New Gardner: Best Organic Farming Tutorials?

General    None Given

Hi all,

We are starting a family plot in the backyard for the first time this year. We have ~150 sq feet of space to start, we have heirloom seeds ready to go and we are preparing the land using the lasagna technique - layers of cardboard, water weeds, newspaper and compost.

The problem is we are new at this - and there is so much scattered information on the web, that I am having some problems finding a really good, comprehensive ground up tutorial on organic farming for new gardeners.

What I'm finding is lots of compartmentalized techniques, great articles and blogs that are either too specialized, too narrow, or too advanced

Can anyone recommend a video series, a book series, or any particular websites that cover amateur organic gardening from seed to harvest for average, intelligent individuals and families that just want to know what to do and when to do it. Thanks!

Posted by: von (2 points) von
Posted: July 20, 2013

David Hughes commented,
I think you have discovered the essential problem of growing food which is that there is far too much information out there and it varies in quantity and quality. None of the information was written with your plot of land in mind or what you want to eat. I would recommend taking some of the suggestions provided but also provide exact details on what your needs are. Take pictures as you go, post them here and get feedback relevant to your suggestions and challenges.
over 10 years ago.


The books I used are decades old (and reviewers don't seem to like the updates). But here's one I've heard newbies say they like (Organic Gardening For Dummies) http://amzn.to/1bCR8rj Just start there, and keep going.

There are enough organic-growing systems, ideas, and techniques to make your head spin and spin and spin, von. As you plant, observe, harvest, and (hopefully) eat, you'll naturally gravitate to various other sources of info.

Everything feels fragmented and narrow at first. Why? Because you have to do things (learning on the job) in some sort of sequence, one small, painful step at a time, while in the natural world, everything's connected to everything. (Popular culture doesn't begin to make it clear just how much skill & knowledge it takes to produce a good cabbage.)

Don't get too perturbed over flubs and failures. You're gonna make a lot of mistakes. Start small and build on your successes. Grow only what you like to eat. Spend a LOT of time just observing what's going on in your garden. Pick up leaves and check what's going on underneath. Lift that cardboard mulch and delight in the extraordinary community of organisms you find there. Wonder a lot.

Find a few veteran gardeners you can call on for help. Nothing beats the global tribe of home food producers. They can help you choose suitable varieties for your needs and locale, understand how to sow and transplant, irrigate, fertilize, identify insect pests and diseases, and more.

P.S. Heirloom seeds? Often a great choice. But please don't turn up your nose at hybrids and open-pollinated varieties from modern plant breeders. Many of them confer important disease or insect resistance, tolerate adverse conditions better, offer cultural advantages (compact growth habit, easier to harvest) and other benefits too numerous to list.

Posted by: Peg Boyles (5 points) Peg Boyles
Posted: July 21, 2013

von commented,
Thanks, this is all really great advice.
over 10 years ago.

I agree with Peg, especially about finding local resources. Ask around at local community gardens, garden centers, or farmers' markets, or look for meetup groups or adult-education classes. Walk or drive around your area and look for gardens you like (harder to do if vegetables are not permitted in front yards!), or see if you can spot any gardeners.

Another advantage of getting to know other local gardeners is that they may be growing different things, and will be looking for ways to share it. I participate in a local garden share, where people meet monthly to share excess crops, plants, and supplies.

One book I liked (because it was pretty much the approach I'd been taking) is Ed Smith, The Vegetable Gardener's Bible. He uses wide beds, mulch, and organic methods.

You may be able to plant now, if you make pockets of soil/compost in your lasagna beds, you have plants that are not too delicate, and you shade them a little at first. (If you're determined to plant from seed, you may need to germinate the seeds indoors or in a cooler spot.) Look for a vegetable planting guide for your county; here's one from Cornell
The planting guide will tell you what you can plant now, depending on your expected first frost date.
You can probably grow greens (at least baby greens) and radishes, and you can plant garlic and cover crops to overwinter.

If you think you might want to keep growing and harvesting through the winter, look at one of Eliot Coleman's books. He uses cold frames within hoop houses.

Posted by: Tanya in the Garden (128 points) Tanya in the Garden
Posted: July 21, 2013

von commented,
Yes we are germinating some seeds now in hopes of planting them in just the way you describe - through holes punched in the layers. Thanks for the tips on the books, Ive picked a few already that seem like they are just what I'm looking for: Vegetable Garden Bible (nice tip, looks perfect), Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza, and Mini Farming Self Sufficiency on a 1/4 Acre by Brett Markham.

Have you seen or heard of any good video series?

over 10 years ago.

I'm sure you'll be getting lots of good answers, but keep in mind that PlantVillage is here to help you too. Whatever problem you have growing edible plants, you'll get help here. The more context for a specific problem you can provide, the better (especially images!).

Good luck, you won't regret it!

Posted by: deactivated (25 points) deactivated
Posted: July 21, 2013

von commented,
Thanks for responding. Yes, I joined up here because this looks like an excellent reference for specific plants, and asking specific questions. (although so far I don't see a lot of traffic on here)

The context of my situation is simply that: I'm new, I'm getting fragmented, narrow information -- and what I need now is comprehensive, yet simple and common sense at the same time. Any pointers are most welcome right now. We need to plant as soon as the cardboard and compost decompose enough to do it - which will hopefully be by the 1st of August. First frost here in upstate NY is sometime in October at the latest.

over 10 years ago.

deactivated commented,
Not sure what you mean by "not a lot of traffic" - three responses within a single day seems quite good to me! We currently have over 1000 people on the site every single day. Not bad considering that we just started a few months ago...
over 10 years ago.

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