Increasing numbers of farmers are returning to the tried and true practices of organic farming, and you can do the same in your own backyard for the best veggies and flowers ever!
If there was one simple answer to all your garden questions, we'd love to have it ourselves, but part of the joy of gardening is its puzzles. Still, you can make life a little easier by knowing your garden's character (soil, temperature, sun, water) and by grouping plants together by their needs - too much nitrogen can wilt or encourage blight in some plants, for instance, so don't place them near plants that need heavy fertilizing.
Our readers offer information and opinions on Earth Clinic, not as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician, pharmacist, or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements or following any treatment suggested by anyone on this site. Only your health care provider, personal physician, or pharmacist can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for your unique needs or diagnose your particular medical history.
09/30/2012: Earth Clinic : "PLANT ROTATION — Rotating your plants every few years can break the disease cycle if particular microbes are returning annually to attack specific plants. Moving that crop to a significantly different location for a few years might break the cycle in that particular patch of soil. Ideally, give yourself about ten feet of separation between the new and the old plot."
09/08/2009: Staff from Earth Clinic: "Roses are not the only popular flower and garden plant to often be affected by a powdery white-to-gray layer of fungal spores from the White Powder Fungus, also called powdery mildew. The happy news is that, while unsightly, white powder fungi are not particularly damaging, and each fungus is particular to a type of plant, so other species in your garden ordinarily won't be contaminated. White powder mildew spreads in cool, moist environments and will take advantage of weak plants. There are organic treatments for white powder fungus, including cinnamon either sprinkled on dry or sprayed on; and baking soda seems to work as a preventative while Neem Oil might help to get rid of the powdery mildew. Copper sprays are the most common commercial treatment, but although copper is a natural and essential mineral, its concentration in the spray - along with the other chemicals that might be riding alongside - could not quite be called organic. Fortunately, the most effective step in combating white powder fungus is to carefully clip off affected leaves and dispose of them in such a way as not to spread the fungal spores or allow them to infiltrate your garden any further. A truly hot compost pile will take care of the spores, but throwing them in the trash might be your best bet. Then keep your plants watered from the base in dry times (don't water in the evenings), spaced out to improve airflow, and well fed with natural fertilizers."Replies
09/14/2009: "Tricia from Ireland, Ireland replies: "You say not to water the plants in the evening. I always thought this was a good time to water plants as they got to keep their moisture for a longer period of time due to the coolness. Does this go for all plants or just the ones with the mildew."
EC: You're right, evening can be a great time to water plants for just that reason, unless you're worried about mildew, which thrives on a humid evening or morning when the sun can't beat back its progress. It would be best to switch your watering schedule until the white powder mildew goes away, to keep the evening humidity down for your entire garden.
08/04/2009: Staff from Earth Clinic: "SOLARIZING — Here's a trick for killing off a fungus or other pathogen that seems to have infested your soil. After carefully removing the infected plants in the area, thoroughly water the area to be treated and give it time to seep in (overnight is a good idea), then cover the affected area with a clear plastic sheet and use weights or ties to keep the edges down. The idea is to more or less bake or steam out the infection, so over several weeks the soil should reach between 130 and 140 degrees F. Remove the plastic sheet after a month or two, and your soil should be back to normal."
Slugs and Snails
09/30/2012: Staff from Earth Clinic: "You want to grow a nice organic garden full of pesticide-free goodness, but the snails and slugs are always claiming the first bites on everything! What's to do? From the shear number of folk remedies available to combat them, you can easily see what a problem snails and slugs can be in the garden. Their aesthetic failings aside, these munchers can ravage a plant's leaves in no time at all. Prevention goes a long way. First remove the clutter from your garden, including decorative elements that give these guys shelter. Morning watering allows the soil to dry before night-feasting snails can come out to enjoy the moist environment. Rough mulches can deter these pests as well. Then give some of those folk remedies a try, but remember that what works in one place might not be right for another set of pests and conditions. Try, try again!"Replies
10/01/2012: Timh from Louisville, Ky, Usa replies: "A good size slug will make a catch for a fish like Bass or Catfish. Be careful to not eat fish from large rivers and reservoirs in densely populated, dense agricultural or industrial areas as the fish could contain high levels of pollutants and heavy metals. Always wash hands after handling snails as they are the primary source of the Liver Fluke."
[YEA] 04/12/2009: "Alan from Boulder, CO writes: "No one here has mentioned the beer trap yet, so I figured I might as well post it. It works for me out here in Boulder, but I guess it's not foolproof. Anyhow, the idea is that the slugs and snails are attracted to the yeast and sugar in the beer, but the alcohol kills them. Or dries them out. Here's my set up: a Frisbee turned upside down and filled with about two centimeters of cheap beer. I push the Frisbee down into the soil a bit, so that it's easy enough to crawl into. Whatever container you like, it should be shallow and fairly smooth. Something the slugs or snails won't mind climbing on. I leave a can of beer open in the refrigerator when I'm trying to kill them off, because you want the carbonation to be out of it. Bugs don't like bubbles, I guess. Toss the beer and the trapped slugs out every morning, then refill the tray with beer every evening until the problem goes away. It's a home remedy, for sure."Replies
[YEA] 04/25/2009: "Meg from Santa Clarita, CA replies: "My mother used the beer trap with great success!"
[YEA] 03/23/2009: "Michelle from Miami, FL writes: "After trying everything under the sun to deal with snails in my flower garden, on a friend's recommendation I tried used coffee grounds (not fresh). I sprinkle the grounds around the base of the plants that the snails love and voila, no more holes in my plants! They simply don't like the smell and move on. I like this much better than drowning the poor creatures in a can of beer or watching them melt with salt."
03/11/2009: "T from Maryland, USA writes: "I've been 'stockpiling' egg shells for a few months now in anticipation of my new veggie garden. Rinse the shells well and air dry them, then put them in a large plastic bag, crush them up a bit, and store in the freezer. Add some to the soil for nutrients, and sprinkle some around plants as they come up to deter slugs."
03/09/2009: "Dj from Pdx, Or writes: "Slug and Snail - Radishes, dorky but true: I have had good luck with radishes. Okay I sacrifice virgin radishes to the slug and snail gods/esses. Apparently the slugs and snails in my area are partial to radishes and will munch on those plants before they munch on my green beans, corn and cucumbers. I have a small garden so I do not know if the radishes are more attractive than say brussel sprouts. I just let the radishes grow and never pull them and the slugs seem to be happy with the arrangement. I am going to try the radishes in one of my flower beds next."
[YEA] 04/15/2009: "Karl (email@example.com) from St. Louis, Missouri writes: "Pepper and tomatoes (all) plants need to be "hardened off" prior to planting in the garden. Harden off by taking the plants outside during the day. Make sure to put them in the shade. Return them inside at night, usually 3-4 days of hardening off is sufficient. Tomato and peppers usually are planted outside in the garden around the second week of may depending upon your planting zone."
[YEA] 04/15/2009: "DPK from Hoosick Falls, NY writes: "My mother has always sworn by egg shells crumbled up a bit and scattered beneath tomato plants. She says they deter insects and provide nutrients needed by tomatoes in particular. We never worried about cleaning the egg shells up before tossing them out there, but some people think it a good idea, to keep the odor down."Replies
04/15/2009: "Matt from Burlington, VT replies: "Egg shells are also good for birds' digestion. In the winter when it's hard for birds to find grit or tiny pebbles to break down seeds, I crush dried egg shells and leave them near my bird feeders. They gobble it right up. Coarse sand also does the same trick, but I've always used egg shells."
04/15/2009: "Jane from Sussex, England writes: "When I first started gardening it was with a great boom! I read up on everything I could find at the time, (this was 40 years ago, before the days of the internet) and proceeded to scout around to see what I could find with regard to improving the soil at our new, little house in Greenwich, Connecticut. Great success story! Having been told that it was a hundred percent safe to use, I was given sludge (aka treated sewage) by the town, which was dumped at a really good distance away from the house, and also I was given a load of seaweed from the beach. The latter is also something that I believe would be preferable to keep at a distance while it rots. Eventually I carried barrowloads of my collection to where I wanted to plant tomatoes. Added all sorts of other natural items, with great and unprofessional enthusiasm! The end result was spectacular, enormously tall plants full of great tomatoes, and a bonus in the shape of a beautiful snake curled round the base of one of the plants. I vaguely remember it was called a bull snake, quite harmless. This is the story of someone attempting their first garden. Somehow I think that it was my best and most successful one."
04/15/2009: "Frank from Tulsa, OK writes: "I read a few years back in an organic gardening book to add 1 tablespoon of epsom salts to a gallon of water every time you water your tomatoes. I tried it last summer and my tomatoes grew like gangbusters. You do want to do a soil test before you add epsom salts first because you can harm your plants if you already have high levels of magnesium in the soil. Oh, one more thing --tomatoes don't like getting their leaves wet, so I always water from the bottom."
03/17/2012: Robert Henry from Ten Mile, Tn Usa: "HI YA'LL DOIN... Know this is not a gardening site but most know that I've been using numerous yearly detox's to get out what garbage I accumulate each year. I'm a gardner and I use pre-emergence herbicides. I just learned from the Texas folks that have the largest onion farm in the U. S. How they prevent grass with a corn by-product which is natural and not a toxin. Thought some on this site might like to know that and live a healther life.
When corn is processed into various things, a by-product called corn gluten remains. This is then fed to cattle and such. What has been recently learned that when this pellet is ground into a meal and spread on soil it will prevent weed seeds from germinating. Hey, but it will also prevent any seed from sprouting so you have to use it on transplants or wait until your veggie or flower seeds are up out of the ground.
This is what I'm doing this year in my garden and hope you can use this imformation for your health. This was news to me, but all know.... I's smart, jus slow.
10/01/2012: Carly from Seattle, Wa - Usa replies: "Hi Robert Henry....That sounds like it was made from the "Round-up ready" corn if it keeps things like grasses and weeds from growing.... if so, I wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole! Just a thought."
Wire Mesh to Protect Plants
05/07/2009: "Rose from Santa Cruz, California writes: "I laid a 1/2" wire mesh before I created my raised vegetable garden beds and haven't seen any gophers so far this year."Replies
05/25/2009: "Sandy from Carmel Valley, USA replies: "The wire mesh worked for me for several years but I was warned the mesh won't last forever and this spring I've seen several gophers back in the garden"