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Organic Vegetable Gardening Tips and Advice

Vegetable gardening is a rewarding experience, because you end up with a delicious vegetable harvest at the end.

Keep scrolling down to read the entire organic vegetable growing guide.


Garden Planning

A successful vegetable garden starts out with a plan. Planning your garden is one of the most important parts of vegetable gardening, and it's quite simple.

1. Decide what you want to grow.

2. Determine how much space you have.

3. Take a sheet of paper and draw a small scale model of your garden plot, and decide where the vegetables will go.

4. You can determine the proper distance between seeds and between rows on most seed packets. This garden measuring page shows a great way to figure out how to measure distances with your hands and feet.

Why not complement your organic yard by growing organic vegetables and herbs? Just imagine treating your taste buds to nature's own food. What do you like? Tomatoes and potatoes, cucumbers in large numbers, peas and peppers, thyme at the right time?

If you have a small yard, you can use containers for your vegetables and herbs. Containers can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. You will undoubtedly be able find just the right containers for your needs.

Companion Planting

You probably already have a place in mind for a vegetable plot. Perhaps your herbs will have their own little section of the plot, or even a plot of their own. If you are thinking about container gardening, you probably plan to plant rosemary in one container and thyme in another. This sounds great, but there is a better way. It is called companion planting.

Companion planting is another way of working with nature. Some dissimilar plants have developed a symbiotic relationship-they help each other survive. Of course plants that have a similar pH should be planted together, but many symbiotic plant relationships go much farther than pH.

The most famous symbiotic relationships are 'Carrots Love Tomatoes' and 'Roses Love Garlic,' both titles of books written by Louise Riotte. There are many other plant relationships that you can use to enhance the beauty and health of your organic yard. Symbiotic relationships are not limited to vegetables liking vegetables, but include relationships between many different plants. You can use these relationships to enhance your vegetables and herbs, as well as other plants in your yard. Your imagination is your only limit.

Types of Companion Plant relationships

There are several kinds of plant relationships that you can use. Understanding them will help you to choose the best companion choices for your yard.

Nitrogen Fixation

Although atmospheric nitrogen (N2) makes up nearly 80% of our air, plants cannot use nitrogen in the N2 form. N2 is considered an inert gas because it is very stable-it is composed of two nitrogen molecules that are held together by a triple bond. Plants need ammonia, which is nitrogen combined with hydrogen (NH3), in order to manufacture amino acids, proteins, and other essentials. However, they are unable to break the N2 bond without help.

Legumes and rye are well known for their ability to 'fix' nitrogen. Actually, they both have a symbiotic relationship with various strains of Rhizobium bacteria. Rhizobium bacteria attaches itself to the roots of host plants and absorbs both nitrogen and hydrogen (NH2) from air in the soil and uses some of the plant's energy (carbohydrates) to change it to ammonia (NH3). The plant absorbs the NH3 and converts it to NH4 (ammonium nitrate). Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer for the plant. Both the bacteria and plant benefit from the trade-off.

If you plant oxygen-fixing legumes, such as beans or peas, near nitrogen loving members of the cabbage family, such as broccoli and kale, the cabbage family and legume family will both smile.

Repelling pests and Attracting Help

Some plants emit chemicals from their roots or leaves, called allelochemicals, which repel pests. As an example, tomatoes repel caterpillars from diamondback moths, which like to use cabbage leaves for food.

Other plants attract insects that prey on pests that would otherwise damage nearby plants. As an example, beans attract insects that eat corn pests, such as leaf beetles. You can learn a lot more about how to fight specific pests organically at the Organic Pest Control web site.

Space and Other Factors

Plants that need partial shade often grow best in the shade of a larger plant or bush. As an example, spider flowers (cleome) can provide the partial shade that lettuce prefers. Sometimes a row of sturdy plants can protect weaker plants from wind damage.

Root depths vary from one plant to another. You can take advantage of this difference to grow more vegetables in a given area. As an example, by planting shallow-rooted onions in close proximity to deep-rooted carrots, you can grow more of each in your vegetable garden.

The Unexplained

When basil is planted in close proximity to tomatoes, both grow very well. This is a beneficial relationship that hasn't been explained.

Another similar relationship is between climbing beans, corn, and squash. When the three grow together, they are all happy, but know one knows exactly why.

For more information on companion planting, see Companion Plants and Companion Planting

Planning Your Vegetable and Herb Garden

Since many vegetables, herbs, flowers, and other plants grow very well together, be creative. Don't just think about a vegetable plot and an herb plot. Instead, think about vegetables, herbs, flowers, and more. You can even plant a vegetable garden that enhances the rest of your landscape. Nature is never this plant and that plant, but a whole variety of diverse environmental relationships.

You will certainly want a vegetable plot and herb plot, or vegetable-herb plot. You can also try planting garlic in your rose garden and nasturtium with your cabbages. Look around your yard. You might be surprised at the possible companions you can create.

Container Gardening

Container gardening may be the answer when space is limited. Containers can also be used to accentuate decks, patios, entrances, and other areas. Most vegetables and herbs can grow well in containers, especially if you pay attention to companion planting.

Size, Light, and Other Basics

Your vegetables and herbs need a lot of sun. They should also be planted in raised beds because they need good drainage. In addition, you will need paths between the rows of vegetables so that you can work with them and harvest them.

Elevating the soil between paths doesn't work very well because watering tends to flatten it again. Using wood for raised beds is better, but wood breaks down over time. Chemically treated wood lasts longer, but still breaks down over time and its chemicals leach into the soil. This is where creativity and companion planting come to the rescue.

Why does your veggie-herb patch have to be square or rectangular? Why does it have to have straight rows? Straight rows are important on a farm, but are they important in your yard? Oftentimes veggie-herb patches are hidden. They are placed out of sight near a fence or in some other area with inadequate light because they are considered unsightly. Why not think 'out of the box'? You can make your vegetable and herb garden into a beautiful and colorful addition to your landscape-a showpiece.

As an example, you can make raised beds by using sculptured cement blocks-the ones that are usually used for building garden walls. There are several varieties and they can be used to create plots of almost any shape. Best of all, they won't rot.

Take some time to plan your raised bed so that it goes well with your landscape. It can even be two or more smaller raised beds. Round, oval, and kidney shapes are only a few of the possibilities. However, make sure they get plenty of sun and are not too close to trees. Tree roots often grow far beyond the drip line and can grow up into your raised bed.

Soil for Your Raised Beds

Be sure to use high quality organic soil with lots of compost in your new raised beds. The same advice goes for containers. You will also need to build up the soil each year, so be sure to begin composting with compost bins in your back yard, and maybe a compost pail for your kitchen, if don't have them already. For instructions on composting, see Compost Guide.

Which Vegetables and Herbs

Now you need to decide which vegetables and herbs you want to plant and where to plant them. Colors and characteristics, along with companion planting, can be used to accentuate and beautify your garden.

If you plant a crop of, say, carrots and tomatoes, don't plant them all at the same time. Instead, plant small quantities at two or three week intervals so that you can enjoy them for a longer period.

For information on specific vegetables and herbs, see Patch and Companion Plants.

Enjoy your garden companions.

Other gardening articles

Tips for growing vegetables:


Brussels sprouts
String Beans
Black Eyed Peas

Tips for growing herbs:

Saw Palmetto

Lemon Balm

French Tarragon
Mustard Greens
Summer Savory

Tips for growing flowers:



How to make humus by composting

Where to find cool garden gnomes

How to find your gardening zone

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