 1997.Bucks, Christine. Great Garden Fix-Its: Organic Remedies for Everything from Aphids to Weeds. Rodale Inc. 2001.Campbell, Stu. Let It Rot: The Gardener‟s Guide to Composting. Storey Books. 1998.Coleman, Eliot. Four-Seasons Harvest: Organic Vegetables from your Home Garden all year long. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. 1999.Coleman, Eliot. The New Organic Grower: A Master‟s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener. Chelsea Green Publishing Company. 1995.Cunningham, Sally. Great Garden Companions. Rodale Press, Inc. 2000.Ebeling, Eric. Basic Composting: All the Skills and Tools You Need to Get Started. Stackpole Books. 2003.Epstein, Eliot. The Science of Composting. CRC. 1996Fedco Seeds. Seed Saving for Beginners. http://fedcoseeds.com/seeds/seed_saving.htm. 2006.Fedco Seeds. Vegetable Planting Guide. http://fedcoseeds.com/seeds/veggie_chart.htm. 2007. Fedor, John. Organic Gardening for the 21st Century: A Complete Guide to Growing Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs, and Flowers. Readers Digest. 2001. Jason, Dan. Greening the Garden: A guide to sustainable growing. New Society Publishers. 1991. Jeavons, John. How to Grow More Vegetables*. Ten Speed Press. 2002. Kaufman, Eli Rogosa. From Generation to Generation: An activity guidebook in the living tradition of seed saving. www.fedcoseeds.com/forms/seedschool.pdf. 2001.
31Larkcom, Joy. The Organic Salad Garden. Frances Lincoln Publishing. 2002.Rodale, Inc. Organic Gardening Magazine Online. www.organicgardening.com. 2006Schwenke, Karl. Successful Small-scale Farming: An Organic Approach. Storey Books. 2003.Topper’s Place. Making Soil Block Molds. http://www.toppers-place.com/soil_blocks.htm. 2008.Witman, Ann. Organic Gardening for Dummies. IDG Books Worldwide, Inc. 2001.
32 Appendix Soil Texture Classification Chart Penn State Crop Rotation Document Penn State Companion Plants Document Seed Saving for Beginners Vegetable Families Vegetable Planting Guide (NOTE: Planting dates for the Slippery Rock area are approx. a week earlier then listed.)
34 Reprinted with permission, 2006 HEALTHY PLANTS START HERE Crop RotationWhat is crop rotation, and why is it important?Crop rotation is an easy way to control diseases and insects at no cost.For example, tomatoes, cauliflower or cabbage planted in the samelocation each year will actually encourage buildup of certain diseases inthe soil. By rotating crops, you are removing the host plant andpreventing the spread of disease. Also, as overwintering insects emergefrom the soil in the spring, they expect to find the same plant in the sameplace. By moving garden plants around, insect pests will have a hardertime finding their target.How does crop rotation affect the soil?Each crop has different fertilizer requirements. By changing the locationof your crops you can avoid the risk of depleting the soil of specificnutrients. Some crops will actually add essential elements to the soil. Byusing crop rotation, you can actually build up the soil over the years.How do I do this?It’s easy! Plants are often grouped by families that share similar growthhabits and cultural requirements. By knowing your plant families (andtheir garden companions) you can create a plan for your own gardenrotation. The following example divides the garden into four sections. Asyou can see, each year, the vegetable groups are planted in a differentsection of the garden. Tomato/Potato Greens Legumes Squash/CornYear 1 Peppers, Cauliflower Peas Cucumbers Tomato Cabbage, Broccoli Beans Squash, Corn Eggplant, Potato Lettuces Pole beans Pumpkins Squash/Corn Tomato/Potato Greens Legumes Cucumbers Peppers, Cauliflower PeasYear 2 Squash, Corn Tomato Cabbage, Broccoli Beans Pumpkins Eggplant, Potato Lettuces Pole beans
35 Legumes Squash/Corn Tomato/Potato GreensYear 3 Peas Cucumbers Peppers, Cauliflower Beans Squash, Corn Tomato Cabbage, Broccoli Pole beans Pumpkins Eggplant, Potato Lettuces Greens Legumes Squash/Corn Tomato/Potato Cauliflower Peas Cucumbers Peppers,Year 4 Cabbage, Broccoli Beans Squash, Corn Tomato Lettuces Pole beans Pumpkins Eggplant, PotatoThere are a few simple rules for crop rotation:· Don’t follow tomato, peppers or eggplant with potatoes, or each other.· Allow 3 years before replanting the same group in any given bed.· Onions may be planted throughout all groups.· Beets, carrots and radishes may be planted among any group, and replanted as early crops are removed.· Don’t forget to interplant with companion plants to minimize pesticide use. See the Companion Plants handout for some ideas on this practice.· Keep good notes so you can duplicate successes.Another interesting idea-“Green Manure”To help build organic matter, you might also consider using a “greenmanure” sometimes called a cover crop. There are both summer andwinter cover crops. Buckwheat makes a great summer cover, and wouldbe used in conjunction with your garden rotation plan. Cereal rye is agood choice for fall planting. Sow it after your fall garden cleanup andthen till it under in the spring. By adding organic matter in this way, youwill increase aeration and water holding capacity of your soil, preventweed growth and soil erosion, and support the beneficial organismsnecessary for a healthy, living soil.Where can I get more information?We’ve only touched on the basics of crop rotation, but as you can see, itis a great way to reduce, or even eliminate the use of extra fertilizers inyour garden. In addition, you are also building the soil. It is a proven, nocost method of vegetable production. Organic gardeners have been usingthese practices for years. Check your local library, the internet or organicgardening books and magazines for more information. Your localcooperative extension office is also a great resource. This publication was made possible by funding from the U.S EPA, PA Dept. of Ag. Penn State, IPM, Penn State Cooperative Extension.
36 Reprinted with permission, 2006 HEALTHY PLANTS START HERE Companion Plants What is a companion plant? · Companion plants help other plants grow. · Companion plants may enrich the soil by providing nutrients or organic matter. · They may provide shade or mulch for shorter plants or bare soil. · They may prevent pest problems by repelling unwanted bugs, or by attracting beneficial insects. · Companion plantings combine more than one crop in a given area, so garden space is used efficiently. What kind of plants makes good companions? Many herbs and flowers make good companions for vegetable crops. The best companion gardens are a diverse mixture of vegetables, herbs and flowers. Some companions actually add nutrients to the soil. This reduces the need to apply additional fertilizer. What are some examples? Plants with cup-shaped or open flowers are great for attracting beneficial insects. Borage is a great choice for attracting these garden friends. Dahlias and marigolds will repel nematodes in the soil and nasturtiums will deter pests that attack the curcurbit (cucumber) family. Beans will actually “fix” nitrogen from the air into the soil. Often strongly scented plants will confuse insect pests as they are looking for vegetables. What are some good garden companions? One of the original companion gardens is the Three Sisters Garden, which has been used by Native Americans for generations. They plant corn with pole beans and then underplant with pumpkins or squash. The corn provides a structure for the beans to grow, the beans add nitrogen for heavy feeding corn, and the squash leaves act as mulch by shading plant roots, reducing water evaporation and preventing weed growth.
37 corn with pole beans and then underplant with pumpkins or squash. The corn provides a structure for the beans to grow, the beans add nitrogen for heavy feeding corn, and the squash leaves act as mulch by shading plant roots, reducing water evaporation and preventing weed growth. Other Examples include: · Sweet alyssum planted under broccoli or among potatoes will attract beneficial insects and prevent weeds from growing. · Potatoes and beans make a great combination. They both tend to confuse each other’s insect pests. · Tall flowers provide needed shade to lettuce as the weather gets hot. · Heavily scented plants such as marigolds, basil and artemesia can be used to confuse pests. · Plant crops to trap unwanted insects. Potato Beetles love eggplant and flea beetles love radishes. You can use these plants to monitor insect levels and, as plants become infested, they can be simply destroyed, bug and all! · Yarrow has insect-repelling abilities too, plus its leaves make a great addition to compost. · Many herbs will attract the beneficial insects you want into the garden. Use flowers from the aster family like sunflowers, coneflowers, Black- eyed Susans and daisies to attract these good guys. Plants from the parsley family (parsley, corriander, and dill) are also good attractors. · Experiment and see what works for you. · Don’t forget to keep a record. You’ll want to duplicate your successes next year. As you can see, the key to a good companion garden is diversity! Where can I get more information? We’ve only touched on the basics of companion planting, but as you can see, it is a great way to reduce, or even eliminate the use of pesticides in your yard. It is a proven, no cost method of vegetable production. Organic gardeners have been using these practices for years. Check your local library, the internet or organic gardening books and magazines for more information. Your local cooperative extension is also a great resource. This publication was made possible by funding from the U.S EPA, PA Dept. of Ag. Penn State, IPM, Penn State Cooperative Extension.
38 Seed Saving for Beginners Reprinted with permission 2008 Isolation Seed Vegetable Cycle Pollination Pollinator Notes Distance Longevity Bean A Self 100 2-3 yrs Lose vigor rapidly. Soybean A Self 100 2-3 yrs Space farther apart than for market crops. Beet/Chard B Cross Wind 1/2 mi 3-5 yrs Beets cross with chards. Hot-water treated seeds last only 1 yr.Broccoli/Kale/ B Cross Insects 1/2 mi 3-5 yrs Crossing among brassica species is Cauliflower complex, consult a good reference book. Carrot B Cross Insects 1500 2-3 yrs Crosses with wild species. Celery B Cross Insects 1500 2-3 yrs Corn A Cross Wind 1/2 mi 2-3 yrs Adequate population essential. Cucumber A Cross Insects 1500 5-10 yrs Harvest at yellow blimp stage. Eggplant A Self 150 2-3 yrs Leek B Cross Insects 1500 2 yrs Onion B Cross Insects 1500 1 yr Lettuce A Self 50 2-3 yrs Start indoors, need long season for seed. Muskmelons will not cross with Melon A Cross Insects 1500 5-10 yrs watermelons. Mustard A Cross Insects 1/2 mi 3-5 yrs Crosses with wild species. Pea A Self 50 2-3 yrs Do not save seed from diseased plants. Some varieties cross more readily than Pepper A both Insects 500 2-3 yrs others. Radish A Cross Insects 1500 3-5 yrs Spinach A Cross Wind 1/2 mi 2-3 yrs Squash/ moschata 2-3 yrs, pepo & maxima 3-5 yrs. A Cross Insects 1500 2-5 yrs Pumpkin These three species generally do not cross. Potato-leaf types need the greater Tomato A Self 25-100 5-10 yrs isolation distance.