Vegetables - Everything you need to Know for Organic
Simple instructions on growing vegetables in your own backyard and tips
on growing organic vegetables successfully when organic vegetable
Vegetable Gardening gives
benefits and a source of great tasting vegetables. In no time at all
you could be eating fresh
produce that has been grown using natural
pesticides, and natural
fungicides will save you money in the process. To grow enough
vegetables for your family doesn't take a lot of space, nor does it
take a lot of
expertise. What it does take is planning, time and effort, but the
results are well worth it in the end. There is nothing more satisfying
than eating a bowl of salad knowing that you have grown everything
yourself. Perhaps too, you are thinking of becoming a
vegetarian and are wanting a vegetarian
Grow those old-fashioned varieties that are full
of flavor and taste open-pollinated heirlooms
seeds. They really are well worth growing and great
for seed saving and sharing with your friends for generations to come.
For those of you who are trying to save
money, you can do so by growing vegetables and growing herbsat
excess produce can be canned,
blanched and frozen or made into preserves, pickles
Vegetable peelings and vegetable seedlings that have been removed to
make room for others, can immediately be added to the compost heap to
make sure that nothing is lost, and that everything is recycled where
If you want to grow vegetables
organically, and are not sure what the basic principles are for organic
gardening and farming, have a look at our organic
principles page and our article on Permaculture
principles and garden design.
For those people who plant by the moon,
they swear by it, feeling that as the tides are affected by the moon,
so too are the plants and so therefore plant according to the phases of
the moon. If you would like to know more about this visit our moon
planting page for more detailed information. There
are others too who like to plant their vegetables with others in order
to complement each other or to have one plant work for the other in
repelling insects or disease. This is known as companion
Growing Vegetables, Picture courtesy of John
Growing Vegetables and
Choosing your Site Wisely
Where you decide to grow
vegetables is important. If you have terrible soil such as sand with no
humus, or pure clay, one could improve the soil with additional compost
or lime accordingly, but really, the easiest way to go would be to make
beds. These can be simple affairs using shutter board to the
more elaborate of building brick raised beds. Either way, what you have
are beds that contain soil that you know is rich and fertile, that you
have imported and you can just add additional compost and manure when
For those people who have limited space the best way to grow vegetables
is by using the square
foot gardening technique.
This is an extremely economical way of growing vegetables and you can
grow a surprisingly high number of vegetables in each square foot, you
just need to know how many vegetables can be planted in each square
foot. Square foot gardening is also a raised bed method for those of
you who don't have good soil.
If you do have good soil, count
yourself lucky. The ideal spot should be in a sunny location as
vegetables need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day, and ideally
it will be on a level piece of ground that has good drainage. If you
have a sloping piece of ground, the only way you will be able to grow
your own vegetables here is by terracing that land. If you don't you
will have run-off when it rains which will wash seeds away downhill,
and you will find that some plants receive an excess of water, and
others hardly any at all.
For those of you who
like to be
different, how about growing the more unusual
vegetables around, or some heirloom vegetables. And when
winter vegetables you will be able to get second
Growing Vegetables and the Size of your Vegetable Garden
Growing vegetables for
consumption the size of the garden will be determined by the size of
Other considerations will be whether you can grow your
vegetables year round with the water that you have available to you,
the type of vegetables you want to grow and the amount of time you are
willing to put into growing your own.
Having said that, 40 - 50 m2 is
more than enough to sustain a family of five. This allows for space to
grow vegetables that take up lots of ground such as pumpkins, melons
Growing Vegetables and Planting your Vegetable Garden
One of the biggest
mistakes one makes
as a novice vegetable grower is that one tends to over-plant beds so
that the end up rather crowded, and worse still, the planting of
certain vegetables hasn't been staggered. As a result, one ends up with
too many of one type of vegetable maturing at the same time.
Because of this lack of planning, there are no vegetables of this type
want it and you are forced to buy vegetables again at the supermarket.
So make sure that you sow your seeds successively over a couple of
weeks, to get your crop to mature over a sustained period of time, and
to be able to collect the produce over a longer period.
Take your family's tastes into
consideration. There is no point in growing rows and rows of eggplants
and then not be able to do anything with them because no one likes
Popular Vegetables to Plant
For the novice vegetable gardener here is a list of some of the most
popular vegetables that many home growers plant:
Make sure that whatever you are
planting is right for that particular time of year. Growing vegetables
out of season can only be done using hothouses and cloches. If you
don't have these facilities than stick to a plan to grow vegetables
according to the right time of year. Therefore see our vegetable
gardening calendar for when
every month of the year.
Growing Vegetables and Crop Rotation
I spoke about the soil
becoming depleted of nutrients earlier on. However, even replenishing
and compost is not enough to grow strong and healthy
vegetables. If the same types of crops are grown repeatedly on the same
patch of soil the plants and soil will be more susceptible to disease
and pests. Therefore it is imperative that in your planning to grow
vegetables, you also have a master plan of what you will plant in these
beds over the next four years. If you draw up a 4 x 4 matrix with the
different vegetable types in each group, you will be able to manage
your crop rotation.
groups are as follows:
Cabbages, cauliflowers, Chinese
cabbages, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, leeks and celery.
Carrots, beetroot, parsnips,
salsify, turnips, kohlrabi, sweet potatoes
Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, egg
plants, lettuce, Swiss chard
'Snap' beans, Lima beans, broad
beans, runner beans, French beans, Snake beans and peas.
So in year one
would have 4 different plots of vegetables and they would be Group 1,
2, 3 & 4
In year two
would now rotate your crops in the 4 plots. Replacing the groups as per
year one as above, your planting would now be Group 4, 1, 2, 3 in its
In year three
rotation of crops would continue with the following groups of
vegetables replacing those that were planted last year with Group 3, 4,
1, & 2.
Lastly, in year
the rotation of the crops would now be Groups 2, 3, 4, and 1.
In year five
would follow the same plan for year one.
In this way one has
economized on the
resources of the soil and produced healthier vegetables as you where
you once planted the heavy feeding brassicas of cabbages etc. you now
plant legumes which will put back nutrients into the soil and improve
the condition of the soil. These are then replaced the following year
by leafy vegetables and tubers which in turn are replaced by root
Vegetables like cucumbers,
gourds, melons, and other cucurbits haven't been included in any of the
plots as they can be included anywhere in the crop rotation. Other
miscellaneous vegetables such as okra, sweetcorn, radishes and endives
can also be slipped into the rotation at any point without difficulty.
Growing Vegetables in Good Soil
The ideal mix for
growing vegetables in
raised beds, or even containers, is 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite and
1/3 compost which is well rotted. Don't forget too, to add some animal
fertilizer to this compost. Chicken manure is one of the richest there
is, followed by sheep, horse, cow and pig manure in order of nutrient
value. Using liquid fertilizers is another option.
Manure is almost a
complete food for your vegetables as it
contains good quantities of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium and
other trace elements that are vital for vegetable growing. If you have
good soil, it is still important to enrich it with the peat moss, the
vermiculite and the compost including manure as soil becomes depleted
when used often, and nutrients need to be put back into the soil. The
addition of vermiculite allows the soil to retain air and water and to
release nutrients to the plants when they need it. This results in
faster and better growth for your vegetables.
You can also take the
manure and make liquid manure known as a
manure tea and apply it to your vegetables. Just remember though, be
careful of using urine and liquid manures directly on your vegetables
due to the possibility of pathogens. You can only do this is you are
not going to harvest your vegetables for at least week and you have
watered your vegetables several times after application of the liquid
Growing Vegetables and Digging the Garden Beds
To grow organic
vegetables successfully you need well-drained soil, well rotten compost
and manure, a level sunny
plot and deeply dug over beds. The ideal machine for this is a
rotovator. These days you can get the traditional manual rotovator to
the more sophisticated rotovator that is petrol driven. If you have
one, great, but they don't come cheap, and if you don't have one, it is
not the end of the world, but it does mean a bit of blood, sweat and
tears on your part as you will have to turn over the soil by hand.
Your beds should never be wider than
what you can safely weed from either side without having to step into
the bed. You never want to do this as you will end up compacting the
soil. Therefore your beds should be about 5 feet in width and about 20
feet long. The soil should be turned over systematically to a depth of
about 9 - 12 inches. Obviously the deeper the depth the better for the
plant, but usually 9 inches is enough.
You will notice when you have
finished that the soil is a lot higher than when you first started.
This is normal, and once you add your compost, manure, peat moss and
vermiculite, you will add more depth to your bed. However, once the
rain comes and natural erosion takes place, a lot of this height can be
lost. Therefore, in order to maintain these definite beds you will
either have to edge them with some treated wood, bricks or pavers. If
you don't have these, you can make do by banking up the soil every now
and again to define your beds.
To Dig or Not to Dig?
I know that some people reading this will have a counter-argument as to
why it isn't good to dig the soil. The no-dig method of planting
vegetables has its advantages as does deep digging.
5 Reasons Not to Dig your Vegetable Gardens
5 Reasons to Dig your Vegetable Gardens
1. Not digging encourages soil-living
creatures like worms to do the spadework for you.
1. Digging breaks up heavily
compacted soil, allowing it to breathe.
2. Not digging reduces the loss of
2. Digging kills surface weeds.
3. Not digging protects the soil
3. Digging exposes pests to predators and
4. Not digging prevents weed seeds being
brought to the surface.
4. If you don't dig you'll need a lot
more mulch to grow potatoes as you will not be ''earthing up".
5. Not digging is easier on the back.
5. Digging is a good way to exercise for
those who want it.
Growing Vegetables and Sowing, Planting Vegetable
Many of you
may not want
vegetables from seed, but prefer buying seedlings. This is fine, as you
don't have too long to wait before you see the rewards, but it is
definitely more expensive.
Many vegetables like radishes, carrots and
cucumbers, among others have to be planted as seeds in situ as you
cannot transplant these types of vegetables. Others can be first grown
by seed and transplanted very successfully. Therefore, when you
vegetable growing, it is important to set some place aside where you
will be able to raise your seedlings.
If you are going to farm or plant your
own vegetables, you should know the different types
of seeds there are as this
will give you a better indication of what you are growing, especially
for crop rotation.
For those wanting to know more on how
to grow vegetables organically make sure that the seed that you have
purchased has not been treated in any way. You will notice this
immediately on opening up the packet if you are not sure as such seeds
will be bright pink or red in color.
Find a good quality seed and
prepare your seed boxes with a suitable growing medium. Even better
still, learn how to save seeds when your harvest is finished, so that
you are guaranteed of having heirloom
seeds next time around.
Using top soil
out of your garden is not suitable. Instead, rather buy commercial
potting soil, or make your own with 1 part peat moss, 1 part
vermiculite and 1 part compost. At this stage, manure should not be
added as it may burn the seedlings.
Your seed boxes can be made either of
wood, metal or plastic, as long as they have holes in the bottom for
drainage and have been lined at the bottom with layers of crocks or
small stones to a depth of about an inch. Fill the boxes to within a
half inch to the top with soil and make sure that the soil has been
firmed down flat with a firming board, or a plaster's wooden float etc.
When you grow vegetables from seed you
don't want the seeds to be susceptible to any diseases found in the
soil. Therefore, the next step is really important. You will need to
boil hot water in a kettle and with the seed boxes standing level, pour
the boiling water over all areas of the seedling box. Once the soil is
completely cool, you are now ready to plant the seeds.
You will need to make little drills or
rows in your seed box about 5 mm deep and about 35 mm apart. This can
be done with the edge of a straight piece of wood being pressed into
the soil at the correct depth and spacings. The seeds should now be
placed carefully in the depressions making sure that you are not
planting too many seeds per row.
Once you have finished, you will need
to cover the drills with either some more sterilized soil, river sand
or vermiculite. Firm it down lightly and water the seed bed with a fine
spray making sure that the soil is well dampened. Initially place in a
shady location. As the seedlings begin to emerge you can harden them
off by exposing them to more and more sunlight before it is time to
Make sure that you label each seed box
clearly so that you know the type of vegetable, its cultivars and the
date it was planted. Either keep the seed packet for the recommended
spacings for optimal growth or make a note of this information for
later when you will need this information when transplanting your
Growing Vegetables and Transplanting Vegetable Seedlings
When you transplant your seedlings, no
matter how careful you are, your plants will always suffer an element
of shock. Therefore, when transplanting your seedlings the aim should
be to minimize the shock as much as possible, because if you don't, you
could end up losing some of them.
Most seedlings are ready to be
transplanted when they are about 75 - 100 mm in heights and usually
between 4 and 8 weeks old. That is unless you are transplanting onions
and leeks as these will be 150-200 mm high before they are ready to be
transplanted. Reduce watering your seedlings 10 days before
I am not saying don't water them, what
I am saying
just don't water them as much as you have been doing so in the past. If
the weather is very hot, then your reduction of water should really be
over 5 days. The last 2 days water should be withheld completely.
However, on the day that you are going to plant them out, you should
water them thoroughly 6 - 12 hours before hand. Make sure that where
you are going to transplant them to has also been well watered.
The best time to transplant your
seedlings is late afternoon, early evening when the heat of the sun has
gone. This then allows your plants the night to re-establish themselves
before the next day. Choose your seedling wisely. Although you will be
tempted to plant them all out, only choose those that are strong, and
discard the others.
Lift your seedlings out of the seed box
garden trowel and lay them at the recommended intervals given to you on
the original seed packet. Dig a small hole and carefully place the
seedling inside. Make sure that it's not too deep or that there is a
space between the ends of roots and the bottom of the hole. Firm the
seedling gently by pressing down around the stem. When you have
finished, water the transplants well.
As a rule transplanting plants means
that the leaves and roots are untouched. However, there are some plants
that seem to benefit from having either their leaves cut or their roots
cut, or sometimes even both. Onions and leeks can be trimmed both at
the top and bottom without much ill effect. Beets and Swiss chard also
get off to a better start if their leaves are trimmed slightly.
How much Water to Use when Growing Vegetables?
As humans are made up
largely of water,
so are your vegetables. Therefore, when you grow vegetables, they will
benefit from regular watering. However, the major mistake that is
commonly made is that people tend to water too frequently and too
Crops need much more water in the hotter months and if you
have hot, dry winds blowing you will need to water more regularly here
too. Obviously when you have new seedlings, or you have newly
transplanted seedlings you will need to water them every day. But when
your plants are more established you will need to water them according
to their type. Cabbages, spinach and lettuce tend to need lots of water
because they need to grow quickly.
Root and tuber crops don't need as
much water, although the soil should always remain moist, particularly
when they are about to be harvested.
Make sure that your watering is never
erratic as this can damage vegetables as much as over-watering them. As
a guide, 25 mm of water every 4 days should be more than enough when
your plants are well established. A light watering of a garden every
day retards the development of a good root system.
To make the best use of your watering
when you grow vegetables it should be done in the late afternoon so the
plants can get the maximum benefit. With seed beds it is better to
water these in the morning and allow them to dry out before the evening
so as not to encourage dampening off and the dry soil discourages
snails and slugs. Tomatoes and potatoes also benefit from morning
watering if sprinklers are used rather than flood watering in order to
reduce the chance of disease.
GROWING VEGETABLES AND CONTROLLING PESTS NATURALLY
vegetables means that
you are not going to use either artificial fertilizers in the soil or
chemical pesticides and fungicides. There are a number of ways in which
we can control pests in the garden through biological methods. If you
read my article on gardening
with vinegar again natural methods have been
employed. Again, as mentioned before, companion planting can be used
very effectively to resist certain garden pests.
By planting onions and
carrots together you will avoid both carrot fly and onion fly. Aphids
also hate basil, dill, mint and garlic, so if you plant these near
plants that are susceptible to aphids, you won't have a problem. Slugs
and snails are a vegetable grower's nightmare. However, if you take a
large basin and sink it into the ground and then put an inch of beer on
the bottom you will entice slugs and snails in their hordes. They fall
into the beer-filled basin and will be there in the morning for you to
Here are some tried and tested recipes
for getting rid of those pests in your vegetable gardens. One of the
biggest problems, and certainly the most common, is having to fight off
aphids. They are really pesky creatures that can destroy and kill your
vegetables within days. Below is an excellent all-round, cheap and
natural,organic pesticide that will quell those aphids in your garden.
Aphid Spray Recipe
1 whole head of garlic, minced
1 cup of vegetable oil
Place the oil and minced garlic
together in a glass bottle and seal tightly. Place it in a fridge for 3
days to steep. Strain after 3 days and replace the garlic oil in the
jar. Refrigerate for further use.
For your aphid spray you will need the
1 tablespoon of your previously made garlic oil
1 teaspoon of washing-up liquid
1 liter of water
Mix altogether and place in a hand
sprayer. Douse your vegetables with the liquid to get rid of aphids and
For more details and other recipes on
how to control pests and insects organically see our page on Natural
Lifestyles Gardening Tip: Keep the birds out of your
vegetable garden by one of two methods, or both if you like!
Take some colored feathers, the larger the better, put them into an old
apple or potato and place them on poles among your vegetables.
2) Place rubber snakes around the vegetable garden. Move them from time
to time as birds are not as stupid as we think.
THE REWARDS OF GROWING VEGETABLES AND FRUIT
Well, after following
the above advice
on how to grow vegetables you will no doubt in a short while be reaping
the rewards of crisp, fresh, organically grown vegetables that are a
cheap and healthy alternative for your family. If you want more
specific information on individual vegetables or fruit we have the
Sometimes, after we have grown our
vegetables there are often too many of them to eat quick enough. If
this is the case, why not do some home
canning or drink your vegetables by visiting our juicing vegetablespage.
And if you are looking for
heirloom or organic vegetable seeds, bulbs or plants for your flower
garden, or even some lovely herbs, visit our Online
Country Store for more details.
a veteran professional organic gardener guides you with tips and
advice on Organic Gardening. All aspects of growing healthier and
tastier vegetables are covered, including herbs, fruit and flowers. And
for those of you who are looking for some material to download on
growing organic vegetables in your own gardens then Click
VIDEOS ON GROWING VEGETABLES
A SITE FOR YOUR
TESTING YOUR SOIL
FOR A VEGETABLE
SETTING OUT YOUR
CHOOSING WHAT TO
PLANT IN YOUR
FOR YOUR VEGETABLE
PLANTING SEEDS IN
SITU FOR YOUR
YOUR VEGETABLE GARDEN
COMPOST FOR YOUR
GARDEN PESTS AND
DISEASES IN YOUR VEGETABLE
BOOKS ON GROWING
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