Gardening Tips and Topics

Watch for sustainable gardening tips and tools...after working on a few farms I picked up some great gardening tips that will hopefully help you with your organic garden. 
  • Heirloom vegetables--Generally refers to cultivars which are older than 25 or 30 years.  I prefer to look for the oldest possible varieties.  See below for more information.
  • How to keep away tomato blight--Prune from 1' to the ground.  Tomato plants should not touch each other or the ground, as blight tends to splash up from the soil.  DO NOT use tomato cuttings in compost which you will be using in your tomato garden, and do not replant tomatoes in the same garden in which you observed blight the previous year.  Be sure to dispose of all tomato plants at the end of the season.
  • Starting a successful organic garden--amend your soil with organic compost and use organic pest control methods where necessary--lots of great information available, but your best option is to hook up with a local garden store that supports organic gardening and farming.
  • Great sustainable and organic seed companies--so many options!  Seed Savers Exchange, Johnny's Seeds, and Baker's Creek are a great place to begin...

Heirloom vs. Organic...what does it all mean?

A Really, Really Basic Primer

As an organic veggie gardener, for the last few years I have jumped on the "heirloom" bandwagon.  Here's the is confusing.  REALLY confusing!  There are organic seeds which are hybrid but not heirloom, nonorganic heirloom, organic hybrids, nonorganic hybrid, open pollinated...oh my!!!!

So I did a little research, and wanted to put together a primer of sorts with a few terms, boiled down to simple and reasonable definitions for simple and reasonable people (like me!).  The fact is, there are several definitions, so these are the sort of "consensus" definitions:

Open Pollinated

The basic principle of open pollination is simple...if you grow a seed, gather the seeds from the mature fruit or vegetable and replant them, you will grow exactly the same fruit or vegetable the following year.  Brandywine tomatoes are a great example of an open pollinated plant.  Sounds simple, right?  It is--except for bees.  They like to complicate things by buzzing around and cross pollinating and making new varieties!  Ah, well.  Unfortunately there are also man-made plants which do not open pollinate, because their seeds are sterile (see hybrid).


Heirloom fruits and vegetables generally meet 3 criteria:
  1. They are old.  Age varies by definition, but one generally agreed-upon definition is that the breed is older than 1951.  Some are ancient, and no one is quite sure when they came about.  Spelt is a good example of an "old" grain, it is older than wheat!
  2. They are open-pollinated.
  3. They have pleasing taste and texture...kind of like those great-tasting veggies and fruits grandma ate!


 Hybrids are generally bred for a particular quality by a nursery or individual.  Qualities may include size, disease resistance, color, production quality or quantity, or taste.  Often the seeds are "sterile," that is, they will not germinate, because they are mutations.


Not chemically treated in any way--soil or leaves.  Most states have an organic certification process which is quite rigorous and expensive.  (Having worked on an organic raw dairy farm, I was quite aware of the process, but I digress!)

Hope that helps!  Please comment back if you have any questions.  Are there any other terms you are confused about?

By the way if you are interested in growing your own organic food, here are a few gardening guides you can either read or purchase online. If you click on the names, it will take you right to a page where you can read more about them:

9 Easy Steps to Starting An Organic Garden
My Organic Food Garden

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