Friday, March 15, 2024

What is Georgic gardening?

Georgic gardening practices refer to agricultural and horticultural methods inspired by Virgil's poem "Georgics," which was written in the 1st century BCE. The "Georgics" is divided into four books and serves as a guide to rural life, covering topics such as agriculture, animal husbandry, beekeeping, and viticulture. Georgic gardening practices emphasize a deep understanding of the land and its cultivation, often focusing on traditional and sustainable techniques. Some key principles of Georgic gardening include:

  1. Observation of Nature: Georgic gardening emphasizes the importance of observing natural cycles and patterns to inform agricultural practices. Farmers and gardeners are encouraged to pay attention to the behavior of plants, animals, and the environment.
  2. Crop Rotation: To maintain soil fertility and prevent the depletion of nutrients, Georgic gardening advocates for crop rotation. Different crops are planted in a specific sequence over multiple growing seasons to optimize soil health and minimize pest and disease pressures.
  3. Soil Care: Georgic practices prioritize soil health through methods such as composting, mulching, and organic fertilization. Maintaining soil structure and fertility is essential for sustaining healthy plant growth.
  4. Water Management: Efficient water management techniques, such as irrigation systems and water conservation practices, are integral to Georgic gardening. Water resources are used judiciously to support plant growth while minimizing waste.
  5. Pest and Disease Control: Georgic gardening encourages natural methods of pest and disease control, such as companion planting, crop diversification, and biological pest control. Chemical pesticides and herbicides are often avoided in favor of organic alternatives.
  6. Biodiversity: Georgic practices promote biodiversity within agricultural systems by integrating a variety of crops, plants, and beneficial organisms. Diverse ecosystems are more resilient to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses.
  7. Seasonal Timing: Timing is crucial in Georgic gardening, with activities such as planting, harvesting, and pruning being conducted in accordance with seasonal cycles and climatic conditions.
  8. Manual Labor and Craftsmanship: Georgic gardening values the skill and craftsmanship of manual labor, emphasizing the importance of hands-on cultivation techniques passed down through generations.

Overall, Georgic gardening practices prioritize sustainability, environmental stewardship, and the harmonious relationship between humans and nature in agricultural endeavors.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Backyard Gardening

Maximizing Your Backyard Garden: A Comprehensive Guide by Melissa K Norris

Cover area in Melissa's garden.

1. Planning Your Food Needs

To ensure a bountiful backyard harvest, Melissa K Norris emphasizes the importance of meticulous planning. Begin by reviewing last year's harvest, taking note of what was plentiful and what was lacking. Utilize planting records and document your consumption habits for a month to inform your crop selection.

2. Focus on High-Yield Crops

Prioritize crops that produce multiples per plant for a higher yield. Melissa suggests considering space efficiency, such as the difference between a clove of garlic and a bean plant. High-yield crops include beans, berries, fruit trees, peas, peppers, potatoes, tomatoes, and various squash varieties. Opt for storage varieties of potatoes and onions and consider climate suitability and preservation methods.

3. Understanding Frost Dates and Plant Varieties

Determine average frost dates and gardening zones to choose appropriate perennial plants. Select varieties based on your growing season and the time needed for germination and harvest. Adjust planting times accordingly, and consider factors like whether the plant can be preserved or if adjustments need to be made, such as starting tomatoes indoors.

4. Choosing the Right Plant Varieties

Consider the climate and the length of your growing season when selecting plant varieties. Ensure that your choices can withstand your area's lowest temperatures and avoid planting perennials that won't survive winter. Adapt to your local conditions, and choose varieties that match your region's frost dates.

5. Soil Health for Stronger Harvests

Maintain optimal soil health by understanding the pH levels required for different crops. Differentiate between fruits and vegetables, and use aged manure to avoid nitrogen burn. Incorporate compost for micro and macro nutrient enrichment. Use cover crops and mulch to promote year-round soil health, as bare soil can hinder growth.

6. Crop Rotation for Disease Prevention

Implement crop rotation to organically combat diseases. Melissa advises rotating plants in the nightshade family to prevent blight. Avoid planting tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers in the same spot for at least three years to minimize soil-borne diseases. Indoor covered areas are suitable for rotation, but outside locations should be treated with caution.

7. Companion Planting for Abundance and Pest Control

Boost your garden's abundance and reduce pest issues through companion planting. Introduce bio-diversity and pollination-friendly plants, and use trap crops to draw pests away from your main crops. Melissa recommends interplanting yellow and orange nasturtiums with brassicas to repel cabbage bugs. Lady bugs eat aphids. If you want lady bugs in your garden, plant dill. Lady bugs are attracted to the dill blossom.

8. Vertical Planting for Space Optimization

Explore vertical gardening to maximize space. Use structures like arbors for grapes, cattle panels for beans, and stackable containers for various plants. Melissa suggests indeterminate tomatoes, summer squash, and winter squash as excellent vertical crop choices. This method not only saves space but also provides protection from overhead water. Summer squash includes cucumbers, pattypan, and zucchini. Examples of winter squash are butternut, acorn, and sugar pie pumpkin.

9. Creating a Comprehensive Garden Plan

Develop a well-thought-out plan that includes seed starting, starts, direct sowing, succession planting, and intercropping. Melissa emphasizes the importance of strategic planning to optimize your garden space and ensure a continuous harvest throughout the growing season.


Melissa K Norris offers invaluable insights for transforming your backyard into a productive and thriving garden. Follow these guidelines to plan, plant, and cultivate a garden that will yield a variety of delicious and nutritious crops throughout the year. Her webpage is

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Improving Garaden Soil

Brad Olson talks about garden soil.


Gardening is not just about planting seeds and watching them grow; it's a delicate dance with the soil beneath our feet. Brad Olson of Olson's Garden Shoppe in Payson, Utah, recently shared his wisdom on how to achieve good soil for gardens.

Layering Mulch:

Brad begins with the simple act of layering mulch and other organic materials onto garden beds, a practice he suggests for the fall. Gardens can be augmented with sand, peat moss, mulch, and organic plant material, once brimming with life. This layering technique enriches the soil and fosters a thriving environment for plants.

Product Discoveries:

A trip to Olson's Garden Shoppe can provide a good selection of soil products. Among these is Olson's potting mix, which has the right ingredients for growing plants in pots. Brad recommends a finer soil mix for starting seeds. Whatever the soil used, it is important that is well aerated. Vermiculite or Perlite can be used in soils for aeration. Brad has discovered the wonders of Nutrimulch, a turkey compost made in Manti. When used in gardens, Nutrimulch nourishes the soil, helping plants grow better.

Potting Mix Alchemy:

Creating the best medium for growing plants became a focus for Brad, leading him to soilist mixes and the strategic use of visquine to get plants started early in the spring. He stressed the significance of excluding soil from potting mixes and advocated for a balanced blend of peat moss, perlite, and compost.

Raising Gardens to New Heights:

Brad's dedication to his craft is evident in his approach to raised gardens. He recommends raised bed gardens, using the Miller Grow Box Mix for optimum results - a third perlite, a third, compost, and a third peat moss. Each year, he adds layers to the raised gardens - potting soil, mulch, and screened topsoil. This layered approach creates a fertile ground for bountiful harvests, reaching depths of 12 to 18 inches.

Combatting Unwanted Seeds:

Preen, a popular weed preventer, can be used on lawns. However, Brad emphasized its limitation in planting seeds, indicating it can be used in growing transplants while simultaneously eliminating unwanted seeds.

The Science of Soil Composition:

Understanding soil composition is crucial. Soil consists of three elements - sand, silt, and clay. Sand helps aeration. Organic material must be added to augment it. Gypsum, available in both granular pellets and powder forms, is a valuable product to loosen clay soil.

Knowledge from Experts:

Brad stressed the importance of doing soil testing by experts. He highlighted soil testing services from Utah State Extension and BYU, which may cost as low as $28. Armed with this information, a person can augment the solid to make the garden produce better.

Plants grow best in soil that has a ph from 5.6 to 7. Adding organic material to the garden yearly helps ph levels. However, it may be necessary to add a product like Iron Plus to acidify the soil. Some plants like blue berries thrive in acidic soil and should be kept away from other plants or grown in pots.

Nutrient Balancing Act:

Brad delved into the intricacies of nutrient balancing, discussing the use of HuMic for lawns in spring. As a fertilizer HuMic, makes the need for multiple fertilizing of lawns unnecessary. Top dressing lawns with peat moss keeps water in and allows using less water. Preen can be used to stop unwanted seeds from growing in lawns. Weed Free Zone or Weed Out can be used against broad leaf plants in lawns including orchard grass.

Gardening fertilizers are made for specific purposes, with the first number on fertilizer bags representing nitrogen. Nitrogen helps plants green up and grow tall. High nitrogen fertilizer is particularly good for growing corn. The second number on fertilizer bags is phosphate. Phosphate produces better flowers, fruit, and roots. Blooming and Rooting, a phosphate rich fertilizer, has the number 9-58-9. The third number is for potassium. Potassium is important on the east coast, but not needed in Utah.

Long release fertilizer Osmocote has the numbers 14-14-14. It releases fertilizer overtime. In fruit orchards rake in fertilizer that is 16-16-8.

Closing Thoughts:

Brad Olson sees that successful gardening is a harmonious blend of science and art. By understanding soil composition, nutrient balance, and strategic practices, people can create flourishing gardens right in their backyards. Brad's passion for soil is contagious, inspiring us all to dig a little deeper into the roots of successful gardening.