Growing Organic Fruits and Veggies in Virginia

May 16, 2009

I usually don’t have the opportunity to actually meet the gardeners that I correspond with through their comments, questions, or emails here at Veggie Gardening Tips. But it’s always nice to be able to associate a message to the face or a personality that’s behind it.

In this case I met Barb back in March during my visit to St Croix and a farm stay at the Virgin Island Sustainable Farm Institute. During the trip and Primitive Skills Program I had a chance to spend some time with Barb and discovered that she was a skilled musician, singer, outdoors person, and organic gardener.

Coaxing Produce from all the Nooks and Crannies

We recently visited Churchill’s garden in Patzcuaro, Mexico. Today Barb offers a tour of her Northern Virginia garden along with some tips and ideas that may be of particular interest to anyone who is trying to squeeze the most production out of a smaller growing area:

Hiya, my kitchen garden is about 3′ x 20′, the chile bed is 4′ x 10’. That’s the sum total. Cherry trees are spaced around the perimeter of the front yard. The lot is 70’ x 150′, including the house and drive. So I have developed a complex inter planting and intensive growing system.

Intense Garlic, Greens, Pods, and Cukes

When the garlic or leeks go in, salad greens go in on top. I’ve got new salad greens in around the parsnips and daikon radishes, if the roots don’t grow, something else will go in immediately.

The peas that didn’t come up will be replaced by pole beans. Like you, I only try the edible podded kind. These “Oregon Giant” were supposed to be disease free, so I tried them. Out of three separate plantings, I have five plants. That should suffice.

I sent Craig out for cuke seeds, he bought bush instead of climbing, so a few went into a big pot. I am expanding into containers slowly. They are a little high-maintenance and risky when we take vacation. It’s hard to train a house-sitter in the proper care of bonsais, much less veggie pots.

Growing sweet potatoes indoors was an experiment. I have sent the over wintered plant outside, top dressed with compost, and watered it. They’re perennials, according to the book, so the experiment continues.

Using Fish and Bunnies to Nourish the Garden

Every spring I alternate digging the fish waste (yellow perch) or spent rabbit bedding into either bed. My bunnies supply volumes of bedding/poo that either gets composted or goes in directly.

Both beds are about 25 years old now, raised, and by now probably they probably consist of 90% compost/waste. One year we did some repair work, the excess drywall went into the garden. I try not to waste anything.

The kitchen garden includes the horseradish, I finally put in a rhubarb this spring. That will permanently take a 3 foot circle, so it’d better produce!

Fighting off Pests with Organic Gardening Solutions

The worst pest I have is the harlequin beetle that originally arrived with the planting of spiderwort in the neighborhood.

It harasses the cole crops and the horseradish, and last year I finally found an old bag of sabadilla powder stashed years ago. I used it on the horseradish as the beetle damage makes the roots bitter.

The sabadilla dust was the first control I have used. This year I have the coles under reemay (floating row cover), so neither the cabbage loopers nor the beetles should be a problem. I bought a nice remay cover from Gardener’s Supply Catalog that comes with hoops.

Accommodating Fig Trees in the Backyard Garden

I will put one fig tree in the ground and the other in a pot. We have a friend in Maryland who has a fig in the ground, but it gets buggy. Reading up on them, some have tight eyes and won’t allow the insects to introduce the bacteria which cause the fermentation.

I am hoping I made the right selection. Craig’s dad put in a fig which some years froze. They never netted it and seldom got fruit. It spread quite a lot through the years, which I am not sure I can accommodate.

I sure am glad to have met you, Kenny. There’s no one else who’ll read my garden ramblings and understand.

It was a pleasure to meet you Barb, and thanks for sharing the “ramblings” with us. It’s always great to hear from you and I hope to prove you wrong about no one else being willing to read or able to relate to your organic gardening experiences in Virginia!

Our next stop on this virtual vegetable gardening tour will take us on a tropical adventure to relax beside a garden in Belize.





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