Grow So Easy; Organic Gardening for the Rest of Us

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Plant wisely.

Either way, choose plants that grow well together, including a mix of hybrid and heirloom varieties that have some inherent disease-resistant characteristics check the labels. Water well. Easy access to spigots and rain barrels is key to avoid lugging heavy watering cans and dragging hoses around.

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Be sure to water right after you plant, too! Enhanced with micronutrients, it instantly feeds the soil so your plants will have a steady stream of nutrition for their best growth. Try these tips: Create a support system. Climbing and vining plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans need a leg up to stay strong and off the damp ground home to various pests and diseases.

Some plants will grab onto the support on their own while others, such as tomatoes, will need twine or other material to tie stems to stakes. Make use of mulch.

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What do you do to protect tender plants in cold weather? What do you do to keep moisture levels high in dry or hot weather? What do you do to save your sanity from weeding, weeding, weeding? Be sure to add more as needed.

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Show predators and pollinators some love. For more info on creating a pollinator-friendly garden, check out How to Attract Pollinators. Be on the look-out for disease. Walk your garden every day if you can and really look at your plants. If any leaves look spotted, measly, or sick, remove them before the ailment can spread to other foliage. Be sure to put it in the trash, not the compost.

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All purpose container mix. All purpose plant nutrition.

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  • Starting Your Spring Garden.

He has developed varieties in a full spectrum from burgundy and ruby red to orange, peach, apricot, bright yellow, to fiery bicolors. Most of Renee's Garden sunflower varieties are from his exuberant collection. Fortunately for home gardeners with giant sunflower aspirations, Tom has also focused on breeding the ultimate tall competition varieties " Giant Edible Sunzilla " and " Heirloom Titan ".

Each year, Tom saves his longest stalk and largest seed head of this variety in his garage to measure against the following years.

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He currently prizes a foot stalk and a 24 in. In this article, Tom has generously agreed to share his method of growing giants like these in your home garden. Despite the growing popularity of new color introductions, the sunflowers that grow largest are those most of us still imagine first when thinking of sunflowers. These have tall single stalks with big flower faces of golden yellow petals and chocolate brown centers that ripen into heavy heads filled with seeds that birds will love.

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I asked Tom why serious competitors should grow his variety instead of traditional varieties of large sunflowers like Mammoth, Russian Mammoth or California Greystripe. He explained that the seeds in Sunzilla are hybrids, developed to be uniform and consistently reliable - so that when you thin seedlings, you needn't worry that you may have just uprooted your most potentially vigorous specimen.

Good planning is key to a successful vegetable garden.

While older varieties often become top-heavy and fall over in wet or windy weather, Sunzilla has been selected for a strong, thick stalk to support its heavy head. In ideal growing conditions, it reaches heights of 16 feet or more and produces huge seed heads. Choose a well-drained location, and prepare your soil by digging an area of about feet in circumference to a depth of about 2 feet. Tom uses Osmocote, but since I'm an organic gardener and raise rabbits, I plan to mix in a bucketful of composted rabbit manure plus a balanced slow-release granular fish fertilizer.

Depending on your soil, you may wish to add, in addition to composted manure and an organic slow-release balanced fertilizer, an organic amendment containing trace minerals such as greensand or dried seaweed. To grow the largest sunflowers, it is essential to direct sow seed directly into the garden, rather than start them in pots of any kind. This is because sunflowers have long taproots that grow quickly and become stunted if confined. Peat pots in particular often dry out and block off root growth. Since sunflowers that are planted in midsummer often flower on shorter stalks, sow your giant sunflowers earlier-as soon as all danger of frost is past and night temperatures are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit both day and night.

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In the shorter-season, cold winter areas of the U. The ideal spacing in rows for giant sunflowers with large seed heads is 20 in. If you plant closer, you might get taller stalks but smaller heads. If you plant farther apart, the seed head may be larger, but possibly too heavy for the stalk to bear.

If you have limited space, Tom recommends sowing in a small clump that will eventually be thinned to one plant. To sow seeds, water your soil, and press seeds 1 inch deep in clumps of seeds about in. Put snail bait in a circle around the clump I like the product Sluggo because it is non-toxic to humans, pets and wildlife , and cover loosely with netting to protect emerging seedlings from birds. If the soil is kept moist, seedlings will appear within days. When the plants grow to 3 inches, thin them to the most vigorous 3 or 4. When they are a foot tall, thin them to 2, and when they reach 2 feet high, select the best, most vigorous candidate. The point of this gradual thinning method is to ensure that you're left with at least one good seedling in the event that predators damage any of the others.

Remember, it's critical to thin back to the best single seedling if you're going for giant sunflowers. Leaving even several seedlings growing too close together will keep you from growing a giant in your garden. While the plant is small, water around the root zone, about in. For larger plants, scrape out a small doughnut-shaped moat about 18 inches around the plant and about four inches deep.