I learned how to grow crops by taking a Master Gardner class and by looking online for information available from the great people and organization of the Cooperative Extension Services. If you like audio, search for “farmers podcast” and I am sure you will find something you like. I have made at least two failures for every gardening success I’ve had.
All my vegetables are in raised beds. I don’t make a living at farming so my focus is definitely not as intense or as well skilled as a full-time farmer. I do raise 90% of the vegetables, fruit, nuts, and eggs we eat and share the extra with friends.
What is the Cooperative Extension? In 1914, the U.S. Department of Agriculture partnered with a nationwide network of “land grant” universities to create a system of “extension” services. The goal of these services is to improve life across the country with advice from local experts regarding all things agriculture and farming and much more. A wonderful Master Gardener program class is available to gain knowledge and increase your ability to raise food. To get some idea of what is available online simply search your state.edu and your interest. There are usually tips and information about your county where you live. Example: “iowa.edu growing peaches”. Pests are a big problem if you go organic and they have lots of research and tips on how to do it. Here is an easy way to find the nearest Cooperative Extension office near you: http://npic.orst.edu/mlr.html
All green plants like nitrogen in varying quantities. Here is just one of many good websites found by searching “fertilizer .edu”: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/news/heres-scoop-chemical-organic-fertilizers
I tend to use fertilizer at half the rate that is recommended for commercial crops. Without the high growth, I believe you get fewer pests and it is easier to manage size. I use Nutri-Rich 4-3-2 organic fertilizer pellets, derived from chicken poop. It makes for a great general fertilizer. Since my Nutri-Rich only has a rating of “4” in nitrogen, I would have to use about five pounds or more of Nutri-Rich for a peach tree every year! I only use about 2.5 pounds and am happy with the results. Too much nitrogen seems to attract aphids in mass.
My father taught me to add organic blood meal for lettuce/other greens and organic bonemeal for root crops. I mix some Nutri-Rich in too for a well-balanced crop-specific fertilizer. I mix peat moss with 10% cottonseed meal for all acid-loving berries.
All plants like a certain (PH) acid or alkaline type soil. Plants do much better when the PH of the soil is within the range of their native habitat because they can absorb fertilizer much better. If you want to know why and you are a deep science lover, search “cations anions PH”.
Knock your excess fruit off the tree when it reaches dollar size
It is normal to cherish and appreciate every apple or plum that magically comes to life on a tree. Have you ever wondered how the store has such big and beautiful fruit? . . . They knock off the excess. An apple tree only needs an apple every six to eight inches and a plum every two or three inches. The remaining fruit will get much bigger. It can help with pests too. Codling moth apple worms don’t like apples that are separated. They like to lay their eggs where two apples are kissing so they won’t be seen. Knocking the fruit off helps the tree produce more the next year so you don’t get big swings in production. Bigger fruit also makes it easier and faster to fill a bucket.
Use a cover crop in the Fall or sprinkle alfalfa pellets on the soil after harvest for the winter. Till these into the soil about one month before you plant. The worms love to work hard so you don’t have to. Worms are almost everywhere and over time they can transform your average soil into a magnificent growing medium.
Pests and Leaf Damage
It’s always a good idea to find out more about your pest problem before buying chemicals. You can search “Integrated Pest Management .edu”. I use organic solutions for bugs: Sluggo Plus works wonders on snails, slugs, and earwigs. “Safer 3 In 1” does well on scale and aphids. Neem oil helps in some cases too. Search Google for any leaf problems you have or try taking a picture and submitting it to “Google Lens”. I use “Tree Tanglefoot Insect Barrier” to stop ants from carrying aphids and scale into my fruit trees.
Watering using a drip system
I use Orbit timers 620161Z with a garden hose manifold for multiple timers using one faucet. I adjust the timers 3 times a year for basic season changes.
I have very rusty water so I use ½” poly tubing with ¼” emitter tubing with holes at every 6” for general watering most of the year.
I use ¼” staked adjustable ½” and ¼” circle sprayers to bring the seeds up. You can shut these off when the plants are established.
I use staked adjustable drip emitters for ¼” tubing (have about 8 holes on top) for bigger plants and trees. Raintree is a good reliable brand but sometimes it is more expensive.
I use masonry for raised beds but I have filled a watering trough ½ full with gravel for drainage. I recommend using weed cloth on top of the gravel, then add the dirt, or you will have a dirty mess in two years. This is a less expensive method for building a good raised bed. I use (3) Four x fours on a gravel base for leveling and so it drains well.
Gardening is a wonderful way to get your food, get sun, and exercise. Learning new things and sharing makes you feel good too. Sauntering down to the garden with a harvest basket and a glass of wine in the summer before dinner is downright exuberant. The food is fresher and healthier than store-bought plus you might even save a little money.
If you have something cool to contribute please share. If you want more exploration on a topic . . . please let me know!