Grow season around the corner

Grow season is almost here! For me a little more so than most (being that I’m in warm and sunny Florida). :) Our cold snaps have finally dissipated and I’m ready to pull out my green thumb and get digging! I grow my own herbs year round but I keep the veggies until warmer season; although our change in seasons is minuscule, it’s still possible to have a handful of freezes down in FL during the winter months.

My growing is limited to pots and troughs on a porch–but it’s still very doable. Last year I grew tomatoes and peppers on a tiny little porch and they flourished all summer long. This year I have a much larger porch to work with so I am thinking of dabbling in lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers and possibly strawberries. Also I think I’m going to experiment with pickling a little more this year. One of my favorite foods is pickled jalepeño, but the store bought ones are full of preservatives so I am dying to get my hand in my own pepper jar!

Growing fresh herbs and veggies on a porch or balcony setting is really quite simple. Most people don’t even try because they think it’s too much work–but once you get that first crop of fresh organic home-grown produce you will be hooked. It’s not too difficult if you put a little time and effort into it and read up on the crops you decide to take a stab at. For example tomatoes can be very sensitive to over watering and excessive sun exposure. Over watering can produce very bland tasting fruit and scorching sunlight just makes the plant miserable. If growing in a screened-in porch you will usually have better luck keeping your crops away from insects and other hungry critters, but you may not have as much sunlight exposure in certain areas of your porch. Try moving plants around the porch and see which areas they do best in. A little experimentation along with a watchful eye will do wonders for your gardening hobby. Also, as soon as tomato or pepper plants (or any other vertical vine plants for that matter) get high, you need to stake them to add support and structure.

It can also be a little trickier to keep your produce organic, as most nurseries and garden centers will encourage you to buy their fertilizers and pesticides. But there are organic and natural fertilizers on the market so do a little research before you buy. With that said, most natural and organic fertilizers are made out of animal products, so read the fine print!

Here are some that I have used:

Bat Guano Fertilizer
Another name for this is bat poo. Stinky…stank…stunk! Truthfully this is by far the most natural complete fertilizer on the market. In fact farmers have been using bat poo for hundreds of years, says my source at cleanairgardening.com… hmm think I’ll do a little more research on that. I do come across the stuff all the time though and I have tried it. It works! But it’s still a product derived from an animal. The bats are supposedly completely unharmed in Operation Gather Bat Dung, but it’s something I’d still like to look into a little more.

Kelp Meal Fertilizer
Dried up, ground up seaweed. This fertilizer rocks. It contains essential nutrients and plant growth hormones, all while providing a slow time release of nutrients to your plants–added bonus!

Garrett Plant Juice
Named after the man who invented it, this product is a liquid organic fertilizer. It’s made up of tea, molasses, fermented wine and seaweed. All natural and all plant derived. Perfect. Works great on potted plants.

Other plant-derived fertilizers
There are several plant derived natural fertilizers made from products such as sugar beet roots and seaweeds, fungis, cornmeal and compost tea. Read the ingredients and do your research on which ones work best for what you’re growing. Sugar beet root fertilizer works wonders on tomatoes.

Most other natural fertilizers are made with animal products that I know I don’t agree with, like bone meal, fish meal and feather meal–I stay away from those. The best way to fertilize is with all natural and organic homemade compost. That stuff rocks baby. Adding compost to your plants adds nutrients, improves drainage and irrigation and overall actually improves the plants immunity. But not everyone has access to compost, so don’t fret, there are natural organic non animal-derived fertilizers out there too! :)

Here’s a pic of some of my porch-grown peppers last year. If you look closely you’ll notice I had a slight problem with caterpillars. A friend suggested I put a tiny bit of dish soap in a spray bottle with water and spritz the leaves every few days. This ended up helping a great deal and my insect problem nearly disappeared :)

Anybody else looking forward to grow season? What crops are you planning this year?

Check out cool blogger chic Bonzai Aphrodite for awesome organic vegan gardening tips and secrets.

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