Going ape for grapes

Growing organic grapes (Vitis species) successfully depends on your climate, cultural strategies, and the varieties you choose. Arid climates provoke fewer diseases than humid climates. You can grow grapes nearly anywhere in Zones 3 through 10, and they tolerate a wide range of soil conditions well-drained soil in the pH range of 5.5 to 7.0 is best. Grapes need full sun and very good air circulation to hamper diseases. At least three grape species and countless varieties exist in North American...

The big three

Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are the three nutrients plants need in the largest quantities they're sometimes referred to as the primary nutrients. They each play a critical role in plant growth and development. Healthy, fertile soil naturally contains these three elements, and plants can easily take them up. But if your soil is deficient or if you're growing vegetables, fruits, or other demanding crops, you may want to supplement the soil's nutrients with fertilizers. Complete...

Long Term Care for Landscape Trees and Shrubs

Established trees and shrubs need less attention than just about any other landscape plants. Except in unusual circumstances, they rarely need watering. They need little fertilizer. All they ask for are observation for potential problems and occasional pruning to keep them healthy and respectable-looking. Unless your soil is unusually infertile or you want your trees to grow extra fast, you don't need to fertilize them regularly. If you do choose to fertilize, don't apply more than 1 pound of...

Rock on with mineralbased fertilizers

Most rock fertilizers decompose slowly into soil, releasing minerals gradually over a period of years. Organic gardeners use many different minerals to increase the fertility of their soils, but fertilizing with minerals is a long-term proposition. Because some of these products take months or years to break down fully into forms that plants can use, one application may last a long time. Following is a list of rock powders, the nutrients they supply, and application tips Chilean nitrate of soda...

Getting Down to Grassroots

Grass Stolons

If you dig out a wedge of turf and soil and look at it, you'll see several layers. At the top is the mostly flat grass blade, which should be bright green. That's the part of the plant that you mow every week. At the next-lower level, you see rounder grass stems and then the crown, where the roots meet the stems. The new grass growth emerges at the ground-hugging plant crown. Under the soil, you'll find miles of roots for each grass plant. The root length is directly proportional to the plant...

Switching to Lawn Alternatives

Lawns just don't belong in some places, and trying to grow grass where it won't thrive is just going to cause heartache. Grass doesn't like shade. It doesn't like wet roots. Sometimes it can't stand too much foot traffic. It doesn't like hard and dry soil. In situations like these, you may do better to find a substitute for turfgrass that enjoys the conditions you have. If you really want a lawn, but your conditions just don't suit most turfgrasses, consider a tough-as-nails native grass...

Fast release Versus slow release

Applying nutrients in a form that plants can use immediately may seem logical, but often, that strategy isn't the best one. The nutrients in fast-release, or highly soluble, fertilizers are ready to use as soon as you apply them. The problem is that plants may not be able to use all the nutrients right away, so any excess nutrients can leach away or run off, possibly leading to stream or groundwater pollution. Later, when the plant is ready to use the nutrients, they're gone. Most organic...

Pyrethrins

These insecticidal compounds occur naturally in the flowers of some species of chrysanthemum plants. The toxins penetrate the insects' nervous system, quickly causing paralysis. In high-enough doses or in combination with other pesticides, the insects die. The compound breaks down rapidly when exposed to sun and air, and becomes less effective if stored for longer than one year. Many commercial products contain pyrethrins. Powerful synthetic compounds that imitate the natural chrysanthemum...

Adding Organic Matter The Soul o f the Soil

Organic matter is the mantra of the organic gardener and farmer. It's the soul of the soil and a universal component of healthy earth. Organic matter basically is dead plant and animal stuff grass clippings, leaves, hay, straw, pine needles, wood chips, sawdust, manure, and anything else that used to be alive. It's a miracle worker that improves soil in several vital ways Feeds microorganisms and other soil life Beneficial bacteria, protozoa, fungi, beneficial nematodes, and other soil microbes...

Staying warm with cold frames

A clever way to start your growing season earlier in the spring and keep it going long into the frosty fall is to make or buy a cold frame. Cold frames are bottomless, insulated boxes made of wood, hay bales, metal, or plastic they work like miniature greenhouses. The lid of the box is angled slightly to increase its exposure to the sun its plastic or glass top keeps the inside much warmer than the outside air temperature. Even in the coldest climates, you can use a cold frame to grow food...

An Organic Lawn

The lawn mower is your most important turf-maintenance tool. Mowing not only cuts the grass down to size, but done properly, it also helps grass grow thicker. It can reduce the weed population, too, and even feed the turf. Every type of grass has its own preferred height. Table 20-2 lists how high to set your mower blades. For best results, mow when the grass is no more than 50 percent taller than its optimal height see Figure 20-3 . If your grass should grow to 3 inches, for example, mow it...

Cutting flowers for bouquets

Plants that produce long stems for cutting, as well as colorful or fragrant flowers, are tops in my garden. Many of these plants mix well in a perennial border, or you can devote a row in your vegetable garden to them. If you have space and a passion for bouquets, give them a garden of their own. Don't forget to add some everlasting flowers, such as statice and strawflower, which have papery petals that remain colorful for months or even years when dried. Use them for making dried bouquets and...

Micronutrients

The essential nutrients that plants need in the smallest quantities are called micronutrients, and they include iron, manganese, boron, copper, zinc, molybdenum, chlorine, and nickel. Fortunately, organic matter usually supplies adequate amounts of these nutrients, because adding too much of any one of these micronutrients can cause more problems than adding none at all. Micronutrient deficiency is often hard to spot because plants vary in their specific needs and symptoms. Too little iron, for...

Alternative to synthetic pesticides

When it comes to health and safety, pesticides pose the greatest concern in gardening. Americans use about 4.5 billion pounds of pesticides each year in yards, gardens, homes, farms, and industry, about 1 billion pounds of which are synthetic pesticides. Despite a complex system of rules, regulations, and labeling requirements, thousands of people suffer acute pesticide poisoning each year. Like most gardeners, organic growers may occasionally need to use pesticides, but they choose them...

Ramblin brambles

If you love fresh raspberries or blackberries, you'll be glad to know how easy they are to grow. These delicate and perishable fruits are expensive in the market, but you can plant your own small patch and produce enough for fresh eating and freezing, too. When planning your patch of brambles as these fruits are known , thoroughly follow the instructions in the Berry Patch Basics section earlier in this chapter. Pay special attention to air circulation and soil drainage Raised beds work well...

Pruning fruit trees

Prune Modified Leader Fruit Tree

Producing bushels of high-quality fruit and developing a sturdy tree that can support the crop are the twin goals of pruning and training fruit trees. If you end up with an attractive landscape specimen too, that's a bonus Although you use the same basic pruning techniques on all fruit trees, each kind of fruit tree has unique timing and methods for reaching your goals. For an introduction to basic pruning techniques and tools, flip to Chapter 19. You need to prune fruit trees regularly for...

Choosing the Right Grass

Bahia Grass Lawn Photos

Organic lawn care gets a lot easier if you grow the right grass for your climate, sun, and soil conditions. You can find grasses that thrive under nearly every combination of lawn conditions. Finding the right grass variety for your lawn is easier than ever because plant breeders have worked hard to produce grasses that thrive under different conditions. One particular variety can't do it all. For that reason, most grass seed and turf is sold as combinations of grasses that complement one...

Plums and prunes

Plums and prunes are among the most genetically complicated fruits in the Prunus group, because several species share the name plum, and all the various species commonly interbreed. The resulting fruits fall into several broad categories, including European, Japanese, and prune plums. They differ in important ways Japanese plums are round, usually require cross-pollination to set fruit, and are pruned to an open-centered shape. They generally are hardy to Zone 6 and warmer parts of Zone 5,...

Cultivating Roses

Dead Flowers Vase

Roses need plenty of nutrients and regular watering to grow vigorously and flower profusely. You don't need synthetic chemical rose fertilizers, though many organic options are available. Organic fertilizers such as fish emulsion, compost, and aged manure not only contribute nutrients to soils but also provide organic matter that has positive, long-term benefits on soil health. Compared with chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers also release their nutrients more slowly over a longer period...

Keeping current with currants and gooseberries

A mainstay in European gardens and gaining popularity in North America, currants and gooseberries Ribes species make excellent jams, jellies, and dessert berries. The U.S. government at one time banned growing this group of ornamental and delicious fruits, because Ribes species contribute to a deadly white pine disease called white pine blister rust. Several states still restrict the sale and transport of Ribes, although disease-resistant varieties, which eliminate the problem, are now...

Beautiful blueberry

I'd be hard pressed to name a shrub that I like better than blueberry Vaccinium species . As an ornamental plant, it offers small white flowers in spring, glossy green leaves in summer, and spectacular crimson foliage in fall. As an edible fruit, it can't be beat for fresh eating, pies, pancakes, dessert sauce, and jam. Blueberries grow in Zones 3 to 10, but the species and best varieties vary from one extreme to the other. Choose one of these three species to suit your climate Lowbush...

Insecticidal soaps

Insecticidal soaps contain the active ingredient potassium salts of fatty acids, which penetrate and disrupt the cuticle that holds moisture inside insects' bodies. When sprayed with soap, many soft-bodied insect pests, such as aphids, dry out and die. Some pests, especially beetles with hard bodies, remain unaffected, however. To make soaps more effective, some products combine soap with pyrethrins, a botanical insecticide that's described later in this chapter. Insecticidal soap is nontoxic...

Growing Herbs

How and where you choose to grow herbs is limited only by your imagination and, of course, by the needs and characteristics of the plants themselves. Most herb plants aren't too fussy about the soil they grow in as long as it's well drained. If you're growing herbs simply for their ornamental flowers or foliage, give them fertile garden soil. Herbs grown for fragrance and flavor, however, are more pungent if they're grown in less fertile soil, so go easy on the fertilizer. Most herbs have...

Type of leaves flowers and roots

Extensive Shallow Root System

The reason you need to know plant parts when you're planning a garden is that it will help you choose plants with flowers and foliage that complement each other from a design perspective, and it will help you foresee challenges such as trying to plant under trees with shallow roots. Each leaf characteristic influences the overall appearance of a plant. I won't bore you with the scores of words botanists have come up with to describe leaves, but here are a few...

Testing on your own or sending a sample to the tab

Home test kits give you a basic pH reading and an estimation of the major nutrients in your soil. Nurseries and garden centers sell test kits ranging from extremely simple to elaborate. The more sophisticated tests cost more but give you more accurate results. You can also send a soil sample to a lab for testing. The nutrient level and pH test results are more accurate and detailed than those provided by home kits. In addition, testing labs can look for things that home kits can't, such as...

Testing your soil type Sand silt or clay

Soil Sample Sand Silt Clay Glass Jar

So how do you know what type of soil you have Take a small amount of damp soil in your hand, as shown in Figure 5-1, and rub a pinch of it between your thumb and index finger. If the soil feels gritty, it's mostly sand if it feels slick and slimy, it's mostly clay. If you can form a cylinder, but the material starts to crumble as you roll it, it's mostly silt. For a more accurate measurement of the amounts of clay, silt, and sand in your soil, use the jar test. Here's how 1. Collect soil from...

Planning Your Organic Landscape

Knowing plant terms Understanding climate and microclimate Evaluating your landscape Drawing a map 0esign is fundamental to successful organic gardening. Well-placed plants can shelter your house provide refuge for wildlife and give you all the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers you desire. This chapter may be the most important one in the book because it's about putting plants in the right places and starting them off on the right foot, so to speak. It provides an overview of designing...

Sowing seeds and setting out transplants

The general rule for planting seeds is to plant them twice as deep as the seeds are wide, but your best bet is to follow the guidelines on the seed packet. Keep the soil evenly moist after planting. If you're unsure what the crop seedlings look like, plant seeds in rows. That way, you'll be able to differentiate and remove weed seedlings between and within the rows. If you're transplanting plants that were started indoors or in a greenhouse, give them at least a week to harden off become...

Curing Common Garden Diseases

Stunted Vegetable Plant Growth

Many names of plant diseases describe the symptoms they cause powdery mildew, leaf curl, and club root diseases, for example. Some diseases attack only one plant part, whereas others can affect the entire plant. The following list describes some of the most common diseases of trees, shrubs, vegetables, flowers, and fruits Anthracnose This group of fungi can attack many plants beans, vine crops, tomatoes, and peppers and trees dogwoods, maples, ash, and sycamores . Look for small, discolored...

Tomatoes

Easily the most popular garden vegetable, the tomato comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. The plants, however, fall into two categories. Determinate varieties stop growing taller when they reach a certain height and need minimal support, making them ideal for containers. Indeterminate varieties just keep on growing taller and taller, like Jack's beanstalk Indeterminate tomatoes require trellising but yield more fruit per square foot of garden space. Most gardeners grow tomatoes for...

Solving Common Rose Troubles

Choosing disease-resistant roses in the first place eliminates many common problems, but many of the most popular roses need intervention to keep them healthy. Show roses regularly fall prey to the common diseases, especially in climates with humid growing seasons. If you're in a low-humidity region where summer rainfall is rare, you have the best chance of growing disease-free show roses without fungicides. Diseases that damage leaves look unsightly and prevent plants from making enough food...

Animalbased fertilizers

Whether by land, by sea, or by air, animals, fish, and birds all provide organic fertilizers that can help plants grow. Following are some of the most commonly available kinds Manures Animal manures provide lots of organic matter to the soil, but most have low nutrient value. A few, such as chicken manure, do have high available nitrogen content. In general, use only composted manures, because fresh manures can burn tender roots. You can find much more information on manures and the many...

Identifying beneficial insects

Identifying Beneficial Insects

Insects that prey on or parasitize insect pests are called beneficial insects. Whether you know it or not, you rely on these allies to help keep the insect balance from tipping too far in the destructive direction. If you familiarize yourself with these good guys, you can encourage their presence in the garden and avoid killing these innocent bystanders just because they happen to be the insects you spy on your favorite dahlias. You can buy many of these beneficial insects from mail-order...

A trifecta of tactics Trellises fences and cages

Tomato Stake And Weave

If you're short on space in your garden or want to plant more than you really have room for, go vertical You can save space and energy by trellising, fencing, or caging certain vegetables. Climbing vegetables, such as peas and pole beans, need fences or poles to grow on. These devices save space also, these crops produce best when they're allowed to climb. Set up a teepee of 6- to 8-foot poles, attach chicken wire to fence posts, or train the plants on an A-frame. If you use the teepee method,...

Choosing the Perfect Trees and Shrubs

When you choose new trees and shrubs, think about what you want these plants to do in your landscape. Do you need shade or shelter from the wind Does a corner of the yard need a spark of color Consider all the seasons of the year when you make your decision the best shrubs and trees have practical or decorative value in several seasons, not just one. A Japanese maple, for example, may have ornamental leaves in spring and summer, colorful fall foliage, and interesting branching patterns and bark...

Planting the Lawn

Whether you're planting seed or laying sod, do it during the prime grass-growing time for your area if at all possible. In the northern United States, late summer or early spring is best. In the South, the best time is late spring or late summer. As a rule, it's okay to plant any time when you can count on about a month of temperate and moist weather to follow. That should give your grass enough time to get off to a good start. If you need a lawn in a hurry, but it's the wrong time to plant,...

Root crops Carrots beets and radishes

Root crops provide good eating well into the fall and winter, and they're easy to grow. Raised beds filled with loose, fertile, stone-free soil provide just the right environment. In addition to the usual orange carrots, consider growing white, yellow, and purple varieties. If your soil is heavy or rocky, try shorter, stubbier varieties like Danvers Half-Long and Parisian Market. Beets come in a range of colors in addition to the common dark red, including white, orange, and...

Vining crops Cucumbers squash pumpkins and melons

How Save Leggy Zucchini Plants

All these crops have the common trait of growing their fruits on long, trailing vines, although some varieties now grow in more compact bushlike patterns. Many of these species can pollinate one another, too, making it nearly impossible to get seeds that grow fruit resembling the original varieties. Plant leggy tomato transplants horizontally in a trench. Plant leggy tomato transplants horizontally in a trench. Cucumbers are classified as slicers long and thin and picklers short and prickly ....

Buying compost in bulk

For larger quantities of compost, buy in bulk. The price is less in quantity, and you can check the quality of the compost as well. Many private companies, municipalities, and community groups make and sell compost. Often, they even deliver the compost to your yard for a fee. Use these tips to evaluate bulk compost Consider the source. Before buying the compost, ask about the primary, organic-matter sources that were used to make the compost. Compost made from yard waste leaves and grass...

This side up Putting down roots

Bulbs appreciate the same loose, fertile, well-drained garden soil that your other plants enjoy. If you're planting bulbs in an existing, well-maintained garden, you need only add a bit of fertilizer to the hole at planting time otherwise, turn back to Chapter 5 for more on soil preparation. Slow-release, complete, granular fertilizer works best at planting time. Mix it into the soil at the bottom of the hole, covering it with a thin layer of unamended soil before setting in the bulbs. amp NG...

Quick Guide to Getting Rid of Common Pests

Asian Pears When Spray For Grubs

The following list of vegetable, flower, tree, shrub, and fruit pests includes the worst offenders. Many more insects cause damage, of course, and you can get more information about the ones to watch out for from your local extension office Aphids These pear-shaped pests, shown in Figure 8-1, pierce holes in plant tissue and suck the juices. Their sizes range up to V inch, and color varies depending on the species, from black to green, red, or even translucent. Aphids leave behind sticky sap...

Horseradish

Take care where you plant the tenacious perennial horseradish Armoracia rusticana its pungent roots extend 2 feet into the soil, and the smallest piece can sprout into a new plant. The wavy, 1- to 3-foot-long leaves are attractive, however, and small white flowers add to the plant's appeal. It's hardy through Zone 5. Planting and care Plant the roots in deep fertile soil about 1 foot apart and 2 inches deep in full sun. To keep horseradish from taking over your garden, plant it in a bottomless...

In This Chapter

Figuring out the problem Preventing plant diseases Identifying the disease Using safe pesticides to treat disease Scouting out environmental problems MMyhen it comes to diseases, prevention is the name of the game. You can do your part to prevent disease through thoughtful garden and landscape planning and maintenance. But what do you do when disease does strike How can you tell whether the problem is a disease or some other malady In this chapter, I explain the most ecologically friendly ways...

Coriander and cilantro

This annual herb Coriandrum sativum is so versatile that it bears two names cilantro for the leaves and coriander for the seeds. The flat, parsleylike leaves add pungency to Latin American and Asian dishes. The seeds play a major role in curry and other Middle Eastern fare. Ancient Mediterranean peoples prescribed cilantro and coriander for many medical ailments. Planting and care Sow directly in fertile garden soil, where seeds will sprout in a couple of weeks. Plant every 2 to 3 weeks for...