Organic Gardening Tips and Plants – How to

Gardening Tips

Terra Viva Organics


Kale for Winter Colour

Gorgeous Amaryllis Indoors

Claus Loves Gardeners Too

Squash and Onion Tart


In case you still
haven’t decided what to get your friends for christmas,
here’s another gift idea. The
Leafy Slug Pot is an elegant garden accessory that
serves a useful purpose! Plus, for Christmas, we
are including a handblown glass ladybug pendant
with every pot. The pots are gift wrapped in a natural
cotton bag, tied with raffia and include a small
gift card.

We are expanding our seedline for 2001 to over 70
varieties. Check our listings for your favourite
vegetable, herb & flower seed, all certified


Kale for Winter Colour

by Arzeena


Compared to its more succulent
cousins like cabbage and broccoli, Kale is often regarded
as a “coarse” vegetable, suitable only for the winter
garden. How untrue! The leaves are rich with Vitamin
A & C, iron and calcium and the beautifully frilled
Japanese varieties are an ornament in any garden and
make a striking garnish on any dish. On top of that,
kale’s ability to give tender greens in the early spring
makes it a valuable commodity when no other greens are
able to produce.

Red Russian Kale A member of the Brassica family, Kale is known botanically
as Brassica oleracea variety acephala, which translates
to mean “cabbage of the vegetable garden without a head”.
Native to the Mediterranean, Kale has been grown as
a leafy vegetable for thousands of years and is thought
to be the ancestor of cabbage, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts,
and even the flowering brassicas such as broccoli and

Kale is one of the easier
Brassicas to grow since it doesn’t need to head like
cabbage and doesn’t fall over, as Brussels sprouts plants
tend to do. In fact, kale prefers a slightly lower fertility
than cabbage since high nitrogen produces tender leaves
that do not withstand frost well. Soil that has been
manured and limed the previous year is perfect for growing

Here on the West Coast,
we usually start kale in early July so that they reach
a good size before the first frost in October. Adjust
your starting date accordingly. The plants should be
spaced a minimum of 1 foot apart but will grow in more
crowded conditions. However, the more room you give
the plants, the more they will produce. Most plants
mature between 50-80 days.

Although kale is cold
hardy and can survive temperatures as low as 0 F, if
mild weather is followed by a sudden freeze, it can
kill the plants. Cover your plants with a floating row
cover or a cloche and mulch around the plants to protect
them against freeze-thaw cycles. If temperatures do
go below 0 F, you can bury the plants in mulch. Brush
the mulch aside when you need to harvest.

Redbor Kale Like most winter vegetables, the taste of kale improves
after the first frost. Here’s a tip: when harvesting,
cut the leaves growing from the center of the stalk.
The larger ones at the bottom tend to be tough while
the younger ones at the top are next week’s harvest.
By about late December-early January, my kale is looking
a bit tatty. However, as temperatures begin to warm
up in March, a new flush of leaf growth appears on the
plants and I’m picking again. At this time, I like to
fertilize with either fish emulsion or compost to encourage
more growth. By about April, the plants begin to send
up flower shoots. Don’t fret! These flower heads have
a mild broccoli taste and if you break off the flowering
head completely, side shoots will appear like in broccoli.


In his book dated 1885,
Vilmorin listed 26 varieties of kale including leaf
kales, tree kales, and marrowstem kales. Few of these
varieties are still around today although heirlooms
such as “Lacinato” are making a comeback thanks to seed
saving groups. Most kales varieties belong to 1 of 4
types: Scotch (very curly leaves), Russian (flat leaf,
serrated edges), Japanese (ornamental rosette types)
and Other – (Lacinato, walking stick etc). Here is a
list of some of my favourite varieties:

  • Dwarf Blue Curled
    – squat plant, cold hardy, easy to mulch
    if temperatures drop, can be grown in a 5-gallon container.
  • Winterbor F1
    Scotch type, hybrid variety, very winter hardy
  • Redbor – a red
    Winterbor, extremely ornamental although the taste
    isn’t as good. Lacinato Kale
  • Red Russian
    – purple veins at beginning of season turn red in
    the fall, flat leaves probably most tender of all
    kale varieties and can be eaten fresh in salads
  • Nagoya – Japanese
    type, deep center, frilly comes in white or red, nice
  • Peacock – Japanese
    type, deeply serrated leaves, large head, better for
    wet climates.
  • Lacinato (Nero di
    – Italian heirloom, dark blue-gray leaves,
    puckered & up to 2 ft long, hardy and ornamental


Few insect pests bother
kale. Slugs and aphids can be hosed off easily on this
sturdy plant. Imported cabbageworm seems to be the only
pest that will do serious damage to kale. Handpick the
worm or prevent the butterfly from laying its eggs by
using a floating row cover. Otherwise, spray with BTK
for an organic treatment.

is an agronomist and President of Terra Viva
Organics. When she’s not planting peas or picking zucchini,
she answers questions about organic gardening at: You
can also read her gardening articles on Vegetable Gardening

Gorgeous Amaryllis Indoors

by Monica

Amaryllis flowers are
gorgeous, and they come at a perfect time of year — when
our (some of us) gardens are sleeping! My neighbor has
had his Amaryllis for about 10 years. He showed them to
me one day and I couldn’t believe my eyes! In his windowed
laundry room, there stood the biggest Amaryllis bulbs,
flowers and leaves I have ever seen! They were giants!
I know Amaryllis can get pretty big, but I never imagined
this big. I’d say the leaves were about 2 1/2″ wide or
more and 4 feet or more tall. The flowers were probably
double what we’re used to seeing and same with the bulbs.
I didn’t know they could get that big! At that point,
I didn’t even know they could be grown for flowers year
to year. Now I know differently and I’ll tell you what
I have learned.


Late October is the ideal
time to plant, after the bulbs have gone through a dormant
period. If there are off shoots, you can take them off
and plant them as new plants. Use a small pot in relation
to the bulb size. Clay or ceramic pots would be best
because they are heavier and will help keep the plant
from toppling over. Give only an inch of room for soil
on the sides of the bulb. Amaryllis prefers a sandy-loam
soil mix. You can mix your own by combining one part
leaf mold or composted manure, one part loamy soil,
and one part coarse sand. Some garden centers also sell
soil mixes especially for bulbs. When you plant the
bulb, keep the upper half out of the soil.


Water thoroughly after
planting and keep the soil slightly moist until flowering.
At flowering, increase waterings to prolong flowers.
The blooms will last 6-8 weeks depending on temperature,
light and variety.

Light and Temperature

When grown in the home,
Amaryllis need as much sun as they can get! A southern
window is best. They prefer 70-75 degrees for best growth.
But when the plant begins to flower, cooler temperatures
(60-65 degrees) will extend the blooms. As mentioned
above, my neighbor had his in his windowed laundry room.
The windows were southern and western which means lots
of sun. One more important tip is that a laundry room
produces humidity so this is something else they like.


Fertilize with a week
solution of compost tea every 6 weeks or so. Fertilizer
will determine the size and quality of flowers and foliage.

After Flowering

Good quality bulbs may
produce up to six flowers on a single stalk. When a
flower fades, cut the stalk about 2″ from the base.
This will save energy for the other flowers. Don’t cut
the foliage because this is next year’s food for next
year’s flowers. Keep watering and fertilizing the foliage
as you would before flowering until next September.
At this point, put the plant into a warm, dark and dry
place such as a closet. Don’t water or fertilize during
this rest period. Then late October, move it back to
the sunny window and start the process all over again.

When properly cared for,
Amaryllis can flower for up to 75 years! So take care
of yours for years of gorgeous flowers.

Copyright, 2000, Monica

Monica Resinger is editor/founder of Creative Gardening
newsletter, a FREE and fun interactive ezine. Each Monday
you’ll be able read, answer or ask gardening questions!
Also included in the ezine is a gardening article and
a seed swap. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to:
To find out about Monica’s other ezines, Creative Home
and Creative Home Money, please go to:

Claus Loves Gardeners Too

by Don Trotter

Hello fellow Earthlings,
and seasons greetings to all of you. As the days get shorter
and our gardening time is either eliminated because of
snow or cold or because we’re just too busy making sure
that our other family members have a happy holiday season,
let’s take some time to think about the garden. So let’s
take a stroll out to the kitchen drawer where all of those
catalogs we never read during the growing season are stored.

This time of year we often
find ourselves occupied with thoughts of Turkeys, Menorahs,
Christmas trees, and twinkling lights. I find that when
I have a moment to myself during this time it is always
good to have a plant, tool or seed catalog handy to
remind me of warmer weather and the peace of the garden.
Reading these catalogs also gives me ample opportunity
to put my wish list together so Santa knows exactly
what I could use in the following spring. Just imagining
hoeing weeds with that new one that Santa got for me
from A.M. Leonard or pruning fruit trees with my new
Felco pruners that were in my stocking from Smith Hawken
makes me wonder why everyone doesn’t garden. Subtle
hints are easy with catalogs. Just lay the open book
around with a big red circle drawn around the items
you think “Santa” should know about.

The Jackson and Perkins
rose catalog is another one of my personal favorites.
I love to visualize new additions to the garden, and
the same strategy works on “Mr. Claus” or any of his
elves that may see the open catalog. I love this time
of year! Isn’t it great when you find out that luxury
item you had been wishing for just shows up at the doorstep
or under the tree?

While the weather or lack
of time prevents us from enjoying our passion it is
a comfort that these colorful and descriptive catalogs
are available to keep us in touch with the amazing bounty
of the garden. Bundling up and visiting the garden to
see how things are sleeping is also a very good project
if time allows in the winter. I like to go out and imagine
the bulbs popping through the mulch layer with the first
promise of early spring color or think about the blaze
of color from blooming fruit trees. I often find that
this is the time of year when I get a lot of gardening
project not directly involved with plants done. Sharpening
tools, getting the mower tuned up and getting the blades
sharpened, as well as sorting out seeds and seed starting
stuff are all fun projects. These are also the chores
that we never seem to get to during warm weather while
the garden beckons us to come and play.

Winter is a time of year
when we can most appreciate our efforts of the previous
growing season. Nothing tastes better than a holiday
meal seasoned with dried herbs from our gardens or the
frozen marinara sauce we made from our homegrown tomatoes.
Gardens can be incredible conversation when a guest
asks about the amazing flavor of that pasta sauce. It
is a lovely thing to reminisce about the garden or to
romanticize about how big the tomato plants were that
produced the sauce. These conversations evoke thoughts
of warm weather, quiet days in the sun, and lemonade
no matter how chilly, rainy, or frosty it is outside.
I just love hearing the oohs and ahhs of people envisioning
a garden full of healthy, nutritious food and colorful
flowers when it’s bloody freezing outside.

Oh did I forget to mention
I love this time of year? Next time we will be discussing
some helpful tips on getting your garden tools ready
for next season. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving,
Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanza, and
an amazing real millennium celebration. Be safe, be
happy and I’ll see you in the Garden in the twenty first

Got Questions? Email the
Doc at Don Trotter’s natural gardening
columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive
publications. For lots of helpful gardening tips check

out Don’s books Natural Gardening A-Z and The Complete
Natural Gardener at bookstores near you and at all on
line booksellers. Both from Hay House Publishing


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