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Organic Gardening in Crows Woods

“Give me the spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees, please !” -- Joni Mitchell

Winter is waning. The desire to jump into the garden, get your hands in the soil, plant the seedlings you so tenderly cared for, hope springs eternal!

[ Mary ]Organic gardening is strongly encouraged in Crows Woods. Many of us who have been Crows Woods gardeners for years practice this method and have beautiful, productive gardens. Organic gardening is a commitment, requiring patience and diligence, but the rewards are well worth the effort. I have gathered some pointers that may help in creating your organic garden. (Right: Laura Anderson)

Evaluate your plot. If you are new gardener, ask your neighbors about water drainage, then design a garden based on this information.

Imagine you're a tomato plant trying to establish a root hold in hard clay-like soil. You might break through, but your fruit will be limited and tasteless. The energy used in the early stages of growth wore you out!

Build and loosen your garden’s soil using manure, compost and leaves. Do not use grass clippings from lawns where pesticides have been sprayed. Organic soil is loose and airy. Water is able to flow to greater depths providing the plants with much needed moisture during dry periods. Composted soils provide organic nutrients throughout the growing season. Another benefit of good soil is the abundance of worms. Worms breakdown organic matter, they love its warmth and freshness. A garden full of red, juicy worms is a happy garden! Soil building is continuous process in organic gardening.

Organic seeds and plants

When I sow seeds, plant seedlings and any plants I purchased at GreensGrow In Philadelphia, I work organic fish fertilizer into the soil. Later in the growing season, I dilute the fertilizer and spray it gently on the plants, especially tomatoes and squash to encourage production. Watering in the beginning of the season is most important as your garden grows. Too much rain can be discouraging but attention paid to soil building will make the difference.

Attract friendly insects

As the plants rise into the open air, so do the insects. We love lady bugs. Plant flowers and herbs such as parsley, dill, and fennel along side your vegetables to attract beneficial insects, birds, and bees!

For those annoying potato beetles that love our tomatoes, peppers and eggplants, pick them off and kill them! This is your best defense. Alert your fellow gardeners and be vigilant all season. I've used insecticidal soap made with organic detergent, hot pepper and oil. This helps with some pests like aphids, but this is not a one time solution. Check out various websites to purchase organic insecticides, but be aware that even these can be toxic in certain situations. Read the fine print !

Mulching to conserve water Weeding

Weeding your garden keeps you in close contact with the plants, catching potential problems before they get out of hand. Mulching around the base of your plants not only conserves water but keeps pests from migrating up the stems.

Try a winter soil builder

In late fall when it is time to put your wonderfully- productive 2010 garden to rest, look to the future. You may notice many of our gardeners plant grasses particularly rye grass. Its beautiful green color dots the landscape in Crows Woods gardens through the first months of winter. In the spring the grass is turned over into the soil providing nitrogen and other nutrients. The earth comes alive again!

Simply said, Organic Gardening is the practice of using organic animal or vegetable fertilizer rather than synthetics, developing healthy soil, and, most importantly, being an active participant in the life of your garden. A well-tended Organic Garden is a sensory feast tantalizing the eye as well as the taste buds! Grow Green!

Written by Laura Anderson, Plot 46

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