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5/12/2009 12:00

Contact: Margret
(860) 496-9624 x6220


Growing your own vegetables? Planting new flowers and shrubs? Maintaining an existing garden? It's easy, and safer, to have a truly "green" garden.

Barb Pierson, Nursery Manager of White Flower Farm says that organic gardening is more than just using products labeled as organic. "Environmentally friendly gardens look at the bigger picture, and take care of the soil and other organisms in a garden, not just the plants," explains Ms. Pierson. "You can have a productive garden that focuses on keeping everything, including you, healthy. This means staying away from powerful synthetic fertilizers and weed killers."

Here are ten easy-to-follow tips for successful organic gardening:

1) Start with good soil for a healthy, productive garden. Make sure your soil or container potting mix is high quality and includes organic matter such as compost. If planting in new garden beds, dig in compost or dried, aged manure first for the best results

2) Choose the right location for your plants, one that matches their particular needs for light and soil moisture. If a plant's label says "full sun", choose a location that receives 6 or more hours of direct sun each day. If a label says "well-drained soil", choose a location with soil that doesn't stay wet or puddle after it rains. Plants whose needs are met are less likely to succumb to insects or disease.

3) Follow the spacing indicated on plant labels, so each plant has room to grow without competing with its neighbors for nutrients and water. Diseases are more likely if your plants are stressed by crowding. Good air circulation around plants gives their leaves a chance to dry off after rains.

4) Conserve water by reducing evaporation. Watering near the base of the plant, rather than from overhead sprinklers or sprayers, delivers more water to your plant's roots. Watering in the morning or evening when temperatures are at their coolest also reduces losses to the air.

5) Fertilize with organic products and always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for mixing and applying. Starving or overfeeding your plants will weaken them.

6) The old proverb, "The best fertilizer is in the gardener's own footsteps," also applies to knowing when to water. Be observant - look for signs of wilting and feel the soil if you are not sure whether to water. Stick a finger one inch down into the soil to see if it is dry. If it isn't, don't water. Overwatering and underwatering both make plants more susceptible to insects and disease. If plants in containers look wilted, move them to a cooler place in the shade for a few hours to recover. If a plant in the ground wilts, provide shade by placing a large flowerpot over it, or cast shade on the plant by devising a temporary screen.

7) Throughout the season, inspect your plants for pests, such aphids, Japanese beetles, thrips, slugs, and cabbage butterfly caterpillars. Look for eggs attached under the leaves, larvae or adults feeding on leaves, or adults congregating on flowers. Remember that many beneficial insects visit our gardens also, and these should be encouraged. If you do find pests requiring treatment, organic and natural insect controls work best in the early stages of infestation. Handpicking pests and dropping them into a can of soapy water is an easy and inexpensive solution.

8) When using organic pest controls, read the labels and follow the directions. It may take time and several applications for effective control. Contact the local U.S. Department of Agriculture Cooperative Extension System ( for help with pest identification.

9) Use organic mulch, such as leaf compost. Dyed pine bark is not organic! You can improve the soil around plants by applying 1-2 inches of compost a few inches away from their stems each spring. Mulch helps prevent the growth of weeds, and also keeps the soil from drying out as quickly. Start a compost pile in your backyard (download the "Home Composting Guide" in PDF form at

10) Even a small plot of ground can be productive, but pay attention to timing. Plant cold-tolerant vegetables and seeds as soon as the ground can be worked in the spring. Wait until the last spring frost date has passed in your area to plant annuals and seeds that prefer warm soil and air temperatures. Seeds of some cold-tolerant crops can be planted again in late summer for fall harvest. Learn more in "How to Succeed with Seed-Starting" (download in PDF form at

Barb Pierson, the nursery manager at White Flower Farm, is available for interviews upon request, as are other experts.

Please contact: Deborah Broide,
Deborah Broide Publicity,
(973) 744-2030,

White Flower Farm is a family-owned nursery located in northwest Connecticut. Since 1950, they have been gathering, evaluating, growing, and selling a wide range of annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines, bulbs, and houseplants representing the very best varieties from around the world. Plants shipped are true to name, free of disease, and in prime condition for growing. While in the area, stop by White Flower Farm with its five acres of display gardens, or visit, where you will also find helpful gardening information including how-to videos. Join our E-mail list for gardening advice and tips, From the Farm monthly newsletter, announcement of events at the White Flower Farm Store, and special offers not in our catalogues or on our Web site.

White Flower Farm -- we make your garden grow.

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