Friday, July 23, 2010

How to plan and plant your organic garden

After many hours clearing and tilling the soil of my future vegetable garden , the next step was planning the layout and planting the variety of herbs and vegetables.

I decided to start with seedlings from pony-packs, rather than seeds. My reason was that, because weeds grow quickly and I am not an experienced gardener, I might not be able to differentiate between new sprouts and weeds. Additionally, starting with seedlings allowed me to better line the garden up in the tidy rows I'd envisioned since the idea of a vegetable garden first popped into my head.

While a seed is significantly cheaper than a potted seedling, everything was so relatively cheap to begin with that this small extra cost was worth it to me. For those plants that grow from bulbs – such as onions and garlic – I started simply with the bulbs.

I bought the seedlings at good prices (about $2 on average per plant or pony-pack) from the garden center in Walmart and also from a local garden shop and greenhouse. I also purchased several bags of composted manure from a local dairy farm (). Because it was composted manure there was no smell; it looked and felt like dark rich soil. You can also use compost made from kitchen produce scraps layered with woody "brown" material, or buy organic compost at a garden supply store locally or online.
For more info on compost, see

With a pen and paper I drew out a map, plotting out where each section of plants should go. It's impressive how many herbs and vegetables ultimately fit into that 20' x 15' space ! I planted mint, horseradish, chives, oregano, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, basil, Thai basil, tarragon, sage, parsley, lavender, two varieties of tomato, Serrano peppers, jalapeno peppers, green bell pepper, orange bell pepper, red bell pepper, kale, red onion, white onion, garlic, two varieties of eggplant, yellow squash, cucumber and strawberries.

For each plant, I dug a hole about the size of my head, filled it with the composted manure and tucked the plant in, gently padding down the soil around the base. After planting each herb or vegetable, it's important to water it shortly afterwards. I next made labels, penning the name of each plant with permanent marker on the top of a popsicle stick and planting each popsicle stick next to its respective plant.

Preparing the garden had been an incredible amount of work, and so being able to step back at this point and see the small plants in neat rows was quite rewarding.

--by Lindsay Kurz
Graphic artist and website designer

Editor's Note: On Planning what to Plant

For advice on what to plant in your climate, and when, contact your nearest USDA agricultural extension office.

Tools and Materials:

Potted seedlings:
Seeds of Change /product_details.aspx?item_no=PS17981
Walmart ()
Local garden store
Composted Manure, or homemade or storebought organic compost
Garden shovel, gloves
Popsicle sticks and permanent marker

For more info and tips on living healthily and sustainably, including editorially vetted products and shopping lists, please visit our website,, sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter, and check out Do One Green Thing,the lifestyle book by GreenerPenny founder Mindy Pennybacker.

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