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Getting started with organic gardening

Tomorrow, I’ll be starting a series on beginning organic gardening and would love your thoughts and experiences!

Some of the issues I am looking at covering are:

In the mean time, I’d love to know about your experiences with organic gardening. Have you tried only to cede your garden to the bugs? Or have you found your garden to be relatively healthy? Why are you interested in organic gardening?

Feel free to share links to your blog as well if you’ve written about your experiences and concerns regarding gardening. I’d love you to join the discussion so we can all learn from each other!

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Our gardening adventure: A mix of planning and discovery

Taking the lead from Freedom Lover’s Academy and Living Our Way, I thought I’d share some pictures of our garden in progress.

First, our hired help. My husband’s baby. The Ford 9N tractor:

He actually left me with specific instructions for staging the photo.

“Make sure you get the barn in the background. But not the water heater.”

I think the model makes the picture, but that’s a mom speaking. For my husband, it is all about the toys. Er, tools.

Hey, you can even see the aforementioned water heater along with the plow and the blade. We don’t have much use for a snow blade in April, but they are cheaper out of season. And my husband has regraded our driveway twice, now. You can also see the hosta. What a surprise to walk out to the barn one morning and find a neat row of beautiful hosta.

One of our neighbors told us this place used to be “done up real nice.” Evidence of that is all around, peeking through an unkempt field…

…and fighting for space within the confines of an old flower bed.

We have found the outlines of several such beds in the field and my daughter has taken it upon herself to revive them. She’s collecting papers to lay down around the flowers to kill the grass and beginning to plan what she wants to add to each.

Shielding us from the farmland to the south is an entire hedge of lilacs.

Lilacs which are filling the spring air with their perfume.

Then, there’s the garden we’re working on. I wanted to take some video of my husband plowing with his new toys, but unfortunately the camera batteries were dead. The sight of him on his new tractor, the anticipation of breaking the first ground, and the hilarity of watching tractor tires spin at the attempt shall forever be etched in my memory but I lack any photographic evidence.

A few tries, however, and he started to learn his machine. The finished product, nicknamed “the Grand Canyon” by the children who love to jump from clod to clod:

Obviously, we aren’t quite ready for planting, which means we have probably missed potatoes for this year and my peas will have to wait for fall. I do, however, have a window full of tomatoes and peppers and a few onions that have survived, waiting on a freshly tilled garden and our last frost date.

It actually measures over 3,000 square feet which is why I’m not out there with a hoe. We found a disc harrow for the right price, but lacking a pickup is proving a bit of an inconvenience in purchasing tractor implements. If we can get delivery worked out, I’ll share some video.

How is your gardening going? I’d love to see pictures, so please feel free to share links to entries describing your spring gardening!

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Free March planting calendar for zones 3-10

I finally took some time over the weekend to plan out my spring planting calendar and was pleased to note that the only vegetables I had missed starting on time were those in the brassica family I have vowed never to plant again. At least until next year, when I plan to have a screened box to protect them from those inane little worms that left my broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts nothing but green skeletons last year.

For those of you who would like a little help with what to plant when (believe it or not, you aren’t supposed to start seeds the minute they’re available at WalMart, nor plant them the first sunny day after they’re available), I decided to make my planting calendar available as a free download.  It is actually color coded for zones three through ten, though I know absolutely nothing about gardening in warmer climates. Do y’all even start seeds down there? If you are further north, you may want to actually start seeds earlier than I’ve indicated due to a shorter growing season. Who wants their tomatoes to die back a week after they start really coming on? The dates on the calendar were achieved by counting backwards from the last frost date in each zone and comparing that to the charts in Square Foot Gardening.

If you are not sure what zone you are in, Burpee has a nice map on their website that even lets you enter your zip code for an immediate confirmation that you can indeed read your location correctly.  You then take that information and look at my March planting calendar and notice the bottom where each of the zones are printed in a different color. Say you are zone 5, like me. You will notice that “zone 5” is green. Just follow the dates printed in green for a rough estimate of when to start or plant seeds.

“Start” refers to the date you should start seeds indoors. If you have cold frames or some other method of warming the soil and protecting young seedlings from the cold, you can start the seeds there…but if you are that far along in your gardening experience, you probably do not need me to tell you when to start your seeds. “Plant” refers to the date you should plant either the seeds or your seedlings outdoors.

March is a pretty easy month for us northern gardeners. Here in the great Midwestern swampland, it is still too wet to even think about tilling. It is, however, a good time to think about starting a compost pile if you don’t have one already.  You can also map out your garden on paper and start a garden journal to keep track of your successes and failures to learn from next year.  Next week, I’ll share some ways to extend the growing season a little into those tempting, Springy mornings we are currently getting without having to worry about the fact that we are still a long ways away from that “after all danger of frost” date printed on the back of the seed packet.

I will also put up April’s calendar by the first of April to help you through your gardening chores for next month so remember to come back if you find this at all helpful!

Also consider sharing in the Share the Harvest challenge! Plant a little extra to share with a neighbor, friend or family member who could use it and enter to win $15 in free seeds! You can also download my free e-book, Developing Christian Character Through Gardening, to help turn you garden into a summer lesson on The Parable of the Sower.

Any questions? Is there any information that would be helpful to include as I start working on subsequent calendars?