By. The Guru
Spring is here and things are getting warmer, the frost is gone, and flowers are blooming all over. Spring is the perfect time of year to get seeds started, and to get our outdoor garden ready to go. Many of us might not have the space or money to start an indoor garden. Well, itâ€™s the perfect time to try your first outdoor garden if youâ€™re up for it! There are a few things you should know before you start that will greatly help your garden.
Whether youâ€™re starting a produce garden to feed your family, just growing tomatoes and peppers to make salsa, or growing your own herb garden, the same rules apply for preparing all of these gardens outside. You can plant in raised beds, individual containers, or straight into the ground. Either way, you should start with a good organic potting soil filled with good organic amendments. One of the most common and biggest problems people make is starting off with the wrong soil, full of chemical fertilizers or time released fertilizers. These soils do not sustain an active colony of microorganisms. Fox Farm Ocean Forest, Canna Bio and Canna Terra Professional, Aurora Roots Organic, and Vermi Crop Organics, just to name a few, are all top quality organic potting soils and ready to use. They all have organic amendments in them already and also some microorganisms as beneficial inoculants.
Even when a soil says it has microorganisms and organic amendments in it already, this does not mean it will be enough for the entire life of the plant. You will have to add things to the plant throughout the life of the plant too. Try to stay away from anything with time released nutrients in it, and anything that has been radiated to make it sterile from pathogens and bugs. It is true that radiating the soil eliminates all pathogens and bugs, but it also kills off all the beneficial microbes, killing off the micro ecosystem in the soil, which then leaves behind a dead, non-living soil. The whole idea of organic growing is having a microbial ecosystem that is alive and active, creating a healthy immune system for the plant. The healthier the plantâ€™s immune system, the more resistant and able it is to fight off bugs, diseases, molds and all sorts of harmful pathogens it wil be. Beneficial microbial inoculants are some of the best ways to build up a plantâ€™s immune system.
Products such as Mycos 30 from RTI, a highly potent mycorrhizal inoculant, will get you a very healthy and well structured root mass andÂ makes for a very healthy plant. Rhizotonic, Voodoo Juice, and Great White Shark are some other great beneficial microbes that will enhance the plant in many different ways. High quality sea kelps, earth worm castings and teas are also very active in microbes and support and build a healthy immune system. Microorganisms are like laborers – constantly working on a wide range of symbiotic jobs. There are many different microbes and each has its own job. Some consume and break down nutrients, and others consume other microbes. Each microbe exudes proteins, enzymes, acids, and other essential elements necessary to break down trace minerals, salts, and nutrients. When plants have a well rounded colony of microorganisms, it allows nutrients to be absorbed readily and more efficiently by the plant. Besides helping the plant stay healthier via nutrient uptake, microbes also defend against un-beneficial microbes, pathogens, and bacterium. The beneficial microbes keep the plants natural defense system at its peak performance. Some of these products, like Vermi Crop Organic Tea (beware of cheap imitations), contain over 35,000 beneficial organisms. These organisms expand root mass, build healthy immune systems, help naturally defend against pests, and allow the plant to produce a heavy, bountiful, and sticky harvest.
Starting with good potting soils, inoculating with beneficial microorganisms, and using good quality organic nutrients, enhancers and supplements are the keys to starting a good healthy organic garden. A healthy organic garden is much more resistant to pests and diseases. It also creates a very healthy, sweet and nutritious end product whether it is fruits or vegetables, citrus trees, herbs or greens, or almost anything else you grow for human consumption. By using organic products outside when in soil, it helps prevent salt build up and waste from entering into the ground water, which creates problems and ends up in our lakes and reservoirs polluting everything. Nitrates and pesticides create all sorts of problems in the environment when leaked into our ground water. Staying all organic when outside in the ground or in soil is always a better choice and creates healthier plants naturally. Mother Nature has its own remedies for every problem that can hit a plant. With a well balanced soil, well rounded colony of microorganisms and a good organic nutrient feeding program, you will create a healthy beautiful plant and fight off any pests or diseases naturally.
So you picked your planting site and got your quality organic potting soil ready to go. Fill in the raised beds, pots or containers, or the hole you dug in the ground with a good potting soil. Add any inoculants or beneficials youâ€™re using into the soil before planting. Itâ€™s usually better to have your seeds or clones already started or propagated in a small container such as a 5â€ square cord nursery pot to get it root bound and established before transplanting it into the ground or outside. The area should be south facing and get at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day for optimal growth. The less light the plants get, the smaller they will be and the less they will produce. Choose a spot with as much direct sunlight as you can to get the biggest yields possible.
Another tip is to remember that, especially during the flowering stage, light pollution is a big issue as well.Â When choosing your planting site, be sure to pick somewhere a bit away from the house or any lights that might hit the plants at night. Even the slightest bit of light pollution can interrupt and confuse certain photo sensitive plants, messing up the flowering process. Make sure to pick a spot in the yard that is not right under a neighborâ€™s spotlight or anything like that, and that there is total uninterrupted darkness at night.
Many people try to put their plants out of sight, which often ends up being an area which does not receive that much light. Try planting near other plants to camouflage and blend in with other bushes or plants that are located in more direct sunlight. You will also need to protect your crops from animals such as rabbits, squirrels, gophers, rats and mice, and any other animals running around at night. These animals can destroy your whole garden in just one single night, and itâ€™s devastating! There are a few steps you can take to protect your garden from these animals and other pests as well.
Especially here in Southern CA where it is so dry, any green plant that is luscious with juice or moisture is a perfect snack for many animals. Rats will eat right thru the base stem of the plant, just to get some moisture or water out of the stem, often knocking down a whole bush or plant andÂ killing it! Caterpillars will lay eggs and get right into your nice flowers, causing nasty flower rot from the inside out. Many times this is not noticed until itâ€™s too late and it has destroyed most, if not all of your crop. A few ways to avoid this is to use preventative measures for your plants. Wrapping the plants and the area around the plants top to bottom completely sealed with chicken wire will stop most of your big pests like rats, mice, and anything else from chewing the stocks and knocking them over. Itâ€™s a pain but it is necessary, especially in the more rural areas and where the dryer vegetation is.
Pests such as caterpillars, worms and many other crawling insects are big time problems here in dryer areas. Basically, we have built urban developments on their land, and they donâ€™t have many choices for healthy plants to attack, so any green healthy plant outside in a rural area is sure to see caterpillars and other crawling insects and pests trying to get onto and into the plant. Using Tree Tangle Foot is a great preventative measure for fighting these crawling pests. Tree Tangle Foot is a sticky organic goo that, when put as a ring around the base stem of the plant, will stop and trap any insects trying to crawl from the ground up the stem of the plant. By stopping them from crawling up the plant, you have a greater chance of fighting them off. Always keep your plant trimmed and pruned, removing crowded leaves, and damaged leaves which can lead to many problems. Keeping a clean healthy looking plant is always the best prevention in fighting off bugs, pests, pathogens, funguses and diseases. And donâ€™t overcrowd your plants by trying to put too many too close together. Give them room and they will grow huge and produce huge harvests!
When using organics to grow outside, things are simpler than in an indoor garden. Mother Nature is doing most everything for you. You do not have to duplicate the environment like an indoor grower has to. The perfect environment is what a plant needs to grow well, and then everything else will follow. Mother Nature creates the perfect environment for plants to grow, which is why plants grow so well outside in their natural environment.
The springtime and most of summer are the vegetative growth cycle of the plant. You want to use vegetative nutrients high in Nitrogen for the growth cycle. Once the days start getting shorter, the nutrient requirements change along with the shorter photo periods. The plant requires more phosphorus and potassium during the flowering cycle to support and produce large healthy flowers or fruits. Use a quality flowering nutrient that is high in phosphorus and potassium for best results. Keep it organic and all will be good and green in the end.
Donâ€™t just plant your herb garden though. Try planting other things as well like tomatoes, peppers, onions, and anything else you personally like to eat. Growing your own herbs, fruits and vegetables is one of the most rewarding things a person can do for themselves. Knowing where your foods come from and how they were grown and handled is very important. You can produce enough fresh produce to feed your whole family, or just grow a few things here and there to supplement your normal grocery list. Either way, it is much healthier and nutritious to grow your own food and it tastes so much better than food transported all the way across the country to get to your local store.
One of my favorite things to plant and grow starting in the spring is a variety of tomatoes, peppers, onions, cilantro, cucumbers, lettuce, and basil. Out of this I get fresh salsa, tomatoes for the hamburgers on the barbeque, and lots of healthy delicious salads. There are many different things you can grow yourself at home, saving money and being healthier at the same time. I also find it to be a form of meditation, working in the garden under the hot sun, working the soil and taking care of my plants. Itâ€™s also a great project and lesson for kids to learn and understand where their food comes from and how to grow it properly. Itâ€™s pretty sad to see kids who have never gardened before or grown their own plants. One who knows how to grow plants successfully will always be able to feed his or her family in times of need or hunger, and will not be reliant on others to provide for them. Knowing that your food is healthy, safe and organic is a great peace of mind to have!
Spring is here! Grow your own and be rewarded with your own fruits and vegetables, and of course, keep it GREEN!