Basics of Organic Plot Developement and Vegetable
Summarized from Howard Garrett and individualized for LHCG)
Planting Guide for Spring from North Haven Gardens and TX Agrilife Extension
More local resources found on our Web links page
Being an organic garden, we do not use pesticides, herbicides or commercial fertilizers which harm our environment.
1. 1st time bed preparation - remove existing grass and weeds; add compost, lava sand, organic fertilizer, expanded shale (one time only in plot), cornmeal and dry molasses and work into the native soil. Total mix should be at or slightly above top of boards for best root zone growth.
2. Mulch - mulch will protect the plants and the microbes in your soil that allow for healthy plants, as well as retain water, prevent weeds, and mediate soil temperatures. Good choices are leaves from our leaf pile, straw, old, rotted hay (recently cut hay might have active herbicide).
3. WATERING - Water only as needed. Gauge the need by digging 3-4 inches below the surface of the soil and seeing if soil is moist or dry. Too frequent watering makes for shallow root systems, increased fungal problems, increased bug problems, and blossom end rot in tomatoes, peppers, etc. A deep water of an inch every few days is better than watering a little bit several times a day. Recently planted transplants and seed beds will need to stay slightly moist (but not water-logged) until established, then back off watering.
4. WEEDING - Hand pull large weeds and work on soil health for overall ontrol. Mulch bare soil in beds. Pull weeds from walkways and keep deep mulch in walkways.
5. CONTROLLING INSECT PESTS - In general, control insect pests by encouraging beneficial insects and microbes and spraying with compost tea or worm compost tea. Spray minor outbreaks with plant oil products including orange oil, garlic-pepper tea, and Eugene oil. Avoid all pyrethrum products, especially those containing Piperonyl butoxide (PBO), petroleum distillates and other contaminants. Hand pick pests (little kids love a penny a bug). Try not to use diatomaceous earth, as our bees can bring it into the hives and destroy the hive. There is evidence that fire ants will not be a s prevalent in gardens with a high beneficial microbe count—supported by compost teas, worm compost teas, dry molasses, proper watering and mulched garden beds.
6. CONTROLLING DISEASES - Most diseases such as black spot, brown patch, powdery mildew and other fungal problems are controlled by prevention through soil improvement, avoidance of high-nitrogen fertilizers and proper watering. Outbreaks can be stopped with sprays of potassium bicarbonate, worm compost tea, cornmeal juice, diluted milk or the commercial product Bio Wash.
7. FERTILIZING - Foliar feed all plants during the growing season, at least monthly with compost tea, worm compost tea, or a fish/kelp emulsion. High-nitrogen salt fertilizers and products that contain synthetic material must be eliminated. Biosolid products should be avoided on food crops. Miracle-Gro, Peters, other soluble crystal-type products and Osmocote are not acceptable in an organic program. Dry molasses is usually the best first step at 2 lbs per 100 sq. ft. When planting seeds or transplants, you might want to side dress with one of the following: fresh compost, worm compost, alfalfa meal, dry molasses, organic fertilizer blend, cottonseed meal, fish meal, cornmeal product. Do NOT overfertilize, or you will have LOTS of foliage, but not too many vegetables/fruits setting.
8. HARVESTING - harvesting is a critical part of vegetable production. Many plants will reduce production if over-ripe fruits are left on the vine. Over-ripe fruit also attracts pests and reduces plant health, making it more susceptible to pests and disease.
*Soil, Plants and Supplies used by our Organic Gardeners may be found on the links page http://www.lhgarden.org/links.html click on the Local Garden/Pest Sites