organic gardening

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Hügelkultur (German, meaning “hill culture” or “mound culture”) is the garden concept of building raised beds over decaying wood piles. Decayed timbers become porous and retain moisture while releasing nutrients into the soil that, in turn, promote root growth in plant materials. As the logs decay, they expand and contract, creating air pockets that assist in aerating the soil, allowing roots to easily penetrate the soil. This decaying environment creates a beneficial home to earthworms. As the worms burrow into the soil, they loosen the soil and deposit nutrient-rich worm castings, beneficial to plants. An earthworm can produce its weight in castings on a daily basis.  

The best decayed wood for a Hügelkultur, according to A Growing Culture, comes from alders, applewood, cottonwood, poplar, maple and birch. Use wood products that have been in the process of decay for about a year (using green, or fresh, wood products will rob the soil of necessary nitrogen). Some wood products, like cedar and black walnut, should be avoided because they produce organisms that negatively effect plant growth.   

Read more at A Growing Culture

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Permaculture Design Principles Companion Planting Many of these relationships are fairly general. The best results come from creating diversity by using a variety of herbs and ornamental plants alongside the edible crops planted in the garden. Some Companion Plants are:
  • Basil helps repel flies and mosquitoes
  • Birch leaves encourage compost fermentation
  • Borage in the strawberry patch will increase the yield
  • Catnip repels fleas, ants and rodents
  • Caraway helps breakdown heavy soils
  • Chamomile deters flies and mosquitoes and gives strength to any plant growing nearby
  •  Chives grown beneath apple trees will help to prevent apple scab; beneath roses will keep away aphids and blackspot.
  • Elderberry a general insecticide, the leaves encourage compost fermentation, the flowers and berries make good wine.
  • Fennel repel flies and ants
  • French Marigold root secretions kill nasty nematodes (not the beneficial ones) and will repel white fly amongst tomatoes.
  • Garlic helps keep aphids away from roses
  • Hyssop attracts cabbage white moth keeping brassicas free from infestation
  • Mint repels cabbage white moth. Dried and placed with clothes will repel clothes moth.
  • Nasturtium secrete a mustard oil, which many insects find attractive and will seek out, particularly the cabbage white moth. Alternatively, the flowers repel aphids and the cucumber beetle. The climbing variety grown up apple trees will repel codling moth.
  • Pyrethrum will repel bugs if grown around the vegetable garden
  • Rosemary repels carrot fly
  • Sage protects cabbages from cabbage white moth
  • Tansy (Tanacetum, not Senecio) repels moths, flies and ants. Plant beneath peach trees to repel harmful flying insects. Tansy leaves assist compost fermentation.
  • Wormwood (Artemesia, not Ambrosia) although it can inhibit the growth of plants near it, wormwood does repel moths and flies and keeps animals off the garden.

Some compatible vegetables are:

  • Beetroot: Onions, Lettuce, Cabbage, Silverbeet
  • Cabbages: Beans, Celery, Beetroot, Onions, Potatoes
  • Cauliflower: Celery
  • Celery & Celeriac: Chives, Leeks, Tomatoes, Dwarf Beans
  • Carrots: Lettuce, Peas, Leeks, Chives, Onions, Cucumbers, Beans
  • Broadbeans: Potatoes, Peas, Beans
  • Tomatoes: Asparagus, Parsley, Broccoli, Sweet Basil, Carrots
  • Sweet Corn: Potatoes, Peas, Beans

Source: Soil Sista

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The Dance at Alder Cove - Youth/Father/Geezer  I see you

Keyhole Gardening: a Drought-Tolerant, Compost-Style, Sustainable Concept 

The key hole garden concept is quite simple. A circular planting bed (with a “keyhole” to allow access to the center) is constructed with bricks, stone, gabion-style walls, or even aluminum siding. In the center of the keyhole is a circular compost bin in which kitchen scraps and household “gray water” are poured.  

Layers of soil inside the circular walls slope slightly outward to encourage positive drainage away from the central compost bin. As kitchen and garden waste breaks down and gray water is added, a natural “compost tea” soaks into the surrounding soil providing nutrients to plants growing within the circular wall. More information and instructions at the link. 

Medicinal Herb Garden: Cold and Flu

Grow a medicinal herb garden to help alleviate cold and flu symptoms.

By Dorie Byers

llustration by Beverly Duncan

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Cheap and Easy Potato Cages

Last year, I had a pretty good test run with this system and had a mini harvest. (My tutorial here.) However, the location was not ideal and I had poor water retention. This year I leveled up to 15 cages, moved to a better location, and strawed the shit out of that circumference for better water retention and slow release nutrition.

I’m not growing potatoes in all the cages; I’ll show you guys the surprises soon.These cheap and easy-to-make vertical towers provide the most optimal use of my available space. I am able to micro-tune the soil requirements to specific plants. Most importantly, the cage provides the plant protection from wildlife and my own chickens who would otherwise wreck havoc on the garden.

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And how are they growing? UPDATE here.

Tips for Small-Space Gardening

By Jessica Kellner

We hear from readers all the time who say they’d love to grow some of their own food, but they don’t have a big yard to work with. Fear not, readers! You can grow some of your own food on a patio, balcony, fire escape or in pots on your rooftop. The trick is to plan well, using the proper plants and tools for the job. Here are a few of my favorite tips for the small-space gardener:  [Find out how!]