How to grow an easy pesticide-free garden

It’s been a long time since I posted something in Gardening!  I have been busily working in the garden the past several months since March. This year, I planted lettuce, kale, broccoli, and borage in the early spring.  I bought the kale, brocolli and lettuce from Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville back in March.

The lettuce and borage took off very nicely, but the kale and broccoli struggled to grow.

Kale with some fun zinnias along the path

It’s July 12 now and still they are just baby stems. No broccoli crowns yet… I will continue to monitor their performance and report back!

Another update: Potatoes.  Well, I planted the seeds back in early April this year and come mid-June I checked them, the tubers were very high and long but when I looked for any potatoes I just got 1 petite baby potato! That’s it! Just one out of a $6.99 box of 6.  What a waste!

So how do you find the space for a garden with a small backyard?  The first is to target any unnecessary hedges.

First, my husband and I removed the ugly hedges along a fence that were ruining the space for a nice garden! There were 6 or 7 hedges that lined up here.  The rain runs down this alleyway and it creates a wet boggy soil after a rainstorm.

Next, it’s important to remove the roots in the ground.

You don’t want the roots tearing up and destroying your baby plants. Roots will rip up and grow fast when there’s a water source around. It’s best to use a shovel and sharp clippers to get to the deepest parts of the root foundation.

Provide enough spacing for your plants and use a pH detector

Then, we planted and created spaces about 4 to 6 inches apart.  It’s best to start in March when the soil temperature just goes above 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit. We also have a pH level gauge detector. The soil should be around 6.5 to 7.0 pH.  We also water every other day until the stems get strong and can handle dry spouts.

Here’s how the lettuce looked in May:

In June, we ate all the lettuce.  We didn’t wait around for the seeds to start populating.  Now, I have zinnias growing in their place. It’s too hot to sow seeds now being that it’s 90 degrees outside.  I plan to keep the plot empty until October when it’s time to start planting garlic.

The trick to growing a garden is your pollinators

I planted marigolds around my tomato plants, Dahlias, a cardinal flower, and other pollinator rich flowers. I think the coolest thing about having a pesticide-free garden is you start to have friendly birds sweeping in to pick up the bugs.  Yep, I see cardinals, sparrows, black birds, and mockingbirds that stop by every day to help eat the bugs.

Over by the side of the house is a cedar raised garden bed.  Cedar also helps repeal some nasty bugs from attacking your plants. I bought this kit last year from The Home Depot (my favorite store!). The brand is Greenes and it does a nice job. However, I banged it up a big with moving it and some of the boards popped off.

Here I planted tomatoes, string beans, cucumbers, borage, and wild pollinator flowers. I used some seeds for beans and tomatoes and others I bought at The Home Depot and Mom’s Organic Market.  

You might be wondering, what’s the A-frame shaped cage?  It’s for cucumbers! They climb up like a trellis. I made this with a couple 2″ boards and strung chicken wire around it.  So far, 2 of the 6 cucumber plants are growing nicely.

Buy really good soil…don’t cheap out

Since most soil in suburban Maryland is a neutral 7.0. It has little to no acidity. Some crops do better with a 6.0-7.0 range.  I think this is the first and the last time I will use Kellogg organic garden soil from The Home Depot.  There is not enough nutrients for the cucumbers to survive.  So I had to cheat a bit and buy some organic fertilizer spikes to help with the growth.

The string beans are climbing high. I wrapped some sturdy string up and through the loops like a tennis racket through the makeshift wooden poles. I used my power drill to create the holes for the string. It took me a few hours but the results as you see are remarkable.

Lastly, and my favorite, are the tomatoes.  I started out with just a tiny plant back in early May.

After almost two months,  I see this cherry tomato plant doing a great job.

Stay tuned for more updates!







Author: Kimberly Kweder

33 years old, career woman, Pittsburgh native, and loves projects that involve communications, social media, and international development.

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