Tips for Sustainable Gardening

by Admin 12. November 2012 04:20

Gardening isn’t the easiest thing for many people – not everyone can have a green thumb, after all. Planting in the fall can be especially challenging, since you have to carefully time your planting cycles and be aware of changes in fall temperatures.  However, there are a number of things you can do to make your garden sustainable and productive, even in an urban environment.

Make Use of Fall Leaves

Raking the ever-present brown and gold leaves of fall seems like an unending chore during the fall. Raking them into piles and throwing them in bags can be a pain in the neck, but leaves can be a valuable resource for many gardeners. If you don’t compost, fall leaves can be a great source of starting material for a compost pile or you can make leaf mold, which is a great soil amendment for spring vegetable gardens. If you have a lot of leaves, you can hold on to them until spring or summer, when brown compost materials can be hard to come by.

Plant In the Fall

For many people, fall is thought of as a time for harvesting and hoarding, not for growing. However, it can be an important planting season, allowing you to get a big head start on crops to be harvested in late spring or summer. Lettuces and hardy greens like kale and spinach can be grown and harvested throughout the winter, but plants like garlic and shallots can be planted a month before a freeze to get a jump on spring growth. Beans and peas can also be great fall and winter harvests.

Make a Plan and Rotate Your Crops

It’s important to understand how your garden and crops work with each other to have healthy crops. It can be tough to plan, especially for amateur gardeners, but we recommend working on a multi-year growing plan. Know what you want to grow and in what areas of your garden. If you’re in an urban environment, you’ll want to check and control your soil to make sure you have optimal growing conditions. We recommend using a soil conditioner like our Soil20 to manage watering schedules if you have limited time, and always check the acidity of your soil before you plant new crops after a harvest.

Compost

Even if you don’t use your fall leaves, compost should be a routine addition to every garden. If you’re new to composting, you’ll want a mix of organic material like grass clippings or food scraps, as well as brown materials like shredded newspaper or dead leaves. Composting creates a nutrient-rich soil additive that can boost your garden output. Winter temperatures can put a dent in the composting process, but you can build your compost pile even during the cold. Expand your compost pile, keep it covered and make sure it has as much direct sunlight as possible.

Use Containers

Gardening containers are pretty vital for urban gardening, but they can be an important addition even for gardeners who have a full garden. The classic clay pot can be great for certain plants, and especially herbs, but there are a lot of other options for more serious growing. Almost anything will grow in containers with proper soil and care, but they’ll need about a foot of soil for full growth. Although it’s easy to make them grow, it’s even easier to kill a plant through extra care. Overwatering is the most common way to kill a plant, so let soil dry properly and make sure your container can drain as necessary.

Best Autumn Plants for Your Garden

by Admin 31. October 2012 04:52

Fall is better known for big harvests and feasts, but fall can also be a great time to plant and grow certain cool-weather veggies in your garden. While certain plants take advantage of the lingering summer heat in early autumn, there are a number of hardy greens and frost tolerant vegetables that you can plant, even late in the season. If you’re looking to start some end-of-the-year gardening, here are some good crops to plant before the winter.

Greens

Kale and certain lettuces can be great for a winter garden. Kale is much hardier than lettuce and can survive even very cold winters, but lettuce will fare much better in milder seasons. However, cold weather can sweeten the taste of lettuce, so the winter is a great time to grow. Kale may be an unfamiliar green for many people, but it’s a very nutritious green that will be a great addition to many holiday dishes. When cold weather approaches, just make sure that you properly cover your crops to avoid freezing.

Spinach

Spinach is a great winter crop, and it can be grown throughout the season, even in the coldest areas. Spinach won’t require much help to grow during the winter it will need to be covered and need about a foot between plants to grow. Rather than harvesting the full plant, only take a few leaves from each plant at a time. This will let you harvest for the full season and keep plants as healthy as possible. We recommend using our Soil20 soil conditioner to help retain water so you can water during warmer days to release water slowly.

Garlic and Shallots

Most people will wait until spring to plant garlic and shallots, but you can get the jump on most gardeners to set up a large, tasty crop. Garlic and shallots planted in fall and harvested in summer will result in larger bulbs with stronger flavor than those planted in late spring. Both plants will need at least a month in the ground to get established before the ground freezes. Once the cold comes, the plants will go dormant until the spring thaw. As soon as they thaw, your garlic and shallots will have a healthy head start leading to a big crop in the summer.

Transplant Flowering Vegetables

Brassicas plants like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, are tasty additions to any fall garden, especially in warmer climates. Since most will have to be harvested before the first freeze, it can be easier to transplant rather than planting from seeds. If you want to transplant, you’ll want slightly acidic soil. To set up a proper growing schedule, do some math and add 10 days to the plant’s maturity date and count backwards from the first expected frost. Definitely harvest these before the first hard freeze if you’re in a colder area, but if you’ll have a mild winter these will be great additions to winter meals.

Rootcrops

You won’t be harvesting these throughout the winter, but the fall is an excellent time to plant rootcrops for a spring harvest. Late maturing roots like carrots, beets and rutabaga are easy to plant. If you have about 30 days before your first expected freeze, you can stock up on some quick growing rootcrops like chives and green onions, but you’ll have to move quickly to plant these.

Fresh Herbs

Fresh herbs are an important addition to any holiday feast, and homegrown herbs are the best. Luckily, you don’t need your full garden to plant a good herb crop, just move them inside the house. Herbs like basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, chives and more can easily be grown indoors. Put them in pots, with a sunny growing location. Just be careful not to overwater them.