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Easy Organic Gardening Tips

October 23rd, 2012 at 09:42 pm

My father was an organic gardener back in the 1970s before anyone else had ever heard the term "organic." It was his hobby then, and gardening is still his hobby now as he approaches 80. One of his tricks is to mulch and compost non-pine or -spruce type of leaves over the winter. He makes piles of mulched leaves about 5 to six feet wide.

About once every two weeks in the winter, he turns the piles and puts water on them if it hasn't snowed; if it has snowed, the snow melt is the water for the compost process. You'll know if the material is composting because snow will melt off the tops and you'll have brown mounds among the snow.

Now, in the Spring comes the "secret:" In the piles, plant potatoes throughout the pile of "now dirt," then grow corn in the middle, and tomatoes along the edges. My father puts up 4 inch welded wire "cages" along the perimeter. Just use 3.1 times the diameter for the length, or about 18.5 feet for 6 foot piles; he does about 15.5 feet for his 5 foot piles. The welded wire holds up the tomato plants, and they're going to need the support with all the tomatoes that will be growing on them.

Each of those crops pulls different nutrients from the ground so they don't interfere with one-another. He gets bushels of each item from one pile, and normally has about 6 to 10 piles. The size of his harvests is amazing. Also, the weeding is minimal, because the heat from composting and the freeze on the top of the piles from turning kills 99.9% of the weed seeds that make it into the piles over the Winter, and his harvest plants choke out the remaining random weed seeds that make it, with only minimal manual weeding.

He also has an eye for tomato plant "suckers." I don't know how he knows, but he pulls off these baby branches and every branch that remains bears fruit. He says that the "suckers" he pulls off would not have borne fruit. He also finds suckers on his corn plants and removes those, as well, but even I can recognize corn suckers.

The Autumn-Winter compost gives fresh nutrients every year, and he just collects bags of leaves from around his neighborhood in the Fall (now's the time), from houses that don't have anything but deciduous trees such as oaks and elms and suchlike. Just no pine needles is his main goal. Once a guy told my dad that he'd sell his bags of leaves. Needless to say, my dad just drove away and went to the next house. He always asks the owners before picking up the bags of leaves, and will explain to them why if the owner is curious.

Remind me to tell you the story about his plum tree that was so heavily loaded with plums that it fell over.

4 Responses to “Easy Organic Gardening Tips”

  1. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Oh, I am so in agreement with your Dad about leaves. (See my just written blog entry.) Autumn gold for the garden! I, too, am happy to collect others' leaves. Any chance he lives in the northeast corner of the US? That style of tomato care seems to be popular there. I just let mine become as bushy as they want, but stake up my cages with rebar to support all the weight.

  2. Wino Says:

    Not quite. He's in the mid-Atlantic. Truth to tell, I hate gardening because of all the stuff he had me and my brothers do to help him with his hobby. I don't even like mowing a lawn now because of the hours I spent tilling, etc., for his gardens.

  3. rob62521 Says:

    Sounds like your dad should be written up in an article for Mother Earth News! I think when folks got away from using leaves and clipping and such for fertilizer, it has really hurt us health wise. My dad used to talk about working on the farm and using manure for fertilizer...icky stuff to work with, but sure was good for the crops. Erma Bomback tagged the book title correctly when she wrote, "The grass is always greener over the septic tank..."

  4. Jerry Says:

    That is so great and leads to a little hope for the future! I love that there are people with this knowledge out there, as opposed to the "food industry"... I hope that you get to enjoy his produce, even though you don't like gardening any more! The organically grown food offers insurance of a better product overall.

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