Plenty Tip of the Month

Grow Your Own Garden Organically

By Anngela Leone

Who needs toxic pesticides or commercial fertilizers? You don’t have to look much further than your kitchen or backyard for natural materials to make your vegetable patch thrive all summer. Keep these tips handy to help you grow your garden the Plenty way. Happy harvesting!

Mulch conserves water, keeps roots cool, and nourishes the soil as it decomposes. Organic mulches, which are widely available at most garden centers, include compost, shredded leaves or bark, wood chips, dried grass clippings, straw, and other biodegradable materials. Deprive weeds of sunlight and air by layering 2 to 3 inches of mulch around your plants immediately after weeding, and keep mulch an inch or two away from plant stems, so that the moisture it holds doesn’t rot your plant’s roots.

PLANT DENSELY Growing plants and veggies close together helps prevent weeds by depriving them of sunlight and space. If weeds do appear, pull them out immediately, before they get embedded.

GETTING THE WEEDS AND BUGS OUT Many common household products can be used to eradicate pesky pests and weeds. Spray weeds with full-strength vinegar on a sunny day. The acid will kill the weeds; the sun’s heat helps it act faster. Keep pests at bay with a spicy concoction: blend five cloves of garlic and six large hot peppers, (for example, chili peppers), with one cup of water in a blender. Strain the liquid into a spray bottle, adding another cup of water to it. Spray on problem areas.

A soapy solution can deter aphids and other insects without harming plants. In a spray bottle, mix two tablespoons of dishwashing liquid with four liters of water. Spray the mixture directly on insects. Follow the soapy spray with a rinsing of plain water.

GOOD NEIGHBORS Companion planting is a keystone of organic gardening, as each plant fulfills its unique role while also supporting and complementing others. Some plants contribute nutrients, while others repel pests or attract beneficial insects.

Legumes, such as peas and beans, take nitrogen from the air and store it in soil. They’re a great companion to heavy nitrogen feeders like tomatoes or squash.

Herbs and flowers can also be valuable garden companions. Coupling basil with peppers and tomatoes, for instance, enhances the flavors of each while warding off flies and mosquitoes. Lavender gives off a sharp scent that confuses pests, keeping nearby veggies safe from harm. And marigolds attract hoverflies, which prey on pesky aphids and other insects. Scatter them throughout your garden.

When choosing garden companions, keep in mind their size, shape, and root system. A leafy vegetable, for instance, can shield a more delicate one from the beating sun.

Issue 25

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