organic gardening

A Vegetable Growing Cheat Sheet

This brilliant info-graphic gives some great tips to start growing vegetables. You might want to check about the months for planting listed for your zone, but the rest of the tips are relevant no matter where you live!

10 Things this Vegetable Growing Cheat Sheet will show you

  1. When to plant
  2. How far apart to plant seeds
  3. What needs propagating
  4. What needs to be in a greenhouse
  5. What size pot to plant in
  6. Distance to thin seedlings out to
  7. Germination & maturation times
  8. Which pests to look out for
  9. What veg works best together
  10. When to harvest!

Growing your own food instills a true sense of the value of food, and it’s not difficult. Large yards with plenty of sun can grow enough vegetables and herbs to significantly supplement your household needs, and even small homes and apartments can have herb pots.

​A Vegetable Growing Cheat Sheet:

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Backyard Foraging: Chickweed

Who says you can’t farm in the winter? I just grew a crop of chickweed! Ok, for real tho - this was not intentional. I eat for chickweed from my backyard throughout the year to keep the population down. I don’t feel the need to exterminate this nutrition powerhouse with any “-cide”. This past winter, some seeds made under the garden box covering and exploded in growth. We can’t eat all of this, so instead, the weed honorably fulfilled its namesake as fodder for the flock. Coming out of the winter blues, the hens feasted like maniacs. They cleaned out the box and left the overwintered garlic bulbs unscathed. Commander Comet seems pleased by the efforts of her flock and I am delighted they saved me time from manual weeding and money on feed.

Top 10 Companion Plants

10. Three Sisters (Corn Squash and Beans)

Native American agricultural tribes have been using this combination of corn, squash and beans for centuries because it works. A fish would be buried under a small mound for fertilizer and corn would be planted on top of the mound. Squash would cover the ground beneath the corn while the beans climbed up the corn and added nitrogen to the soil. Multiple mounds could be integrated into an edible landscape. Though this is only one combination of plants that work well together, it is simple, proven to work, and a great basis for understanding permaculture gardening strategies.

9. Yarrow

Yarrow is a beautiful wildflower that both repels insect pests and attracts beneficial insects to the garden such as predatory wasps, ladybugs, butterflies and bees. Yarrow is known for its beautiful, intricate leaves and bright flowers and can be effectively used to combat soil erosion. Besides benefitting the garden, this herb can be used as an anti-inflammatory agent, a tonic, astringent, or can be used in a variety of other medical uses. Flowers can be used to make bitters and has been historically used to flavor beer. Due to its hardy nature, yarrow thrives just about anywhere in the garden and comes in a variety of colors, making it excellent for aesthetic and practical purposes in any garden.

8. Stinging Nettles

Possibly the most unpleasant plant on this list, the stinging nettle is considered a weed by most. Chemical secretions within this plant cause it to burn when handled, so exhibit caution. Despite its drawbacks, stinging nettles are used in a variety of medicines and remedies including gastrointestinal aid, BPH, increasing testosterone in bodybuilding, or as a treatment for rheumatism. The leaves are eaten by many types of caterpillars and will increase the amount of beneficial insects in the garden. Stinging nettles are a natural repellent to aphids and the roots contain anti-fungal properties. Nettle leaves can be cooked as a healthy green or dried and used in herbal teas (soaking in water and cooking eliminate the sting). This weed is extremely beneficial, though care must be taken around the stinging leaves.

7. Wormwood

A strong, but pleasant smelling plant, wormwood is most famously used in absinthe, though can also be used to brew beer, wine, and in making bitters. This hardy bush contains chemicals that are the base of all standard malaria medications, but with wormwood no medication is necessary. It is a natural mosquito repellent, as well as a deterrent for moths, slugs, fleas, flies, and mice. Scattering wormwood around the perimeter of a garden acts as a natural fence to ward off unwanted visitors.

6. Marjoram/Oregano

These perennial herbs are a great addition to nearly any garden. They are unobtrusive to other plants and will increase yields of beans, asparagus, chives, eggplants, pumpkin, squash or cucumbers amongst many others. As long as the light is not being blocked and there is plenty of room for root growth, most plants will thrive alongside both marjoram and oregano. An aromatic mixture of herbs such as mint, spearmint, oregano, lavender or lemon balm can fill any empty spaces in the garden, stifling weed growth.

5. Mint

Everyone needs an herb garden. Besides repelling moths, ants and mice, mint is a great addition to many drinks, desserts, or as a garnish. Keep mint with other similar herbs and they will quickly fill out the space. Cabbage and tomatoes reportedly increase yields in the presence of mint, but proceed with caution. Despite all of its benefits, left on its own mint will take over a garden. It grows back with a vengeance after being cut. That being said, there will be no reason to ever buy mint at a grocery store again.

4. Beans (Legumes)

Everyone loves beans, and for good reason. Part of the legume family, they don’t need much space, they’re healthy, and they will revitalize your garden soil. Unlike many plants that use up valuable nitrogen from the earth, beans actually put it back through special enzymes in their roots. Known as nitrogen fixing, legumes take atmospheric nitrogen (N2) and convert it to Ammonium (NH4) in the soil, making this macronutrient available to future and current plants in the vicinity. Aside from plants in the onion family, beans will thrive alongside most crops. For best results, plant legumes before, after, and amongst heavy feeders like tomatoes, squash or broccoli.

3. Chives

Great in soup and even better in the garden, chives are a hardy, low growing part of the onion family. Besides inhibiting mildew growth and repelling many harmful insects, the bright purple flowers are known to attract bees, which are needed to pollinate squash, tomatoes, cherries, or a plethora of other flowering plants. Chives are best grown under most types of trees, bushes and vines but should not be present alongside beans. Harvesting can be done throughout the season as this plant will constantly regrow its leaves. Chives and other members of the onion family are excellent additions to any garden.

2. Garlic

Besides flavor, garlic has a multitude of benefits for many plants. Because this bulb thrives in shaded, nutrient rich soil, cover plants are recommended. Garlic has been known to deter ants, mosquitoes, aphids, cabbage butterflies, caterpillars, snails, tomato worms, weevils and vampires (can never be too careful). Despite all the apparent benefits, avoid planting garlic with any type of beans, cabbages, or sunflowers since they will compete with one another for valuable nutrients. Next time you have an extra clove of garlic, plant it under a fruit tree, amongst cucumbers, or interspersed with lavender. It will grow with minimal effort. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, and garlic certainly is that friend.

1. Tomatoes and Basil

Probably the most well known example of companion plants. Besides improving each others flavor, tomatoes and basil really do work together. The tomato vines provide shade for the delicate basil, which delays flowering, lengthens the harvesting season, and overall increases the yield. Meanwhile, basil is a natural repellent for fruit flies, house flies, and aphids who want nothing more than to lay eggs in a plump, delicious tomato. Tomato roots run deep, while basil tends to stay closer to the surface, eliminating competition between the two plants. High yields and high flavor means true plant love.

@onlyyoudear asked: Hi! I was just hoping to get your advice on some raised bed gardening. In the past I’ve done just traditional gardens, but this year am building four 4'x8’ raised beds to hopefully have a more plentiful harvest. I’ve seen everywhere that people say you can plant things closer together in raised beds, but no one says HOW much closer together you can plant things. Do you have any recommendations on this? For instance how close do you think you could plant two indeterminate tomato plants? Thanks so much! Hope your planting adventures get to begin soon!! 

Okay, so this is probably going to wind up being rather lengthy, and I apologize for that.  But I have several different suggestions for planting, and you’ll have to test them out to see what works best for you.  

If you’re looking to follow “the rules” of garden spacing, I highly recommend looking into square foot gardening.  I’ve found that SF Gardeners follow the playbook pretty closely and swear by it. They have everything covered from plant spacing to soil mixes for the ultimate growing experience.  In other words, someone did their homework.  I’d done some reading into it myself after several gardeners convinced me that it was “The Way”.  And in some aspects, it was.  If you’re working with smaller spaces and want to really cram as much as you can in there, by all means, give it a go.  In my experience, SFG showed me just how closely you can place certain plants (for example, I’d always given peppers more room than they needed and wound up with a lot of wasted space), but for others I felt like it was just too cramped.  Also, if you like clean lines, neat rows, and order in your garden, this might be the plan for you.  I planted a garden two years ago that did not stray from the rules and didn’t care for it overall, so now I use the spacing rules loosely, and focus more on crop rotation and companion planting as my methods of choice.

You’d asked about indeterminate tomatoes.  SFG will have you allow 2 square feet per plant, which sounds completely asinine, and frankly, it is.  Unless you’re going to prune your plants back to force them to stay within this space, it’s just not enough room.  I wound up with a huge mess, more fruit loss than I care to admit, and so much unnecessary work when it came time to take the garden down in the fall.  That’s not to say that SFG failed me, but rather, my pruning theories didn’t match what is required for this type of gardening.  With tomatoes, I feel like you can never give them enough space, but I guess that all depends on how you prune.  Do you remove suckers?  Do you allow the plants to just take over all willy nilly like? 

I start off with good intentions and prune in the beginning, but once those plants start taking off and producing fruit, I tend to leave them alone, adding support as the plants get bigger. I fertilize with egg shells, ground dried banana peel, Epsom salts, and a large fish head in the planting hole. This sends the plant into overdrive, making for massive, towering monsters like I’d never seen before, and more fruit than I knew what to do with.  Last year, I had two indeterminate plants in a 4 x 8 bed (okay per SFG rules), and not only did they start growing into one another, but they heaved soil out of the raised bed and began crawling across my mulch path.  This year I’ll plant one tomato plant in that 4 x 8 bed, and maybe pop some basil in there, hoping for the best.  

So I guess what I’m getting at is that you can follow the rules that someone else set up, but there are so many variables in each gardener’s space and style that will determine the success or failure of those methods.  I’d mentioned companion planting earlier on, and I really think this is more important than anything else.  You’re looking to plant certain things together, or keep certain plants apart based on their ability to attract or repel insects, prevent disease, etc.  I find that I can ignore the SFG spacing rules on, say, basil planting, and kind of cram them into a space that is shared with tomatoes.  I’ve never had a problem with overcrowding, and aside from the random hornworm invading the space, the basil keeps a lot of other bugs and critters away.  I am guilty of breaking SFG rules and popping lots of flowers into the provided growing space of my veggie garden in the hopes that they will attract pollinators, and have never had a problem with that either.  You could also take into consideration the Native American “Three Sisters” method of pairing, say, beans, corn, and squash planted closely together.  The corn acts as the trellis, allowing the beans to climb up its stalk, and the squash grows beneath them, shading the ground and keeping weeds in check.  This is a traditional method that is proven to be effective.   It’s all trial and error, and you have to figure out what works best for you in your space.

So my short answer is this:  give tomatoes and brassicas as much space as you can afford (or be strict with pruning to keep their size in check), never crowd root veggies, but allow yourself to take liberties with plants like peppers, herbs and climbers (like cukes, beans, peas).  I am guilty of cramming a lot of these things into my growing space, and aside from the few extra minutes I have to give up to ensure that everyone gets watered and weeded sufficiently, the only downside I’ve encountered is difficulty when harvesting.  Densely planted plants hide fruit!  Also remember that you can maximize spacing by growing up via vertical trellising or plant in a triangular pattern instead of squares, which allows you to put at least one more plant in any given space.I really hope this helps!  If any other gardeners want to chime in, I’d love to hear your input!

Do you like organic gardening? Then you’ll appreciate this colorful and super helpful chart. It’s all about companion planting, an easy and effective permaculture technique that will help your vegetable garden flourish. The idea is that certain plants grow especially well together (and repel pests). Try it! You’ll probably become a convert to companion planting, like me.

But to understand how it is possible to gather knowledge from the heart of the world, without the dominance of the analytical mind or reductionistic, trial-and-error processes, it is crucial to first understand two things: that Nature is not linear and that the heart is an organ of perception.
—  The Secret Teachings Of Plants ~ Stephen Harrod Buhner