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Grow Box: The Best Self-Watering Planters

Grow Box
Choosing the Right Grow Box A Review of Self-Watering Planters

As you delve further into the world of container gardening, you might come across a new term: grow box. This piece of equipment can transform your humble container garden into an efficient, highly productive operation. But what is a grow box? And how do you select the right one for your garden?

While you can start a successful container garden with little more than a pot and some soil (and a plant, of course), growing your container garden past this point requires some more advanced equipment. This is where a grow box enters the picture.

What Is a Grow Box?

What Is a Grow Box

A grow box is a self-contained planter. Grow boxes have, to some capacity, the ability to regulate environmental factors like water uptake, temperature, and nutrition. While a grow box requires some level of initial setup, the required ongoing maintenance is nothing compared to traditional growing methods. Grow boxes are the "set it and forget it" of the container garden world.

Grow boxes come in many different complexities. Some are just a typical planter with a self-watering reservoir. Some go so far as to include a grow light and air filter — these often have a closed cabinet that truly isolates your plants from the outside environment. Most grow boxes, though, fall somewhere in the middle.

While the exact features of a grow box depend on the make and model, the biggest benefit of using a grow box is that it is self-watering. Whether you're away from home often, are too busy for regular maintenance, or are looking for a more efficient way to garden, a grow box is a great tool.

What about other self-watering systems?

What about other self-watering systems

There are many different self-watering systems in the gardening world. Whether you choose to use them for your container garden is up to you, but most offer only a portion of the benefits a grow box does. Here are a few of the most popular ways to add a self-watering feature to your container garden:

Watering globes

Watering stakes

Watering probes

Self-watering planter insert

Who should consider a grow box?

Who should consider a grow box

Grow boxes are a great tool of convenience for any gardener, but some people will find a grow box particularly helpful. Some of the types of gardeners who might want to consider upgrading their container garden to a grow box include:

  • Gardeners looking for a low-maintenance, reliable way to grow produce
  • Urban gardeners who need to keep their plants in a self-contained space
  • Those who grow plants in inconvenient or hard-to-reach places
  • Gardeners who vacation or are away from their plants frequently

Choosing the Best Grow Box

Grow Box

There are plenty highly-rated grow boxes on the market, so it can be hard to choose the best one for your container garden setup. Some factors to consider, aside from customer ratings, are the size, soil capacity, and what features — self-watering, fertilizing, temperature control, etc. — the grow box has.

To help you navigate the current offerings, we've reviewed some of the best grow boxes on the market. This list should help you narrow down your choices to one that will truly meet your and your garden's needs.

How We Reviewed

For our review, we focused on grow boxes that advertise self-watering as their main feature. This allowed us to compare each product against the others more directly. While there are plenty of very advanced grow box systems, these are simply outside of the scope of our review.

We looked at the functionality of each grow box — how it works as well as set up and maintenance requirements for the user — in addition to customer reviews, pricing, and availability. With each product, we included a recommendation for the best type of situation for each grow box.


This grow box is advertised for tomato plants, but almost any vegetable or ornamental plant will do just fine. The Garden Patch Grow Box was given a 93 percent approval rating by the National Home & Gardening Association and was the recipient of the 2007 MGA Green Thumb Award.


The Garden Patch Grow Box features a Nutrient Patch that delivers fertilizer and maintains the proper soil temperature. The Nutrient Patch also acts as a spacing guide when first planting your crop or flowers. With the use of the Nutrient Patch, you can use regular potting mix without worrying about nutrient deficiencies. This grow box holds a little over 23 gallons of potting mix.


Assembly is similar to any other reservoir-style self-watering planter. The Garden Patch claims it only takes five minutes to set up. The reservoir holds four gallons of water, enough to keep plants properly hydrated for several days, even in hot weather. The grow box's cover keeps additional rainwater out, so your plants won't drown. Top and bottom soil aeration prevent fungus and disease from attacking your plants' root systems.


The Garden Patch Grow Box was rated 4.1 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Customers who were happy with their purchase saw quick sprouting, large plants, and huge produce. Customers who had a less-than-optimal experience with the Garden Patch Grow Box cited issues with fertilizer burns, the reservoir cracking, and plants dying or never growing. Some customers also recommended buying the version with a tomato cage if growing tomatoes.


Sale
EarthBox 80105 Planter, 1 Terra
  • Award-winning, maintenance Free gardening system
  • Controls soil conditions and eliminates guesswork
  • Includes: 4-piece gardening system (EarthBox container, aeration screen, water fill tube, 2 B/W mulch covers), 1-pound...

This grow box is very similar to The Garden Patch Grow Box, but with some slightly different features. Since their inception in 1994, EarthBox claims to be the pioneer of container gardening. EarthBox advertises that their grow boxes are recyclable, American-made, and award-winning.


Instead of a fertilizer-infused soil cover like The Garden Patch Grow Box uses, the EarthBox grow box uses separate fertilizer and mulch covers. The Garden Kit also includes caster wheels, making the EarthBox grow box easily portable despite the added weight of water and soil. The EarthBox Garden Kit holds 15 gallons of potting mix.


The EarthBox Garden Kit uses a reservoir self-watering system, but it is a slightly different style than The Garden Patch's grow box. EarthBox's grow box uses an aeration screen placed several inches above the planter's bottom. You place the watering tube and add the potting mix on top. Water moves up through the screen, and you can replenish it through the watering tube with a hose or watering can.


The EarthBox Garden Kit was rated 4.4 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Happy customers love the space-saving quality and ability to grow plants they never could before. Dissatisfied customers were unhappy with the way the EarthBox Grow Kit looked and that their plants died.


Sale
Lechuza 15577 Delta 20 Self-Watering Garden Planter, Espresso Metallic
  • DELTA 20 is the perfect way to bring your windowsill to life
  • Made in Germany of durable frost and UV resistant PP plastic for indoor use
  • Simple yet elegant design complements any decor

The Lechuza Delta 20 Planter is a smaller version of the grow box format. This planter sits on a windowsill and supplies regulated water and nutrients to your plants. The Lechuza grow box is for indoor use only. It is a great option for apartment dwellers without a deck or balcony.


Since the Lechuza Delta 20 Planter goes indoors, there is no real need for a soil or mulch cover. Lechuza has its own specially formulated substrate, called Lechuza Pon, that separates the water reservoir from the soil and releases fertilizer. The Lechuza Delta 20 Planter is much smaller than the others in this review, holding just over one gallon of potting mix. Because of its small size, this grow box is better for growing herbs or flowers instead of full vegetable plants.


This planter has a typical reservoir, but with the addition of an above-soil water level indicator. This makes it easy to monitor the water level and ensure your plants don't go dry.


The Lechuza Delta 20 Planter was rated 5 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers, but keep in mind there are only a few reviews at this time. Customers who left reviews mentioned that this planter was great for lazy gardeners and travelers. Some also praised the planter's aesthetic design.


You can find the Lechuza Delta 20 Planter at the Lechuza U.S. website and on Amazon.


Sale
CedarCraft Self-Watering Elevated Cedar Planter (23" X 49" X 30") -...
  • Save time & water with a 6-gallon self-watering irrigation system
  • Consistent water delivery yields healthier, more productive plants
  • Easy working height minimizes back & knee strain

The CedarCraft Self-Watering Elevated Cedar Planter features eco-friendly wood. This is a refreshing change from the plastic in our other reviewed planters. Its elevated design makes an excellent container garden for those with limited mobility and protects plants from small wildlife and pets.


The CedarCraft Elevated Planter does not include fertilizer, substrate, or a mulch cover. This grow box holds a little over 32 gallons of potting mix.


The water reservoir holds up to six gallons, so your plants can stay hydrated for a long time with no maintenance. Like the Lechuza Delta 20 Planter, this grow box features a water level indicator. This lets you know when it's time to refill.


The CedarCraft Elevated Planter was rated 4.4 out of 5 stars by Amazon customers. Satisfied customers referenced quick assembly, pest control, and happy plants. Most negative reviews blamed a leaking water reservoir for their dissatisfaction — there is some evidence to suggest this is part of the planter's intended design.


You can find the CedarCraft Elevated Planter at the CedarCraft website and on Amazon.

Our Verdict

Between The Garden Patch Grow Box and the EarthBox Garden Kit, we prefer the EarthBox product. With a water-filling tube and the inclusion of caster wheels, it is easier to move and maintain than its competitor. The slightly higher customer reviews also don't hurt the EarthBox. With very few past customers experiencing any issues with the Garden Kit, you can buy with confidence. That said, the price of the Garden Patch Grow Box is almost half of the EarthBox Garden Kit. If the price is important to you, the slight benefits of the EarthBox product aren't worth the extra money.

As for the other two grow boxes in our review, they each have their place in the container gardening world. The Lechuza Delta 20 Planter is ideal for indoor gardeners or those who don't need the soil capacity of its larger counterparts. The CedarCraft Self-Watering Elevated Cedar Planter is best for large spaces and gardeners with mobility issues. One is not necessarily better than the other; they simply suit different circumstances.

Gardening 101: Turn That Patio Into A Vibrant Garden

gardening 101: a beautiful set up of plants on a patio garden
Patio Garden 101 Turn That Boring Patio into a Vibrant Garden

You want your patio to stand out, to have that curb appeal that makes it pop. A patio garden is one way to accomplish this and distinguish your home from others on the block. Perrenials, herbs, or veggie gardens are easy to maintain and, done right, are mostly self-sustaining. If you have more time to dedicate to the craft, you can always mix in other, more elaborate, arrangements as well.

There are many approaches to take when starting your patio garden. Determining placement, weather extremes, your budget, and preventive care are some things to consider when starting your garden. Then there's the decision between vertical or horizontal gardens, and incorporating additional features like garden ornaments. The options are endless, even if you don't have much time, money, or energy to dedicate to gardening.

Consider the Best Location for a Patio Garden

fresh green plants with a sofa set on a Patio Garden outside the house

Location, location, location. It's not only important in real estate transactions. When setting up a patio garden, homeowners have to choose the perfect spot for their garden. Getting enough sunlight, water, and avoiding overly windy conditions are a few factors that'll play into the planting area.

Sunlight, temperature, and wind

nice and elegant sofa set with a round center table and plants around the patio under the sunlight

Most people tend to overlook how many hours of daylight their patio gets during the day. Buildings, balconies, clouds, or any small obstruction can minimize direct sunlight to the area. And, when starting a patio garden, it's essential to ensure there are sufficient sunlight and heat in the area. It's also crucial to consider growing season. The sunlight moves differently in winter and summer months. So, it's vital to ensure the garden gets sufficient sunlight throughout the season. Too much heat can also be a bad thing. Some plants can't survive scorching temperatures. When choosing a garden location, factor this into the decision.

Some plants can't sustain themselves in the wind, while others thrive. In cold regions, or areas where snow is common, choosing the right assortments is also essential. The USDA hardiness zone is an excellent reference for determining which plants, herbs, and flowers can survive colder temperatures. Depending on weather conditions, not all plants can grow in specific zones. The hardiness guide provides insight as to which plants homeowners can place in their patio garden that'll survive.

Choosing the Right Plants for a Patio Garden

Beautiful patio or balcony garden with a nice view of the trees and plants

When preparing a patio garden, it's also important to consider the plants, flowers, veggies and herbs to grow. Some individuals want something simple, which requires minimum time dedication. Others want the most beautiful arrangements, regardless of price or how much time it is going to cost them. No matter which extreme you're in, there are several great, easy to care for plants for a patio garden.

Veggie garden

Herb garden

Flower garden

Soil and Fertilizers for the Patio Garden

Good soil and fertilizers go a long way in maintaining a patio garden. Especially when gardeners don't plan on dedicating much time to maintenance, the best fertilizers help with growth. The soil is the primary source of nutrients for the plants, veggies, and herbs in a garden. For this reason, it's essential to choose the best soil available. No matter how much sunlight or watering gardeners do, a poor quality soil will impede growth.

Loam soil is the best option for a patio garden. It contains nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, as well as other essential nutrients plants need. Plants continually draw nutrients from the soil. So, it's necessary to frequently tend to the land and refresh it when needed. Adding organic soil, mulch, and water regularly are some simple ways to help maintain the soil's health. It's also going to help the patio garden grow and flourish in otherwise poor growth conditions.

For those growing plants in containers, fertilizer is also imperative to help the patio garden nourish. Plants absorb nutrients through their leaves or roots. So, it's essential to choose a fertilizer which is easy to apply and will make direct contact with these areas. If plants aren't getting essential nutrients, they aren't going to grow.

A quality fertilizer, along with high-quality soil blends, will produce the best results in a patio garden.

Incorporate Vertical Patio Gardens in Tight Spaces

One of the main issues people face when setting up a patio garden is not having enough space. This issue, however, shouldn't be a hindrance. There are many ways to get around tight spaces when starting a garden. Vertical gardening is one such solution many homeowners turn to when starting a patio garden. As the name implies, vertical gardening is a process where gardeners grow plants vertically, rather than horizontally. Balconies in buildings or small patios are the perfect place to set up a vertical landscape.

There are many bases or frames that gardeners can utilize when setting up their vertical garden. Wire fencing, wooden panels, pallets, or purchasing upright containers are a few options to consider. Succulents and other types of foliage grow well in a vertical garden setting. Veggies that grow on vines also thrive in a vertical garden setup. Since they have room to flourish and roots aren't in the way, it's a preferred growth method for gardeners.

Hex wire or mesh panels are also great bases to incorporate into a vertical garden. They help preserve the upward growth direction and also help contain leaves or vines from growing wildly. Gardeners will find it's easier to prune, trim, cut, or otherwise maintain their garden using these items as well.

Vertical gardens are also an excellent option for those who are creative when setting up a patio garden. Incorporating fun colors, planters, boxes, and frames create a distinct outdoor oasis. Gardeners can use plastic bottles, old boxes, or build their containers to grow plants in. They can incorporate several color schemes, or choose a simple pattern or arrangement. The options are endless.

When there isn't much space to work with, gardeners must be creative. The vertical garden is a great solution.

Patio Garden Maintenance

Garden maintenance is essential in any space. But this is especially true in smaller patio garden areas. The reason being is that things look messy when gardeners don't properly maintain them. In a small area, with dead flowers, overflowing soil, or weeds everywhere, the space doesn't look good. Proper maintenance will help preserve not only the appearance, but also viability, health, and longevity of the patio garden.

Some things gardeners will do when it comes to garden maintenance include:

  • Watering plants, herbs, and veggies regularly
  • Adding fertilizer to help plants grow, thrive, and outlast difficult seasons
  • Pull weeds, remove twigs, and clean up dead leaves around the garden
  • Eliminating off-color or dead foliage when new leaves are growing in
  • Rotating containers, in a container garden, to encourage growth
  • Winterizing the area by adding mulch and other protectants to help plants thrive under challenging climates

Preventive care and maintenance aren't tricky, but it is something that gardeners must do. The more dedication people put into caring for a patio garden, the higher the growth results are. These are some simple steps every homeowner can take, that don't require much effort, to maintain a healthy garden.

Tools Necessary to Maintain a Patio Garden

a pruner to take away weeds on the grass

Having the right tools when gardening makes life much more manageable than not having these items around. Whether it's a balcony garden, small container garden, or patio gardens, some tools are imperative for gardeners to own. Gloves might not seem important but help prevent splintering or injuries on sharp spines when working in the garden. Pruners are also one of the best gardening tools to own when maintaining a patio garden. They make it easy to cut off dead foliage or broken branches without damaging other flowers in the process.

Pesticides are necessary for some gardens also. Caterpillars and other small insects that make their way into veggies can wreak havoc. Most people don't want to touch these animals and, in some cases, it's dangerous to do so. A pesticide will help maintain the garden's health, preserve the plants, and avoid destruction. It also makes it easy to stop infestation (as a preventive tool) before it begins in the garden.

Rakes, hoes, and spades are also some garden tools that some gardeners will use in a larger patio area. Edgers and weeders are also great tools to have handy when doing maintenance work around the garden. Outside some homes where they have to dig to add fertilizer or soil, these tools are beneficial. Most patio gardeners don't need the largest gardening tools to maintain the space. However, having the right arsenal of tools will enhance the gardening experience.

No matter how big or small a patio garden is, it's essential to maintain it to ensure it develops properly. These are some tools every gardener can use to help in the growth, maintenance, and preservation of their garden.

Maintaining a Healthy Patio Garden in Tight Spaces with Minimal Time

person transferring a pot of Healthy plant to a large container

You don't need a 10-acre plot to come up with the perfect landscape design for your garden. Many homeowners make due with tiny spaces. Balconies, patios, and even a small corner in a kitchen is a viable location for a garden. That, of course, is as long as the gardener is willing to do the work to achieve the best results. When it comes to setting up a patio garden, there isn't much work that goes into the process. Even with a small space, you can do plenty and grow a magnificent outdoor oasis.

Incorporating the right mix of plants, veggies, and herb assortments is just the starting point. Understanding how to care for and preserve the garden is the other important aspect most gardeners tend to forget. With these simple steps, you'll design the perfect outdoor patio garden without having to spend much time or money to do so. These are some fun ideas to help you start the process of designing your garden. Taking these steps will allow you to develop a patio that stands apart from the neighbors'.

Apartment Gardening: How to Garden in Your Apartment

gardens on apartments - perfect examples of apartment gardening

Apartments are great, in that you don’t have to take care of the maintenance and you can call your landlord with any problems. But most seem to lack one critical, highly enjoyable thing: your own outdoor space. Because of this, many tenants have taken to growing and keeping all kinds of plants inside.

Apartment gardening is easier said than done. But with just a few tips and tricks of this trade, you too can live in your own personal forest or paradise of plants.

Why Plants?

beautiful flower garden inside an apartment

There are many reasons to get, nourish and keep plants beyond their obvious aesthetic appeal to most of us. Plants can actually help you breathe better. They release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. This helps to freshen the air and eliminate harmful toxins. NASA researchers once concluded that houseplants can remove up to 87 percent of air toxins within 24 hours.

Houseplants can also improve your concentration and productivity. Reputable studies indicate that plants can improve your concentration by up to 15 percent, and they can also reduce stress levels and boost your mood. Office plants, specifically those with broad leaves placed on your desk, have been found to regulate humidity and increase levels of positivity, thus improving your mood. Studies also have found that seeing greenery and nature helps you feel calmer and more relaxed.

Indoor apartment gardens can even help enhance your mood and help a bit if you are dealing with depression and loneliness. This is because caring for a living thing is not only rewarding, but many of us find that it gives an important sense of purpose.

What Do Plants Need?

green house with plants

Plants need eight basic things in order to survive and grow. Let's start from the top, with water, probably the most obvious item on our list. Water is used to carry moisture and nutrients between the roots of a plant and its leaves. Water is absorbed from the soil by the roots.
 
Nutrients, specifically nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, are also essential for keeping a plant alive. The nitrogen keeps the leaves green and healthy. The phosphorus is needed to create large flowers and strong roots. The potassium helps the plant fight off disease. Most plants get these nutrients in sufficient amounts from the fertilizer naturally in the soil or added by the gardener. And, speaking of soil, plants need clean and healthy soil in order to thrive. Not only does soil provide an anchor for plant roots and physically support the plant, but it also contains vital nutrients.

Clean, fresh air is also a must. Air filled with smoke, gases or other pollutants will limit a plant's ability to take in carbon dioxide. This prevents plants from being able to complete photosynthesis. Dirty air can also block out the sunlight, which plants need to grow. Adequate sunlight is essential. Light is used as energy during photosynthesis, which is the process plants use to make their food.

Temperature and overall growing climate also matter for apartment gardening. Most plants thrive in cooler nighttime temperatures with warmer temperatures and light during the daytime. If it is too hot, the plants can essentially burn up, and if it is too cold, they will die eventually.

Enough space to grow is another necessity in producing healthy plants. Plants need enough room for their roots and leaves to grow, whether in an apartment gardening setting or a greenhouse. Without space, plants will stay stunted and small. If you overcrowd your plants, they can also contract diseases related to limited airflow around them.

We believe that the last, most important thing plants need to grow big and strong is time. Patience is needed as plants do not grow quickly. Days, weeks and even months are needed in order for a plant to produce flowers or fruit, so apartment gardening is definitely for the patient among us

How to Choose a Spot for Apartment Gardening

aloe vera plant near the apartment window

As we discussed above, plants need water, sunlight, nutrients, soil, clean air, enough space, favorable temperature, and the time to grow. Because of this, there are select places in your apartment that plants will grow better than others. Our suggestions:

  1. Balcony or porch. If you are lucky, you will have at least a tiny amount of outdoor space in the form of a balcony or patio. If you are interested in growing vegetables, this is the spot to do it. May we suggest a tomato plant to start?
  2. Windowsills. If you do not have any outdoor space of your own at all, a windowsill is the next best spot. Your plants will have access to natural light even though they will not be outside.
  3. Along the side of the building. This is a little tricky, as the side of your apartment building is not your personal area. There is a good chance someone may steal or destroy your plant. But there is also a good chance that no one but you will be utilizing this space.

In order to determine if you are putting your plant in a spot where it can survive, you must check for availability of natural light. Successful apartment gardening will require you to monitor it throughout a typical day. Check in every few hours and take note of how much sun is coming in through the window over the course of a day. Once you have this information, you will use it to determine what plants can be grown there.

Remember that there are four main categories of sunlight exposure applicable to apartment gardening and other plant pursuits:

  • Full sun = 6+ hours of direct sunlight.
  • Partial sun = 4 to 5 hours of direct sunlight.
  • Partial shade = 2 to 4 hours of direct sunlight.
  • Shade = Less than 1 hour of direct sunlight.

After deciding where your selected spots land on that list, you can decide what plants you can grow as part of your apartment gardening adventure. In addition to making sure an area gets, it is important to notice if it gets too much sun. If your plants start to get leaf burn, spotting, or the leaves suddenly fall off, that means they need some time out of the sun and a different location overall.

What to Grow

sprouts

The world is your oyster when deciding what plants to purchase for your apartment gardening project. Before running down to your local nursery, it is helpful to ask yourself the following questions to narrow down your selection:

  1. What do you use the most? If you are buying cilantro weekly, then this is an herb you should consider growing yourself.
  2. What do you like to eat? Do you gobble down pints of cherry tomatoes? If so, consider investing in the materials needed to grow these on your balcony.
  3. What makes financial sense for you? 

While it may seem obvious that growing something yourself is cheaper than buying it in the store, this is not always the case. Investing in the pots and soil required to grow only one pumpkin may not be worthwhile. Herbs are typically well worth the investment as starter kits only cost a few dollars.

While plants release oxygen during the day, most release carbon dioxide at night when photosynthesis stops. Plants like orchids, succulents, snake plants and bromeliads do the opposite and release oxygen at night. This makes them perfect for the bedroom as they can help with your sleep. Or: Should you place a plant or two in the bathroom? Air plants and kokedama (Japanese hanging moss balls) thrive in a moist environment.


If you are lucky enough to have a sunroom, which may be too hot for many plants, try ferns, palms, succulents, and cacti. They do best when in a hot and sunny environment. Some of our favorite plant selections of all for apartment gardening in different forms are: 

  • Monstera deliciosa, which is inexpensive and grows quickly
  • Epipremnum aureum, a low-maintenance plant (toxic to cats and dogs, though)
  • Hedera (ivy), an extremely resilient plant.
  • Chlorophytum comosum, another low-maintenance choice as it only needs one watering weekly 

If you are new to apartment gardens, it is important to start with something simple, like a cactus, a succulent or a few herbs. Among the most common plants to add to your apartment garden are basil, rosemary, mint, ginger, cilantro, and parsley. They require very little effort and should do well as long as you place them in an appropriately sunny spot and water them regularly.

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How to Help Your Apartment Garden Thrive

Start with a few plants. It's not advisable to go from having no plants at all to having an apartment full of them overnight. Focusing on a few, especially at first, will let you ease into apartment gardening. Pick plants that you will want to invest your time and energy into for the ultimate return of flavor, such as herbs or tomatoes.

Make the right plant choices. Don’t try to grow something that needs full sun in a dark apartment. also, be sure to get large enough pots. As we mentioned before, plants require space to grow. If you keep a plant in a pot that is too small, it will not survive. It may seem expensive to continue buying pots, but plants are an investment.

Use good soil. Don’t just go outside and dig a hole to fill your pot. A bag of good soil can be purchased from your local hardware store for less than $10. Finally, be sure to maintain a watering schedule. If you are having trouble remembering to water your plants, try working it into your normal routine at the same time each day.

In conclusion, we believe that creating your very own apartment garden is well within your reach. All you have to do start small and follow the directions we've laid out. Happy growing to all!

Organic Gardening: The Basics on How to Get Started

Organic Gardening: Harvesting Organic Tomatoes
How to Get Started in

Eating organic produce has so many varying benefits. Eating organic leads to better overall health, stronger immune systems, and less illness. But one downside of organic food is that it can be expensive. Luckily, with organic gardening, you can get all the benefits without the high costs.

If you’re focused on a healthy life fueled with organic food, growing your own food is one of the best moves you can make. Through organic gardening, you have complete control over what goes into your food so you can guarantee that you’re eating fresh, non-GMO, and pesticide-free produce that’s great for you. And you get to save on groceries too. But the benefits don’t stop there. Read on for all the benefits of organic gardening and how easily you can get started on your own.  

What Is Organic Gardening?

organic garden

With a rise in health concerns and a shift to healthier eating, you’ve probably heard the word organic more lately. But what does it mean when it comes to gardening?

For gardening, organic means growing with nature's natural ingredients. Organic gardening is growing without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. In commercial farming, there are intricate rules and regulations put into place for what foods can be labeled as organic or not. But when you take matters into your own hands, growing organic food is a lot simpler, and the benefits are so worth it.

Benefits of Organic Gardening

Risk-Free Eating 

organic produce

With organic gardening, you know exactly what you’re getting. You know what kind of seeds you’ve planted and their quality, the health of the soil used, and most importantly that nothing detrimental to your health has entered the growing cycle.

Increased Overall Health

organic ingredients

Synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides have been linked to an innumerable amount of health implications. When you opt for organic gardening, you reduce your intake of fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides and boost your overall health.

The list of health detriments associated with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides goes on and on:

  • Birth defects 
  • Breast cancer
  • Damaged brain function
  • Depression 
  • Autism
  • Miscarriages
  • Infertility 
  • Parkinson’s 
  • Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Childhood leukemia

Organic gardening gives you fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide free food so you can avoid their link to these awful health problems.

Stress Reduction 

taking care of an organic garden

While there are important benefits to the produce you reap from organic gardening, the process of gardening has benefits too. Stress is a huge problem in our society, and it has so many health implications. But spending time in nature, as you do while gardening, has been shown to be a great stress reducer.

More Vitamin D

Vitamin D

A lack of Vitamin D has been associated with multiple types of cancer, bone density problems, type 1 diabetes, joint and muscle pain, heart attacks and more. What’s a great way to make sure you’re not deficient in Vitamin D? Spend some time in the sun. A short 20 minutes outside in the sun boosts your Vitamin D to optimal levels, and when you spend that short time gardening, you get so much more than just a vitamin boost.

Lower Grocery Costs

buying organic produce

As we mentioned before, organic produce can be expensive. In fact, many people avoid organic produce because they say it’s too expensive. But the benefits of organic produce are too good to miss out on, and a great solution is to find a way to reduce the costs of organic produce.

The best way to eat organically without the high grocery bill is through organic gardening. Once you get your garden started, which doesn’t cost all that much, you essentially have a free or low-cost source of high-quality organic produce.

Increased Happiness 

organic grapes

Science has proven that certain bacteria that naturally occurs in soil acts as a natural antidepressant. Organic gardening allows for produce to grow without killing off these bacteria with synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, which means you get to feel happier.

Increased Movement 

Organic gardening also gets you up and moving. When you know the benefits of organic gardening and taste the amazing produce your plants’ yield, you’ll be eager to take care of your garden. This means you’ll spend more time active and outside. So if you could use some increased movement, but are just not a fan of the gym, organic gardening is a great way to get you moving with a purpose.

Healthier Environment 

While there are a lot of anthropocentric benefits to organic gardening, the environmental benefits shouldn’t be overlooked. The synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides used in conventional growing negatively impact environmental health too.

Chemical pesticides kill both beneficial and harmful organisms and have been linked to negative impacts on bees, butterflies, and other important pollinators we need to grow food. These pesticides are even thought to be a driver behind bee colony collapse.

The synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides don’t just go into our soil and food; they penetrate our groundwater leading to high toxicity levels. These products also get washed off as runoff, ending in streams and oceans, polluting environments close and far.

Organic gardening is good for you and the environment, and it’s easier to start than you think. Read on for how you can get started.

How to Start an Organic Garden

Gather Your Materials

garden hand tools

Before you get started in your organic garden, it’s a good idea to have all the materials you need. This way, once you get going, you don’t have to stop to go out and buy missing materials.

Here’s what you’ll need to start an organic garden: 

  • Clippers
  • Trowel set
  • Compost bin 
  • Gardening gloves
  • Watering can
  • Soil test kit 
  • Seeds/seedlings 

While it’s a good idea to get all high-quality materials for optimal ease, it's essential to buy high-quality seeds. There are lots of sources for 100% organic and non-genetically modified seeds, so look around and pick the best ones. The same goes for seedlings.

A great thing about organic gardening is that once you get your first round of seeds, you won’t really need to buy more. You can just use seeds from your existing plants for future planting.

Planning Your Garden

Garden Bed

Once you’ve got all your materials, plan out your garden to make the whole process easier by picking the best site. You can grow an organic garden anywhere from your windowsill to your yard; it just depends on what you’ve got to work with and what your garden goals are.

If you’re growing in a yard or open space, focus on your size goals and pick an optimal location. You want to pick a spot that will get the right amount of sunlight for the crops you want to grow. You also want an area that has draining abilities, so your plants don’t get flooded.

Picking Your Produce

harvested produce

For optimal growth, it’s important to pick plants that will grow best in the conditions of your site. Pick the plants that will work best in your overall garden, and in specific parts of your garden based on moisture, drainage, light, and soil quality.

If this is your first time gardening or organic gardening, you can try starting out with these easy to grow plants: 

  • Lettuce 
  • Mint
  • Tomatoes
  • Pea Shoots
  • Courgettes
  • Beetroot
  • Onions
  • Strawberries
  • Dwarf French beans

Prepare Your Soil

rake tending the soil

Once you’ve got the perfect garden site picked, it’s time to get your soil ready. Different soils have varied nutrient levels and components, and these all affect the plants you grow, so it’s important to test your soil for quality.

Using your test kit will give you the best information on your soil composition, but if you want, you can try testing your soil by hand too. To do this, grab a handful of soil and give it a tight squeeze. When you open your hand, an optimal quality soil will keep its shape and crumble when you gently poke it.

Whatever soil you’re working with, it’s important to give it a nutrient boost before you plant. For the best growing soil, mix in some compost, manure, and leaf and grass clippings. If you don’t have enough soil, you can also purchase some organic soil.

Get Planting 

soil

The last step of starting an organic garden is the best part! Now you get to start planting. If you're planting seedlings, dig a hole that’s as deep as and twice as wide as the roots, place your plant in the hole and fill with the soil you removed. For seeds, you don’t have to dig as deep or wide.

It’s a good idea to keep similar plants grouped together to reduce weeding and watering waste. It’s also a good idea to keep space between your grouped rows to increase air circulation and reduce fungal growth. 

Conclusion

Organic produce has so many health benefits for you and the environment, and the best way to eat organically without the high cost is through gardening organically. Now that you know the benefits of organic gardening and how easily you can start your own, you’re well on your way to better overall health and happiness while helping the planet too.

Wild Fennel: The Basics on How to Grow it on Your Garden

Wild fennel
How to Grow Wild Fennels

Wild fennel has the appearance of celery but is is quite different, even though it is a close relative. Despite also being a member of the carrot family, fennel has none of celery's mildness. Almost no vegetable is equal in flavor to fennel. Fennel's strong spice is found in liquorice and anise flavoring. After a bite into one of these white stalks, you won't ever forget the difference between fennel and bok choy.

The unforgettable taste of fennel comes with healing properties, and it can be found in a variety of ecolandscapes in the wild. People often find that wild fennel is superior in flavor to store-bought varieties. Foragers unite. Your search for flavor ends here.  

Why Grow Wild Fennel?

fennel with sprouts

This seemingly unfamiliar vegetable has a surprising variety of uses. It is of the genus Foeniculum and the specific species is calledF. vulgare. Fennel offers many health benefits, but it may take some daring to invest in. Fennel's natural characteristics alone make it a vegetable you should consider bringing into your diet. As a gardener, you can expect growing fennel to be similar to growing other herbs. And as a forager, you will come to recognize it and may consider taking it home to grow.

Use Wild Fennel in Cooking

fennel as an ingredient

In cooking, wild fennel leaves can be used as an herb to season pork, fish, or wild game meat. Wild fennel can be used in the same way that many other vegetables are used. Its bulb can be eaten raw, sauteed, roasted or stewed in soups. Chopping it up and adding it to soup is a favorite way to prepare fennel. Even the seeds, which hold the largest share of spice flavor, are commonly used to season pickles and cookies.

Fennel is the main spice in preparing Italian sausage; not surprising since this plant originated in the Mediterranean. It is even the flavoring for the alcohols Absinthe and Akvavit. Teas and salads are also made from it. Once in bloom, the clusters of fennel flowers can be added to pancakes for a sweet spice. Fennel is a good source of potassium, calcium and fiber. One cup of fennel has 20% of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C.  

Using Wild Fennel

fennel on a chopping board

The dried seeds are a natural home remedy for freshening breath and treating indigestion. Fennel is often used for its flavor in products like toothpaste, antacids, and breath mints. Anise drops can still be found in an old fashioned candy store. Using a mortar and pestle to grind the seeds, the powder can be readied for use in an herbal remedy.

Health Benefits

fennel bulbs

Fennel boosts immunity, eases menstruation woes, and treats anemia. It facilitates digestion by coating the digestive system with its essential oil. This acts as a stimulant to induce natural gastric secretion, reducing inflammation and encouraging proper nutrient adsorption. It has a positive influence on the circulatory system by lowering high blood pressure and regulating cholesterol levels.

Additionally, fennel is known not only to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors, but also to ward off the harmful effects of chemotherapy treatment. It can prevent macular degeneration and premature aging. Antioxidants are abundant in fennel, which rejuvenate tissue. The juice of its leaves can be applied to sore eyes to reduce irritation.

How to Plant Wild Fennel

fennel bulb

Wild fennel is an annual in the upper Midwest, but in warmer climates can be a biennial or perennial. Find wild fennel in an open undisturbed fields and save the seeds for your garden at home. Fennel can be transplanted as well (it is reportedly abundant naturally in the Western states). Avoid picking roadside fennel that may have been sprayed with chemicals or absorbed harmful compounds through its roots.

Plant in low to medium fertility soil. Do not add fertilizer. An organic compost may be added to the first six inches of soil. Soil pH should be in the range of 6.0 to 7.5. Space seeds several inches apart, and more if planting in a container. It takes about three months to grow fennel to size, and two weeks to germinate. Water the seedlings daily to keep them moist. Once they have stabilized their main stalk and roots, water less than daily. More mature plants may be only watered twice a week during dry spells.

When and Where to Plant 

fennel

Plant fennel seeds after the last frost of winter in temperatures between 50 and 70 F. It will need plenty of space, so don't forget to add more than you might otherwise. Wild fennel will develop an extensive root system. At its maturity, fennel reaches a height of three feet. It may take a few years to observe the growth patterns and heartiness of the variety you planted.

Care and Maintenance

fennels

Fennel is known to cross pollinate, resulting in a mixing of flavors, and thus it should be kept away from other garden vegetables. Reserve a portion of the garden for fennel alone. Alternatively, plant wild fennel in a large pot with spacious tap root room. It has a large network of underground roots, much like mint, which can be a danger to lawns and other plants.

Be aware of the plant's horizontal and vertical toot reach. Pluck out fennel seedlings while they are young or you may need to spend some time digging deeper in the future to uproot the plant.

Keep fennel in full sun and the soil well drained. Stake the fennel plant if their height puts roots stability at risk. Lean or tie the stake to the plant's upper portion for balance. In terms of insects and infestations, slugs and snails may find your fennel plant interesting. Small populations can be removed by hand. Aphids and flies can be controlled by spraying the foliage of the plant with a soapy insecticide spray. Container plants need to be in direct sunlight or in a south-facing window.

Harvesting 

Harvesting wild fennel

After months of watching, you can finally make use of what you have sowed. Fresh wild fennel should be used within three days of harvesting, so take what you need right away and leave the rest for the near future. All three parts of the plant can be used, each with distinct purposes. Seeds are produced after the plant has bolted.

Bulbs

Foliage

Seeds

Conclusion​​​​

With an endless list of ways to use fennel, it's a wonder that fennel mostly goes unknown. Once non-native to North America, wild fennel has taken root throughout the lands; so much so that it is often considered a weed. But it has its heart around many a forager or wild plant seeker. Fennel's abundance is a flavor of love. Bring your shears and a sack for the bounty. Collect and try a new recipe. Few plants are as versatile and as easily recognizable. Nature's healing properties will greet you and thank you.

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