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Gardening - Organic

Published: November 18, 2010

Healthy Soil Makes Healthy Plants.

Add compost to your flower beds and gardens to aerate the soil, encourage earthworms, make nutrients and minerals in the soil available to plants, protect them from disease and provide moisture in times of drought. If you don't have compost, directly adding or mulching with chopped up leaves will eventually accomplish the same thing. Organic matter is needed in all soil types, and is the cornerstone you build a healthy garden on. Also, stepping only in paths or using raised beds avoids soil compaction. See our composting section.

Mulch Kills Weeds and Retains Moisture.

Cover bare garden soil with up to four inches of chopped leaves, untreated grass clippings, or compost. This looks nice, keeps soil moisture consistent for healthy plants, stops weeds from stealing your plant's water/nutrients/sun, prevents some plant diseases, enriches and aerates your soil. Keep mulch two inches away from plant stems.

Stop Bugs With Floating Row Covers.

White fabric resembling a large dryer sheet can be placed over plants to screen out bug pests. Secure all around with thin boards, clips or soil. 90% of sunlight and rain water flows right through the fabric, and plants push it up as they grow. Just lift up to check on plants and harvest. Also used as frost protection to extend your growing seasons. Fancy hoops to hold up fabric are available, but not necessary.

Prevent Weeds With Corn Leftovers.

A yellow powder called corn gluten, a leftover from making corn syrup, kills broadleaf weed seeds by preventing secondary roots from forming. Broadcast in late fall and early spring on your lawn. It will need to be watered in. Over 3 years you will have 90% control of dandelions and other broadleaf weeds. This product also supplies a nitrogen boost for your lawn. Ask for it at your garden center.

Nematodes Will Eat The Bad Guys. So Will Bt.

You can order dried microscopic worms, add water to activate, and spray them over plants and lawns to control specific pests like japanese beetle larvae and iris borers. Bt powder made from bacteria will destroy cabbage loopers.

Choose Native Plants.

For hardy, beautiful drought and pest resistant plants you don't need to baby, select those native to your area. Download the pdf "Plants Native to Indiana" from Indiana Native Plant society at - it lists over 30 native plants, areas of your yard they are suited for, what they look like and growing tips. An extra bonus - many native plants like purple coneflower, joe pye weed and red osier dogwood have seeds or berries birds and other wildlife love.

Find out where to purchase native plants in your area at

Tippecanoe Soil and Water Conservation District offers native plants, trees and shrubs for sale each spring - order deadline is usually April. Maple, alder, hazelnut, persimmon, arrowwood viburnum, columbine, wild geranium, great blue lobelia, little bluestem grass and more. The District also sells composters and rain barrels.