Growing Crops: Beans (Shell or Dried)

…as opposed to the “green beans” meant to be eaten fresh. Shell beans are the dried (or canned) beans you think of when you make bean soup or bean dip or chili or refried beans. They don’t grow much differently than their “green” cousins. The main difference is in when you harvest them.

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Composting – How to Compost 101

Compost is the absolute best fertilizer or soil amendment you can use in an organic fruit and vegetable garden. It helps create loam from sandy/silty or clay soils, prevents soil from becoming too acidic or basic, and is an excellent source of the proper balance of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

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Growing Crops: Corn

Corn is an impressive crop to grow, particularly in an urban or suburban environment, as it’s such an unexpected sight to see outside of rural farm country. You can grow corn for eating, or the multicolored varieties for Fall decorating, or popcorn varieties that are harvested after they have dried on the stalk. Not all at once, however, as different varieties need at least 100 yards between them to avoid cross-pollination.

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Growing Crops: Artichokes

Artichokes, also called Globe Artichokes, can be grown as an annual or a perennial (ideally as part of an edible landscape feature), depending on how much space you have available and how you prefer to grow them. Annual artichokes require a minimum of 100 days without frost, are planted in the Spring and harvested in the Fall. Perennial artichokes can be planted in Spring or Fall and harvested during either season, as well. Every 3 or 4 years carefully pull them out of the ground with the help of your garden fork, divide them, and then replant.

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Growing Crops: Arugula

Arugula, otherwise known as Rocket or Salad Rocket, is a tangy addition to green salads and cold pasta dishes. It is a cool season crop that will bolt with too much heat; however, do not be dismayed if your arugula bolts – while the leaves will be too bitter to eat, the edible flowers will make a colorful and flavorful addition to your dishes.

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Garden Seeds – Planting Outdoors

Seeds need properly prepared soil, moisture, plenty of air, and mild temperatures (at least 45 degrees F) in order to grow. Presuming you have double-tilled – and hopefully raised – your garden bed, removed chunks of debris, and smoothed the soil with your garden rake, then your soil is ready. If your soil is dry, water it thoroughly about an hour before you intend to plant your seeds in order for it to drain. Use a fine spray so that you don’t have to go back and re-smooth the soil. You don’t want it water-logged, just good and moist.

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Growing Crops: Black Eyed Pea

Also known as the Cowpea, this legume (actually a bean) is a staple of Southeastern American cuisine. A versatile food item, they can either be picked when immature like you would pick green beans or sugar snap pea pods and eaten whole, or allowed to mature like you would grow shelling peas or beans, removing the peas from the pods and eating them fresh or drying for later use.

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Raised Bed Gardening

Planting your garden in traditional rows at ground level ensures more labor. There will be much more tilling, weeding, mulching, and drainage issues – and a smaller overall harvest – than if you constructed raised garden beds.

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Garden Seeds – Heirloom, Organic, or What?

First of all, “bargain bin” seeds are no bargain. If you see packets of vegetable seed marked down to a ridiculously low price, ask yourself why they’re marked down. It might be that the retailer is trying to get rid of seeds that didn’t sell well (maybe rutabagas aren’t all that popular in your area and the retailer bought too many wholesale, for instance)…but chances are, they’re old seeds that may or may not germinate when planted. Look at the date on the seed packet, and if it’s last year, don’t buy them. Only buy seeds that are meant to be planted this year.

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Garden Tools You Will Need: Garden Preparation

Our first garden was something of a miracle, really, considering the only tools we had were a shovel, 4 hands and 4 feet. Oh, and an old broom handle – helpful for drawing planting lines and digging planting holes. Yeah, we were that poor.

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