Learning organic gardening is easier when we learn from others. Pictures, organic gardening ideas, and observations from my July garden might help you in yours.
My first garden and my current garden have proven to me many times that working with nature (using my 3 keys as the foundation for success) is the easiest way to learn to garden organically and be successful.
Here’s How One Proof Began
As I stated in my last post all my veggies (except onions) rotted where they fell in 2018 as I lay on my floor healing. Summer poinsettia and some annual weeds that I allow in my garden, grew up to cover the soil as my garden waited for my attention.
No pictures of how it looked back then exist. That’s because it was all I could do to get to the garden when I first started walking.
By the 2019 season, I was only strong enough to plant the lower half of the 2,500 sq. ft.
One of the Many Proofs
Little by little, I pulled up unwanted vegetation at the unplanted end and laid it on the beds and paths as the season progressed. If vegetation was plentiful enough, weeds were rolled “tight” and usually placed at the end of a bed or in the path between beds.
Those weed piles that I made in the summer/fall of 2019 and the winter of 2020 have been a great source of help to me this season. When I ran out of space in beds, they provided perfect spots for late plantings of tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. The plants love it! The decayed weeds/annuals turned those spots into prime garden real estate!
My Simple Approach Made It Doable
Given the facts that I only use simple hand tools, that I’m slow as molasses getting around, and need a crutch for support, there is no way I could have reclaimed my garden so easily without my simple approach to gardening. (Even if it did take two years to “look” like my garden again.)
Everything I do is easy. And I mean that literally. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it. BUT, as with anything, it takes a desire to do it and a willingness to make the effort. If you have those things you can do most anything.
What’s Required to Learn Organic Gardening Ways (or anything else)
I remember back in the ’80’s when I had broken something-or-other in my knee. Couldn’t stand or walk for over a year without the aid of two crutches. For gardening I lay on the ground and pulled myself along.
I’d say to Bill when I got in the house, “If I can garden anyone can!” His reply was, “Yes, they can. BUT, they have to want to.”
After my broken thigh bone (femur) healed in 2018 and I first got up from the floor I DIDNT WANT TO even look at my garden or borders. Much less “fix” them!
I wanted to close my eyes and have all the borders and garden disappear!
I knew I was in trouble with that attitude. Fortunately, I got past it.
A Picture Can Be Worth a 1,000 Words in Learning Organic Gardening
Most of us start tomatoes in March or April with the idea of getting tomatoes a few weeks earlier than if we waited for warm weather.
After all these years of knowing without doubt that the best time to start tomatoes is when the weather warms in May, I’ve persisted in starting them in March or April — until this year.
I’m finally done with that! Henceforth, I’m following nature and starting them when they want to grow.
This year I started tomatoes in May and transplanted to the garden the last day of May and into the first week of June. Made it easier on me (gave me more time) and the tomatoes have loved it. They showed it with quick growth and fruit set.
(If you click on the pictures you may be able to enlarge and get a better look.)
I always grow my open pollinated Big Beef plus two or three other varieties. One of those in recent years has been Cherokee Purple.
This year I grew Carbon rather than Cherokee Purple. It’s still early in the tomato season, but so far I love it!. Fruit set is much heavier than Cherokee Purple and it was the first tomato to ripen (other than a cherry tomato).
Five Dafel tomato plants are from my 2012 saved seed. (Since Dafel was a hybrid, my seed may not perform exactly as the purchased hybrid seed parent. )
None are ripe yet, so I can’t speak for taste, but they look great and just as I remember. They’re a medium sized tomato. They form on the plant in clusters similar to cherry tomatoes.
After taking the picture of the row with tomatoes (3 pictures up) I turned around and took the picture of the row with the cabbages covered with light row cover fabric.
Covering cabbage to prevent the cabbage moth and other pests from getting to them doesn’t always work. I had another few cabbage plants in a different row that was covered but the moth got in. Wasn’t a lot of damage though. I harvested and used. They were delicious.
About the Row Cover Fabric
The row cover fabric is about 6 years old, maybe older. It had some small holes which I repaired short term with tape. As the days passed it developed more holes in a couple of places. Repaired them with shipping tape as well.
The tape won’t last. Eventually it comes off and you have to tape it again. I’ve repaired it 3 times since April. Wasn’t a big deal since it only took a few minutes and more importantly — it worked!
These Columbia Cabbage heads were medium and compact. Weighed about 2 to 3 pounds. No splitting. I couldn’t have been more pleased!
Also had just as many small sized heads (Green Express) which were very nice. (I like the Columbia better since they’re just the right size for me.)
I leave cabbage in the garden as long as possible since I don’t have the room to store many. Three heads remain at this writing. (Plus 3 young plants planted late that may or may not give me cabbage by fall!)
From what I’ve read, cabbage likes to be stored at 32º F. Mine are stored closer to 40ºF.
I wrap each head in a large paper towel attempting to cover all of it. Then place in a plastic bag and seal. This is not long term storage however. I eat the cabbages usually within 3 weeks and sometimes sooner.
Not many beets in my garden, because they’re not my favorite thing. But I enjoy having some for diet diversity.
(And if you juice vegetables they’re a must-have. It only takes a small piece of beet in with a lot of veggies to make a delicious difference.)
I’ve grown many varieties over the years. Detroit Red is my choice as the best overall for beauty and eating.
Beets pictured below are Detroit Red. The leaves stayed beautiful up until last week.
The beets are now huge. Used two of them the other day with garlic, onions, potato and carrot peelings to make potassium broth. (I use it as a liver tonic, plus it’s delicious.)
As you can see in the picture above, the Detroit Red had perfect leaves for a long time. So I used those when I wanted to add beet greens to salads in June and through mid-July.
Towards the end of July leaves lost their beauty. The beets however taste fine.
Found an interesting small variety to try this year named Babybeat.
They get about the size of a plum and are truly delicious. Still have half a dozen or so in the ground. Pulled a few yesterday and steamed until tender. Delicious.
Flea beetles got to the leaves of the Babybeats the minute they started growing. But that didn’t hurt the taste of the beets or affect their growth. (If flea beetle damage totally destroys the leaves when plants just come up, then growth will be affected.)
Since this is the first year for this variety in my garden, I don’t know (yet) if they’re prone to flea beetle damage or if it was where they were placed in the garden. In my garden flea beetles can attack plants in one bed and not touch those in another bed a few feet away.
Never tasted Okra that I enjoyed ; thus, never grew it — until this year.
Two things influenced my decision to give it a try. A dear reader sent me a book on Okra sometime ago. AND a long-time friend made it sound worth trying.
Only have five plants and didn’t place them in prime garden real estate. None are very tall, but all are robust and bearing fruit. More than enough for me.
Sautéed the pods in a tablespoon of olive oil for two minutes and then added to my chopped raw vegetables.
I’ll save some seed and grow a couple of plants each year to help keep my diet diversified.
Intended to leave 3 heads of broccoli for seed saving. (3 is a good number for diversity’s sake.)
They were too irresistible and succumbed to my hunger. Ended up with only one for seed saving.
Harlequin bugs haven’t been too bad to control this year. Because of that I was able to leave a few broccoli plants in the garden longer than usual. I cut the “branches/stalks”, sauté, and use with my chopped vegetables.
The percentage of germination for my first planting of snap beans was poor. Ended up with 4 plants. Those 4 plants gave me 8 meals while I was waiting for the second planting to produce.
My 3rd planting of beans is almost ready to bear fruit.
I’ll plant one more time the middle of August for a fall crop.
Peanuts and Parsley
The parsley that was protected during the winter took me through the spring and is now going to seed. I planted more parsley in the spring in several places throughout the garden to make sure I’d have some for summer.
Keeping it spread throughout the garden increases my chances of having parsley intact after the Black Swallow Tail butterfly comes through. In spite of efforts to keep the caterpillar under control, they can quickly eat the plant to a nub if you miss seeing them for a day or so.
The peanuts are looking fantastic — at least on top of the ground. Won’t check underground until about September or when the tops start to die back. They too are planted in several spots throughout the garden.
To see what my peppers have always looked like by this time each year see this post. You should get a laugh or two from it as well.
Peppers — even when planted early — sit there for the longest time until conditions suit them. Then they quickly grow to giants. (At least mine always did.)
Wanting to see how late I could plant and get the same results, I decided to plant peppers later than usual and transplant to the garden about late June or the first of July.
I’m not 100% sure yet (because there are always so many variables), but I think that may have been a mistake. Maybe they need to “sit there” after establishing roots and wait. By fall I should know more.
All the pepper plants look healthy and I’ve even gotten a few peppers. But they’re not HUGE and loaded with fruit as in past years.
The flea beetle and/or the Harlequin bugs both love Russian Kale. I hand pick the Harlequin bugs to control them. But with flea beetles, I just watch and hope they won’t do too much damage before the plants “outgrow” them. Will depend on conditions.
In the meantime I pick a lot of the new leaves for salads.
Once I see which plants are the strongest I’ll thin out the others.
Last year I didn’t grow enough onions. This year I probably grew too many.
Harvest for early maturing onions like Texas Super Sweets starts the first of June. The long day and intermediate onion harvests starts about the end of June and continues through the first part of August.
I can hardly get my back door open and walk through my mud room porch to the kitchen because of all the onions laid out in baskets to cure. They take up every inch of available space.
Curing my Onions
It’s much easier (and way less mess) to cure outside. Bill use to set up screens for me protected with a tarp. (See this post for pictures and details.) I can’t handle all that – so I have to cure inside.
When I ran out of floor space in the mud room, out of desperation I placed four flats (turned upside down) in a spot that is mostly shaded all day. Put the onions on top and then protected from rain with my makeshift cold frame that I use to start and/or protect seedlings in late winter and early spring.
It’s not the best set up for curing onions but should protect them from dew and/or unexpected showers unless there is lot of wind with rain. That’ll blow off the cold-frame unless I have enough heads-up time to anchor it in place.
I usually transplant cukes to the garden at the end of May or first of June. Mine have always seemed to like the conditions in June. Not too cold — not too hot; like Goldilocks’ porridge it seems to be just right.
This year it was July before I got them into the garden. As you can see in the picture, the foliage loved it. However, when temperatures stayed above 90º for weeks, they didn’t set fruit.
When checking the vines for squash bugs yesterday I noticed a lot of small cucumbers. Hopefully they’ll keep growing.
Final Thoughts on Learning Organic Gardening
If you’re a new gardener some of the best advice I can give you — (other than the 3 keys) — is to enjoy the journey.
You’re never going to know everything — and you don’t need to.
Every year is different; most things are cyclical; and many variables that influence crop performance are so minute you’ll never be aware of them.
Yes, nature is complex!! BUT she makes it sooo easy for the gardener. All you need do is follow her example while you tend your garden.
Enjoy every minute in your garden and look at everything as a learning experience.
PS – Please leave me a comment and let me know if you like posts like these and if they’re helpful to you.
All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com. All Rights Reserved.