Preparing a Seed Bed

 

Seeds need plenty of air in the soil if they are to germinate successfully. Soil in which seeds are to be sown directly has to be much finer in texture than normal garden soil. All stones, bits of twigs and clods of soil should be broken down and then raked over the soil. Leave the seedbed for a month before sowing. Then rake again. Water well before and after sowing, using the shower setting on your hose. All of these steps will help to ensure a good start.

Starting From Seed
Start with good quality seeds you can trust. Otherwise, the work and effort you have invested in preparing your garden will be wasted until the next season. Always follow the manufacturers’ recommendations for planting depth, moisture, and the time of year you should begin. Seeds vary and require different sets of standards in order to germinate properly. In general, if the bed is prepared properly, kept moist and weed free, you will have a successful garden from scratch. .

Fertilization
Prior to sowing your seeds, you should mix ample amounts of organic matter into your soil, along with Dr. Earth® organic fertilizer. Work both the fertilizer and organic matter into the soil, rake it smooth, water it thoroughly and let it sit for 30 days prior to sowing. After the seeds have sprouted, and have their first set of true leaves, it is always beneficial to give them a light foliar feeding to give them an extra boost toward becoming established. Use a liquid fertilizer that contains seaweed extract. Do not use a chemical, water soluble fertilizer as it has the potential to burn young plants easily.

Planting in Containers

 

Choosing a Container
It is important to choose a container that is big enough to accommodate the plant’s future growth. Next, check that the container has sufficient drain holes. Good drainage is very important!

Transplanting
Fill the container with Dr. Earth® Potting Soil until it is filled to a level that allows the base of the plant to sit one inch below the top of the container. Add Dr. Earth® Organic 2™ Starter Fertilizer according to the package directions. Holding the plant in the desired position, continue to fill in around the roots with potting soil and fertilizer mixture until the container is filled to one inch below the top of the container. Water thoroughly.

Existing Containers
Remove the top one third, and all loose soil from the existing container. Use your fingers, or a garden hose with low pressure to remove the soil. Replace it with fresh Dr. Earth® Potting Soil and provide it with a feeding with Dr. Earth® Liquid Solution™ to stimulate fast growth and stress recovery.

Your plants will love it!

Soil Structure

 

It is well worth knowing a bit about soil’s actual composition. Correct analysis of the soil is one of the key elements in the success of growing certain types of plants. The kind of soil you have in your garden—along with other factors such as climate and rainfall—determine which particular plants you can grow.

Since the soil is made up of mineral particles to which organic matter has been added, the nature of a particular soil depends on the nature of the underlying rock. If you live in a river valley—where particles have been ground down to form silt or clay—the soil will have different properties than it would in areas with only a thin covering of soil, where it is probably rocky or sandy. These underlying conditions also determine how acid or alkaline the soil is, another important factor in determining what kind of vegetation it will support.

Improving Soil Structure
Although nature can cope perfectly well with poor soil conditions—ensuring that only suitable plants will survive to propagate themselves—the gardener wants a far wider scope. To grow a larger range of plants than nature had in mind, it is important to improve the soil in various ways.

Clay
Clay has the finest particles of minerals and the least amount of air in its structure. Unless you work lots of grit and organic matter into it, it will be hard to grow a good range of plants in clay.

Silt
The particles in silt lie somewhere between those of sand and clay soils in size, and if it contains lots of organic matter, silt makes good garden soil. It has a silky feel and is often found in river valleys.

Sand
Sand has the coarsest particles of minerals and, although it is well aerated, water runs through it very easily. Sand needs to have plenty of organic matter added to it, to bind the particles and improve its moisture retaining properties.

Loam
This is the soil structure for which all gardeners aim: a good combination of organic matter with the basic mineral particles, whether sand, silt or clay. It is achieved by generous and regular applications of composted material.

Plants will not thrive unless they have a certain amount of oxygen for their roots, and heavy clay soil has such small particles that very little air penetrates it. In such circumstances, it is the gardener’s job to create a more porous texture to the soil, normally by adding lots of organic matter, and possibly some grit. Another way of improving heavy clay soil is to add gypsum. If the soil is very heavily waterlogged and fails to drain well, you may consider creating some form of artificial drainage as well.

With light sandy soil, the main problem is that it drains too freely and retains very little moisture. In periods of drought, therefore, plants will suffer and possibly die. Again, the answer is to add plenty of bulky organic matter to help bind the particles together.

To find out what your soil consists of, take a lump of it in your hand and crumble it between your fingers. If the soil is very sandy, you will actually hear the sound of grains rubbing together, and feel them between your fingers. A less sandy soil often found in areas surrounding a river bed is silt, which has a soapy feel to it. Clay is very heavy and sticky with a glaze on its surface that causes it almost to shine.

These are the basic soil types that you will find in your garden. What you have to do is create a loamy soil, a rich mixture of soil that feels light and friable to the touch, and has a pleasant, brown, earthy color to it. This quality of soil encourages earthworm activity and is well aerated— because it is neither too dense nor too crumbly—and holds moisture to the right degree for microbes, mycorrhizae and, most importantly, for plant roots.

Dr. Earth® products contain the right proportions of microbes and mycorrhizae, blended with premium organic materials to help correct and enhance all soil types.

Natural Lawn Care

 

The way to a lush green lawn begins with an understanding of how lawns grow and a respect for the needs of the grass plants. Misunderstanding and mistakes abound, especially in the areas of mowing, watering, and fertilizing. Let’s take a look at these aspects of lawn care.

Mowing
How high or low you set the mower blade is based on the needs of the grass plants at the time, and that can change with the seasons. But one of the biggest mistakes people make is setting the blades too low. Their theory is that by cutting the grass very short they won’t have to mow as often. What actually happens is that they are putting the health, and maybe even the life, of their lawn in jeopardy.

For one thing, photosynthesis takes places in the blades of the grass, creating sugar as a food source for the roots. When the blades are cut too short, the plants are stressed in their attempt to make an adequate supply of sugar and must work harder. The result is actually faster growth. And the way to thicken the turf is to be sure the plants are allowed to make not only enough, but more than enough, sugar. That excess goes into the production of new plants, called rhizomes.

Another factor to consider is the competition between the grass and the weeds. Whichever one gets the most sun will shade the other. Without enough sun plants can’t carry on photosynthesis and they die. You want to give the grass the advantage. Longer blades mean better health, and their length and density will allow the grass to outcompete with weeds. With too much shade, weed seedling, especially, won’t stand a chance.

Therefore, during the growing season, set your mower as high as it will go. (That is probably 3 to 4 inches. As temperatures cool and winter rains begin, it’s a good idea to then lower the blades a little. The lower lawn height will allow the grass blades to ”dry off” faster, helping to prevent fungus and disease.

When you do mow, leave the clippings right on the lawn. As they break down, they add nutritious organic material that helps prevent thatch and feeds the plants.

Watering and Soil pH
As counterintuitive as it may seem, you should water your lawn LESS often for better results, BUT WHEN YOU DO, WATER DEEPLY. That helps to develop grass roots that go farther down into the soil. Grass watered frequently and shallowly develops shallow roots and the many horizontal runners that make up mat of thatch. If the grass doesn’t show any signs of drought stress, it may not need watering. If the lawn has become quite dry, it works better to give it only ½ inch, wait for about 90 minutes, and then give it another ½ inch. Add organic mulch in late spring to help reduce heat stress in the summer. Dr. Earth® Natural Choice® Compost makes an excellent top dressing or mulch.

You can check to see how much water your lawn really receives, by putting a cup in the zone of the sprinkler and running it for the normal length of time. You should see at least an inch of water in the cup.

Have the pH of your soil professionally tested because the inexpensive kits you can buy are often inaccurate. Your local county extension will sometimes test samples for free or for a minimal charge. Add lime if it is below 6.0 and soil sulfur if above 7.0. A higher number is more favorable to weeds, like dandelions, and grass prefers a pH of about 6.5, so accuracy matters.

Fertilizing
Grass consumes high levels of nitrogen. Weeds like clover, which are legumes, can draw nitrogen from the air but grass cannot, so their presence could mean your soil needs more nitrogen.

If your lawn needs fertilizer, apply Dr. Earth® Supernatural™ Lawn Fertilizer as recommended on the package. This will feed it and supply organic material to the soil for up to 3 months. Dr. Earth® contains PRO-BIOTIC™, beneficial soil microbes and 3 species of endo mycorrhizae. These living organisms develop a symbiotic relationship with your lawn, helping it to better absorb nutrients from the soil. They also aid in relieving drought stress by absorbing water from a much greater volume of soil.

Beneficial microbes in Dr. Earth® Supernatural™ Lawn Fertilizer not only help to digest the organic fertilizer, but also aid in the consumption of thatch. Some of the microbes even produce antibiotic compounds that suppress disease-bearing fungal pathogens, preventing them from becoming established in your lawn. The end result is a healthy, productive, weed, drought and disease resistant lawn that will give you years of enjoyment.

Home Grown Tomatoes

 

I have never tasted an organically grown tomato that was not delicious. In fact, every home grown organic tomato I have ever tasted has been more delicious than any tomato I have ever bought at the supermarket. Tomatoes are fun and easy to grow once you know the basic growing requirements: sun, water, trellising, good soil, and feeding.

Sun
Most tomatoes require full sunlight for maximum growth and fruit size, although there are varieties that can tolerate less sunlight than others and still remain very productive. Check with your local nursery professional for those varieties if sunlight is limited in your garden.

Water
Water tomatoes as they require it. Young tomatoes will require a little more water at first until they become established and their root system has penetrated deep into the soil. You can check to see if your plants might need water simply by poking your finger into the soil. If it is dry to the touch two inches below the soil surface, then it is time to water. Depending on the time of year and your climate, you will have to water as the tomato plants require it. The warmer it is, the more you water. Tomato plants will tell you very quickly if they are in drought stress by wilting their leaves, so it is very important to keep an eye on your garden and change your watering habits according to your climate and your plants’ needs.

Trellising
Staking or trellising your tomatoes is very important as a means of exposing as many of the leaves to sunlight as possible. The more sunlight energy tomatoes have, the larger the fruit size. Sunlight translates into sugar, and sugar translates into food, taste, and nutrition for your tomatoes.

Good Soil
Soil preparation is one of the most important elements of a successful tomato harvest. Organically grown tomatoes start with adding the proper organic ingredients to the soil, such as compost, mulch, planting mix and, most importantly, organic fertilizer (tomatoes are heavy feeders.) Compost and mulch will help create a friable soil that is workable, retains water, discourages weed growth, creates a friendly environment for earthworms, and reduces water runoff. These factors will also help it retain more nutrition, made available to plants through a continuous supply, as the organic ingredients break-down slowly over time.

You can do all of this preparation, OR you can simply purchase our perfectly customized Dr. Earth® Home Grown® Vegetable Garden Planting Mix. Make it easy on yourself by taking advantage of the scientific research behind this specialized mix.

Feeding
The organic fertilizer will feed the living soil. By feeding the beneficial soil organisms—or ”microbes”—that make the soil “alive,” we feed our tomatoes. This process is achieved as the microbes digest the organic fertilizer and convert it into a form that plants can use. For example, when we feed our soil with fish meal, plants cannot use the fish meal in its protein form. It must be broken down into a simpler, more accessible form of nitrogen that tomato plants can use directly, for their growth. Think of these microbes as enzymes, very similar to the enzymes in our stomachs. When we eat proteins, such as those found in fish, red meats, or fowl, they must be digested or broken down in our stomach before we can receive the nutritional benefits of the protein. The same exact thing occurs in the soil through the enzymatic action of the beneficial soil microbes.

Also, tomatoes are susceptible to a condition called ”blossom end rot” which will distort the growth and ruin the tomatoes. This is usually caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil. Dr. Earth® Organic 5™ Tomato Vegetable and Herb Fertilizer contains a high calcium value, to avoid blossom end rot. Feeding the soil with rich organic materials is necessary to achieve tasty, vigorous, large, abundant, and nutritious tomatoes. Visit your local independent nursery professional for advice on which tomato varieties will work best in your garden.

Milo Lou Shammas
Founder and Formulator

Compost Tea

Soil Drench
Apply tea directly to the soil. Note: Expect to see solid material at the bottom of the bucket. Do not throw this solid material away. Spread these solids as nutrient-rich mulch around any plant in the garden.

That’s it! Tea is fun in the sun! Sit back and watch your plants grow.

PROBIOTIC™ Dr. Earth Organic Fertilizer Tea
For a rich tea made from Dr. Earth’s® Organic Fertilizer, mix 2 pounds, or 5 cups of fertilizer for every 5 gallons of water. Let the mixture set for 24 hours. Strain well and mulch all the solids around the root zone.

To Use
The liquid portion (tea) can be applied @ 1 to 2 cups for roses, or 2 to 4 cups for larger shrubs. Use the tea full strength as a foliar feed and as a soil drench for deep root feeding of all plants.

Check out my ”How to make fertilizer tea” video by clicking on “videos.”)

Container Vegetables

 

Container Vegetable Gardens
A 4 foot by 8 foot balcony is all you need to grow enough organic vegetables to satisfy your hungry appetite. When space is limited in your garden, or if you live in an apartment or just do not want to invest time in a full-scale vegetable garden, you can still enjoy homegrown vegetables within reach of your kitchen.

Growing organic vegetables in containers is rewarding and easy. Just pay close attention to a few important rules and you can invest minimal amounts of time to harvest an abundance of organic vegetables. The tips in this article will supply you with all the information you need to create a productive container garden that is easy to set up, maintain, and harvest. Container vegetables can provide you with nutritious, tasty, and visually pleasing organic vegetable plants. Also, there is nothing tastier than picking a few fresh vegetables from the garden and putting them in a salad within minutes of harvest, truly a reward.

Five things must be considered prior to planting your organic vegetable garden.
1) Sunlight
2) Container size
3) Potting medium
4) Fertilizer
5) Trellising support.

Sunlight
More is better! This will be the most important factor to consider. Too little, and your plants will not be able to convert sufficient sunlight energy to produce fruit of any real value. (But on the other hand, some herbs that are grown specifically for their foliage may do fine in areas with lower sunlight.) Tracking the sun and shade patterns in your garden will give you a good analysis of the space you plan on gardening in and a clear idea of what plants you can grow there with success.

Remember this very simple rule: if you are growing plants that will set flowers that turn into fruit—such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, squashes, and other vegetables—they will require a lot of sunlight.

It takes sufficient photosynthesis to produce the required levels of sugars to make fruit of any real size, taste, and value for the gardener. Photosynthesis will produce sugars that will directly feed flowers and fruits. That is why sunlight is very important for these kinds of vegetables.

For a more specific list of plants that will thrive in your garden, and for further information on the amount of sunlight they will require, it is best to consult with your local independent nursery. They know what kind of plants you can grow and enjoy with immediate success.

Container Size
Size Matters! It is the second most important variable for success. Container size is very important because the more soil volume that your plants have, the more water and nutrients will be available for their root systems. That will directly influence the size and quality of the vegetables and herbs you will harvest, so more is better. We have learned that tomatoes require a minimum of five gallons of soil in order to develop into full size plants, with the ability to produce fruits full of good taste and nutrition. Other vegetable crops can survive in containers with less soil volume, but even they would enjoy more soil and will produce larger, more bountiful crops in a larger container.

The material your container is made of also makes a big difference. Terracotta containers are always a good choice because they breathe with the soil and do not fluctuate to extreme temperatures quickly. Redwood is also a good. It will breathe and has the ability retain moisture and not dry out too quickly. There are also a wide variety of plastic containers you can choose from, and they will work just fine, but will require a little more watering than thicker, denser pots.

It is especially important to use mulch if you are planning on using a plastic container in order to retain as much moisture as possible. I would recommend using mulch with all containers. Plants in small containers will dry out quickly, so keep an extra close eye on these pots. Less plant foliage will mean less watering later. A larger plant will require more water. Pay close attention to all of your plants and water as often as they require it.

Potting Medium
Just Go Organic!™ Soil is the source of life for every living thing on earth. It must be treated with respect, dignity, reverence, and the understanding that it is not “dirt”! It is alive with an abundance of beneficial living organisms that promote life for all plants, directly affecting the health of the plants and animals we consume. If the soil is healthy, the crop that is grown in it will be healthy. The type of soil or ”potting medium” you choose will have a large impact on your plants and their ability to produce an abundance of large, nutritious vegetables.

If you have a potting soil that you like, and have had good success, stick with it. Please make sure that the bagged potting soil you are using does not contain any chemicals, such as synthetic plant nutrients, which are common in bagged potting soils.

We recommend using Dr. Earth® Potting Soil™. It contains everything your vegetables will need to produce an abundant crop. Dr. Earth® Potting Soil™ contains Pro-Biotic™ beneficial soil microbes plus ecto and endo mycorrhizae, which help your seedlings and transplants get off to a great start. Dr. Earth® soil also retains the maximum amount of water and nutrients, while simultaneously making sure that the soil drains properly, to avoid fungal diseases that could destroy your plants quickly.

Fertilizer
Feed Your Soil! You must feed the soil that will feed your plants’ root systems. Tomatoes and most other vegetables, especially in containers, will require a lot of fertilizer to live up to their full potential. In containers, the roots do not have the ability to tap into food reserves from the soil environment. What you provide for them is what they get. It is especially important to use Dr. Earth® Organic 5™ tomato, vegetable and herb fertilizer when growing vegetables in containers. Dr. Earth will feed the soil slowly and steadily, which in turn will feed the roots of your vegetable plants steadily and consistently. Organic 5™ is rich with a plethora of multi-minerals which your vegetables will take up. In return, you will benefit from these nutrients as you consume your harvest. Healthy soil equates to healthy vegetables.

Use Dr. Earth® fertilizer once at planting and repeat the application 2 to 3 months later depending on the length of your gardening season. Imagine the pleasure of having rich, tasty, and nutritious vegetables growing right outside your kitchen door.

Trellising Support
Give your plants a shoulder to lean on! Exposing as many leaves to sunlight as possible will help to increase your harvest. Some of your vegetables will not require any support at all, but cucumbers, tomatoes, and other vine plants require support to keep them off the ground and growing in the desired location.
Air space between your plants is very important as well, to help minimize fungal diseases your plants may be exposed to. Air space will also aid beneficial insects and allow them to do their work more easily, as flowers are more accessible to them. When purchasing your seeds or transplants, ask your local independent nursery professional what type of support he or she recommends for the specific plants you plan to grow.

Clean Water, Clean Lakes

 

The Connection Between Fertilizer and Water Quality

Water quality starts at home
Clean water in our lakes, reservoirs and streams starts at home with basic practices you can incorporate into your lawn and garden care program. There is a pipeline from your garden to a body of water. Regardless of where you live, you are a part of a watershed —a region where water flows across or under on its way to a lake, river, stream or ocean. Year-round lawn and garden care practices impact water quality even if you don’t live near a body of water.

The problem: Water-soluble Phosphorous
Thanks to modern science, we now understand how the phosphorous contained in fertilizer contributes to poor water quality. Phosphorous is the middle number on the ”NPK” analysis printed on a fertilizer bag. It is present in all living things including the soil. Too much phosphorous however, can disrupt nature’s delicate balance. Runoff carries excess phosphorous from fertilizers across lawns, roads and woods into ditches and streams which eventually run into reservoirs, lakes, bays or the ocean. Water soluble phosphorous is ”junk food” for the algae present in all these waterways.

Lawns – a big contributor to the problem
Lawns and plants are not usually able to absorb all of the water soluble fertilizers in chemical fertilizers, so some of it becomes the source of water pollution. As algae grow out of control (known as algae ”bloom”) it reduces the clarity and visibility of the water. This in turn reduces photosynthesis by oxygen-producing aquatic plants, therefore reducing the oxygen in the water. Some forms of blue-green algae can even be toxic. Repeated algae blooms can create green-colored lakes with low oxygen that often results in fish kills or depleted water habitat for fish, wildlife and humans. Additionally, such conditions may degrade drinking water supplies and create other environmental nuisances. Many cities have put a ban on the use of chemical fertilizers in close proximity to lakes and rivers for this very reason.

The impact of algae
As watersheds are adapted from their natural state to residential, commercial, or industrial uses, the amount of phosphorous runoff into lakes may increase up to five to ten times. Algae-impacted lakes affect a community in several ways. Poor water quality significantly impacts the recreational value and use of the waterway and may reduce the value of the surrounding properties.

My personal concern
I am personally affected in this manner. I live on a 45 acre walnut farm which also serves as a testing ground for a wide variety of plants and trees. A good-sized creek runs through the property. From time to time, I personally witness algae blooms in the creek’s water as the neighboring farms apply chemical fertilizers and sprays to their crops. I enjoy fishing and eating a fresh-caught trout or bass once in a while, but I am genuinely concerned about the quality of the creek water which directly affects the quality of the fish in this creek. Of course, I only use organic fertilizers on my farm, but I cannot control what the other farmers use. This is a good illustration of the importance of using water-insoluble fertilizers such as Dr. Earth® around our homes, farms and communities.

Pollution from runoff
Runoff of agro-chemicals during storm and irrigation events is a significant concern from the standpoint of surface water quality. The delivery of phosphorous and pesticides into the surface water via runoff may contribute acute or chronic eco-toxic effects. Numerous studies have documented that the transport of agro-chemicals via runoff to streams is facilitated primarily by sediment movement. It has been observed that concentrations of phosphorous and nitrogen are often richer in the deposited sediment than the source soil. Fine soil particles if not blended with coarse organic materials tend to move quickly during irrigation or runoff events. This becomes even more critical in times of heavy rainfall as sediment-laden runoff moves from the land to the waterways.

The solution
There is a solution to phosphorous runoff. Dr. Earth® organic fertilizers contain only water-insoluble forms of phosphorous and will ensure that the fertilizer applied remains in the soil. The phosphorous will not leach into the water table and travel into waterways. Dr. Earth® contains Pro-Biotic™ with its beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizae. A vital mechanism for nutrient transfer by plants lies in the microbial process of the soil. The microbes’ ability to breakdown organic matter quickly, then release it as plant nutrients slowly and continuously over time, increases yield and builds the humus reserve in the soil. Humus conversion increases the soils ability to absorb and retain water, further reducing runoff and fertilizer loss caused by water or other erosive forces.

Be part of the solution!
Apply fertilizers only when they are needed, during the proper season, and in the correct amounts. Avoid getting the fertilizer on driveways, sidewalks, and in storm drains. Above all, apply carefully, especially when using chemical fertilizers.

Don’t let your fertilizers get into lakes, streams, or ponds. On lawns, use a mulching mower and cut no more than the top third of the grass. Keep leaves, grass clippings and soil out of streets and gutters. Clean up after your pet, pet waste contains phosphorous. Prevent soil erosion by covering the ground with vegetation or mulch. Feed plants in your yard, garden, and lawn with Dr. Earth® organic fertilizers, to avoid applying water soluble phosphorous.

We all share the same pool of water. Be conscientious in your gardening habits to ensure that future generations will enjoy a healthy, toxic-free environment. Poor water quality can impact the ability of fish and other wildlife to reproduce, feed, and survive in the dynamic aquatic environment. It all starts in our own backyard and ends in a large body of water. Please act as a responsible steward of our environment.

Planting with Nature

 

If your soil presents specific problems with its structure—for example, being very wet or very dry—rather than expend great quantities of energy trying to bring it closer to the norm, you can always copy nature, and grow those plants that will thrive naturally in such conditions.

For instance, if you have an area of land in your garden that has poor drainage, often caused by heavy clay soil, you have the ideal conditions in which to create a bog garden. The virtues of a bog garden are that the plants that thrive there are usually large and lush with beautiful foliage. So, before you drain the site, think about whether it might be worthwhile adapting to the conditions that you have, rather than the reverse, and growing what nature intended for it.

If you have very sandy soil, you may want to grow those plants that will do well in those conditions. Cactus and succulents will be very happy in sandy soils that contain little to no nutrients and hold little moisture.

When you are buying a plant from your local nursery, tell your nursery professional about the soil types you have and ask them to recommend those plants that will thrive in your specific soils. It is better to work with nature, than to try changing it. Sunlight and moisture should be considered prior to buying any plants. Keep in mind that all plants will do better with organic materials added to them, regardless of their indigenous setting.

Tina Allworth
Organic Gardener

Diversity is Key to Abundance

 

In the natural world, diversity is the perfect model for sustainable ecosystems. Diversity is a major factor in preventing pest and disease build-up because of the way in which organisms interact. When any one species becomes dominant in an area, its predators will move in to take advantage of the bounty. Eventually, they will reduce the numbers of the dominant species, restoring the balance of Nature.

In the past, farmers relied on natural methods of farming because chemicals were not available to them. Now, it is possible to grow crops as monocultures, because the use of pesticides has given us a way of controlling competition. This unnatural form of agriculture has created a range of unintended problems. We can learn from these mistakes by planting a diverse range of species in our gardens, thus naturally reducing pests and diseases.

The advantages of heirloom varieties
Heirloom plants are varieties that have been handed down through decades, or even centuries, from farmer to farmer and gardener to gardener. For roughly 12,000 years, human civilization has been based on agriculture and horticulture. During this time, thousands of genetically unique strains of fruits and vegetables have been selected and bred by farmers and gardeners. They represent a genetic heritage that is disappearing from commercial horticulture, where large-scale factory-type production demands that plants conform to strict guidelines to fit into mechanized systems.

By contrast, heirloom varieties are a celebration of genetic diversity whose greatest strength is the fact that there are individuals within each crop that mature a bit earlier or are more resistant to pests and diseases. Such characteristics are a tremendous advantage in the organic garden, where the produce does not have to fit into a narrow commercial window.

Fortunately, there are many gardeners who recognize the value of maintaining genetic diversity for future generations. Consequently, around the world various non-profit organizations have been formed to store seed or to help gardeners and farmers form networks that enable them to swap seed and vegetative material of heirloom plant varieties.

The many vital roles of herbs and flowers
Introducing a wide range of herbs and flowers into your organic garden will have all sorts of benefits. They will help attract an increased range of birds, insects, lizards, and other animals. Insects and birds will act as pollinators for your fruit and vegetables resulting in increased yields. Many of these creatures will also help to control pests. Inevitably, there will also be some negative consequences, such as birds feeding on fruit, but the diversity you create will be your insurance policy in that if one food crop is decimated there will be a host of others that can replace it.

Herbs often have aromatic oils that give their foliage and flowers as characteristic perfume. Herbs such as pyrethrum and garlic can be used to create organic remedies for pest and disease problems. In addition, such plants release oils into the air and soil that surrounds them, thereby helping to repel pests from your garden naturally. I have been a gardener for over many years and I have grown thousands of different plants, both commercially and personally. Diversification is a great insurance policy in everyone’s garden.