Extension Vegetable Crops
Mimeo Report 72-3
HOME VEGETABLE GARDENING: THE ORGANICAY
By: James M. Stephens
Assistant Vegetable Crops Specialist JUL 11 1972
I.F.A.S. Univ. of Florida
Successful vegetable gardens are not accidental. They are the results
of planning, constant care, and the will to make things grow. Among the many
things a vegetable garden may offer toward a satisfying experience are fresh
air, exercise, sunshine, knowledge, supplemental income, mental therapy, and
fresh food, rich in vitamins and minerals, harvested at the best stage of
Organic gardening differs from "conventional" gardening mainly in the
areas of fertilization and pest control. The organic gardener prefers to use
natural and organic materials and methods, whereas the conventional gardener
will utilize a combination of all materials and methods shown to be safe,
effective, and non-detrimental to himself or his environment.
The information in this publication should be beneficial to all gardeners
regardless of methods of culture used; however, it is primarily intended to aid
the organic gardener to employ workable methods acceptable to him and compatible
with the philosophy of "organic gardening".
II. SOME EARLY PLANS
Consider the size of your family and the amount of produce to be canned,
frozen, stored or sold, as well as that used fresh. Don't underestimate the
work and personal attention involved.
A. Choosing a Location Select a plot of good, well-drained soil near
a water supply. It should be close to the home for convenience, but should not
be shaded by tall buildings or trees. Enclosing the garden spot with a fence
is usually profitable.
B. The Garden Design Many gardeners find it helpful to draw out on
paper the location of each row and the crop or succession of crops to be
III. PLANTING GUIDE
Vegetables suited to North Central Florida gardens, leading varieties,
planting distances, best time for planting, and days to harvest are shown in
the Planting Guide. These varieties are suggested on the basis of their past
performance and their resistance to many of the garden pests, especially
diseases, that may be encountered in any garden.
Planting Guide for Vegetable Gardens
(North Florida Area)
Spacing in Inches Planting to
Crop Varieties Rows Plants Dates Harvest
Beans, Snap Extender 18-30 2-3 Mar-Apr 50-60
Beans, Pole Dade 40-48 15-18 Mar-June 60-65
Kentucky Wonder 191
Beans, Lima Fordhook 242 26-48 12-15 Mar-June 65-75
Florida Butter (Pole)
Beets Early Wonder 14-24 3-5 Sept-Mar 60-70
Detroit Dark Red
Broccoli Early Green Sprouting 30-36 16-22 Aug-Feb 60-70
Cabbage Copenhagen Market 24-36 14-24 Sept-Feb 70-90
Glory of Enkhuizen
Carrots Imperator 16-24 1-3 Sept-Mar 70-75
Cauliflower Snowball Strains 24-30 20-24 Jan-Feb 55-60
Celery Utah 52-70 24-36 6-10 Jan-Mar 115-125
Chinese Cabbage Michihli 24-36 8-12 Oct-Jan 75-85
Collards Georgia 24-30 14-18 Feb-Mar 50-55
Corn, Sweet Silver Queen (white) 34-42 12-18 Mar-Apr 80-85
Cantaloupes Smith's Perfect 70-80 48-60 Mar-Apr 75-90
Spacing in Inches Planting to
Crops Varieties Rows Plants Dates Harvest
Cucumbers Poinsett 48-60 15-24 Feb-Apr 50-55
Wisconsin SMR 18
Eggplant Florida Market 36-42 36-48 Feb-Mar 80-85
Endive-Escarole Deep Heart Fringed 18-24 8-12 Feb-Mar 90-95
Full Heart Batavian Sept
Kohlrabi Early White Vienna 24-30 3-5 Mar-Apr 50-55
Premier 12-18 12-18 Feb-Mar 50-80
Great Lakes Types Sept
Parris Island Cos
Dark Green Cos
Mustard Southern Giant Curled 14-24 4-8 Jan-Mar 40-45
Florida Broad Leaf Sept-May
Okra Clemson Spineless 24-40 18-24 Mar-May 50-55
Perkins Long Green Aug
Excel 12-24 3-4 Jan-Mar 100-130
Texas Grano Aug-Nov
White Portugal or White types 12-24 1-2 Aug-Mar 50-75
Shallots (Multipliers) 18-24 6-8 Aug-Jan 75-105
Parsley Moss Curled 12-20 8-12 Feb-Mar 90-95
Peas Little Marvel 24-36 2-3 Jan-Feb 50-55
Dark Skinned Perfection
Peas, Southern Blackeye 30-36 2-3 Mar-May 70-80
Spacing in Inches Planting to
Crop Varieties Rows Plants Dates Harvest
California Wonder 20-36 18-24 Feb-Apr 70-80
Potatoes Sebago 36-42 12-15 Jan-Feb 80-95
Potatoes, Sweet U.S. No. 1 48-54 18-24 Mar-June 120-140
Radish Cherry Belle 12-18 1-2 Oct-Mar 20-25
Early Scarlet Globe
Sparkler (white tipped)
Spinach Virginia Savoy 14-18 3-5 Oct-Nov 40-45
Spinach, Summer New Zealand 30-36 18-24 Mar-Apr 55-65
Early Prolific Straightneck 42-48 42-48 Mar-Apr 45-60
Early Summer Crookneck Aug
Alagold 90-120 48-72 Mar 95-105
Strawberry Florida 90 36-40 10-14 Sept-Oct 90-110
Spacing in Inches Planting to
Crop Varieties Rows Plants Dates Harvest
Tomatoes (Large Fruited)
Floradel 40-60 36-40 Feb-Apr 75-85
Large Cherry 36-48 18-24 Feb-Apr 75-85
Roma (Paste) Aug
Turnips Japanese Foliage (Shogoin) 12-20 4-6 Jan-Apr 40-50
Purple Top White Globe Aug-Oct
Charleston Gray 90-120 60-84 Mar-Apr 80-100
New Hampshire Midget
IV. SOIL PREPARATION
Since organic fertilizer and soil conditioning materials are slow
working in general, they should be mixed into the soil at least three weeks
ahead of planting and the soil thoroughly prepared for the seed or transplants.
Clumps of unrotted organic materials not only interferes with the seeding
operation, but may result in nutrient deficiency and possible soil-borne
disease problems such as "damping-off" of young seedlings.
V. ORGANIC MATTER
A major basis for organic gardening is the use of abundant quantities
of organic material applied to the soil. Usually, it is in the form of animal
manures, plant manures, cover crops, compost, or mixed organic fertilizer.
A. Benefits of Adding Organic Matter
1. Improves tilth, condition, and structure of soil.
2. Improves ability of soil to hold water.
3. Improves ability of soil to hold nutrients.
4. Improves bufferingg" capacity of soil; that is, keeps soil from
5. Supports the soil's micro-biological activity (or the life of
6. Contributes nutrients, both minor and major.
7. Releases nutrients slowly.
8. Acids arising from the decomposition of the organic matter
help to convert insoluble natural additives such as ground rock into plant-
B. What Happens to Organic Fertilizer Applied to the Soil?
Under suitable conditions, the organic matter is decomposed by micro-
organisms such as fungi, algae, bacteria, molds, and earthworms. In the process,
insoluble and unavailable (to plants) nutrients, such as nitrogen, are gradually
changed into simple usable products.
For example, nitrogen is converted from the unusable organic forms
to a usable inorganic form through the process called nitrification. Thus,
nitrification is the breakdown of protein (organic nitrogen) into ammonia
and then nitrate. Some of the organic matter becomes part of the soil humus.
C. Proper Conditions for Nitrification
First, materials containing nitrogen must be present There is a
great variation in the amount of nitrogen the different organic materials
contain. Then certain soil or compost conditions are necessary:
1. Proper soil acidity (pH) should be about 7.0; in acid
situation below 5.5 it ceases
2. Proper temperature of soil above 500 F.
3. Good aeration (does not occur with wet, soggy soil or compost).
4. Adequate lime for use by micro-organisms and to keep the soil
from being acid.
VI. ANIMAL MANURES
Where animal manures are available to home vegetable gardeners, they
are probably the best source of fertilizer and organic matter for the organic
Manures vary greatly in their content of fertilizing nutrients. The
composition varies according to type, age, and condition of animal; the kind
of feed used; the age and degree of rotting of the manure; the moisture content
of the manure; and the kind and amount of litter or bedding mixed in the manure.
Composition Fresh Manure With
Normal Quantity of Litter
Kind of Manure % Water % N % P % K
Cow 86 .55 .15 .50
Duck 61 1.10 1.45 .50
Goose 67 1.10 .55 .50
Hen 73 1.10 .90 .50
Hog 87 .55 .30 .45
Horse 80 .65 .25 .50
Sheep 68 1.00 .75 .40
Steer or feed yard 75 60 .35 .55
Turkey 74 1.30 .70 .50
A. How Much to Apply Broadcast
1. Before Planting
(Cow, horse, hog) 25 pounds per 100 square feet (about 5
tons per acre) of garden soil. For best results, supplement each 25 pounds
of manure with 2 to 3 pounds of ground rock phosphate or raw bone meal.
(Poultry, sheep) 12 pounds per 100 square feet (about 3
tons per acre) supplemented with I to 2 pounds of ground rock phosphate or
raw bone meal.
2. After Planting (As a sidedressing)
square feet of
(Cow, horse, hog) Sidedress with up to 5 pounds per 100
(Poultry, sheep) Use up to 3 pounds per 100 square feet of
B. How to Apply Broadcast
(All types) Broadcast evenly over plot and spade, roto-till or
otherwise work into topsoil. Apply three or more weeks before planting.
C. How to Apply as a Sidedressing
(All types) Scatter a band of manure down each side of the row.
Place each band at the edge of the root zone and work lightly into the soil
If a mulch is present, rake it back at the edge of the root zone
in order to apply the band of manure, then recover with the mulch.
NOTE: Manure is not always a complete, well-balanced fertilizer.
It is advantageous to broadcast a complete organic fertilizer (such as Fertrell)
or ground rock phosphate and potash in addition to the manures.
Acceptable manure-like organic fertilizer (artificial manure) may be
obtained through the process of composting. Simply put, compost is made by
alternating layers of organic materials, such as leaves and kitchen table
refuse, with manure, topsoil, lime, organic fertilizer, water, and air, in
such a manner that it decomposes, combines, and yields artificial manure.
A. How is the Compost Pile Made?
The compost pile is made of convenient size, usually not less
than 10 feet square (100 square feet) and 3 to 5 feet high. The top should
be left flat or with a slight depression in the center to catch rain or
added water. Too much water eliminates air and slows the decay process.
One way suggested in building the pile is to make a layer of
leaves, straw, grass clippings, and other organic materials 1 foot deep,
wet down and pack. Spread a layer of manure 4 to 6 inches deep over this
layer of wet material. Then spread up to 5 pounds of ground rock phosphate
or 1 quart of raw bone meal per 100 square feet, and 1 pound of ground
Instead of the rock phosphate and bone meal, you could use 5 pounds
of a complete organic fertilizer such as Fertrell per 100 square feet. Also,
a layer of topsoil is sometimes used.
Then continue to repeat the process until the pile has reached 3
to 5 feet high.
Compost will begin to heat after 2 or 3 days. Keep it moist, but
not too wet, and do not disturb for awhile.
After 3 or 4 weeks, fork it over, mixing the parts to obtain
Compost for the garden should be ready from 2 months to 1 year,
depending on the time of year, type of materials added, and skill of the
composer. When the compost is broken down into a homogenous mixture, and
no undecomposed leaves or other material may be seen, it is ready for use.
B. What Organic Materials Can Be Used in the Compost Pile
Most anything organic, but most popular materials are natural
materials such as straw, leaves, pine straw, grass clippings, shrub clippings,
garbage, fish scraps, water hyacinths, etc. A list of materials and what each
might contributeto the compost is given next. In addition, certain of the
materials listed as organic fertilizers (for example, tobacco stems) could
also be added.
C. Use of Compost in the Garden
Since compost is artificial manure, it should be used much as you
Broadcast it over the entire garden three weeks or more before planting.
Or if you have only a small quantity of compost, it may be mixed into the soil
along each planting furrow or at each hill site. In all cases, apply it at the
rate of about 25 pounds per 100 square feet, or I pound per square foot.
Composition of Various Materials Thrown Into Compost Piles
Compost Material % N % P % K
Banana Skins (ash) 3.25 41.76
Cantaloupe rinds (ash) 9.77 12.21
Castor Bean Pomace 5.00 2.00 1.00
Cattail Reeds 2.00 .81 3.43
Coffee Grounds 2.08 .32 .28
Corncob ash 50.00
Corn Stalks and leaves .30 .13 .33
Crabgrass, green .66 .19 .71
Eggs, rotten 2.25 .40 .15
Feathers 15.30 -
Fish scrap 2.0-7.50 1.5-6.0 -
Grapefruit skins (ash) 3.58 30.60
Oak Leaves .80 .35 .15
Orange culls .20 .13 .21
Pine needles .46 .12 .03
Ragweed .76 .26 -
Tea grounds 4.15 .62 .40
Wood ashes 1.00 4.0-10.00
VIII. NATURAL AND ORGANIC FERTILIZERS
Natural and organic materials which yield plant nutrients upon decom-
position are often available for purchase either separately or in combination.
These materials may be applied to the garden separately or combined, used in
the compost pile, or mixed with manure.
Many of the more commonly available materials are listed in the following
table along with the nutrients which they produce. These include both the
organic materials derived from plants and animals, plus the natural deposits
of rocks and minerals.
Average Plant Food Content of Natural and Organic Fertilizer Materials
(Percentage on a Dry-Weight Basis)
Organic Materials % N % P % K Availability Acidity
Fish Scrap 5.0 3.0 0.0 slowly acid
Fish Meal 10.0 4.0 0.0 slowly acid
Guano, Peru 13.0 8.0 2.0 moderately acid
Guano, Bat 10.0 4.0 2.0 moderately acid
Sewage Sludge 2.0-6.0 1.0-2.5 0.0-0.4 slowly acid
Dried Blood 12.0 1.5 0.8 mod. slow acid
Soybean Meal 7.0 1.2 1.5 slowly v. sl. acid
Tankage, Animal 9.0 10.0 15.5 slowly acid
Tankage, Garbage 2.5 1.5 1.5 very slowly alkaline
Tobacco Stems 1.5 0.5 5.0 slowly alkaline
Seaweed 1.0 4.0-10.0 slowly
Bone Meal, Raw 3.5 22.0 slowly alkaline
Urea 45.0 quickly acid
Castor Pomace 6.0 1.2 0.5 slowly acid
Wood Ashes 2.0 4.0-10.0 quickly alkaline
Cocoa Shell Meal 2.5 1.5 2.5 slowly neutral
Cotton Seed Meal 6.0 2 5 1.5 slowly acid
Ground Rock Phosphate 33.0 very slowly alkaline
Green Sand 1.0 6.0 very slowly
Basic Slag 8.0 quickly alkaline
Horn and Hoof Meal 12.0 2.0 -
Milorganite 6.0 2.5 -
Peat and Muck 1.5-3.0 0.25-0.5 0.5-1.0 very slowly acid
NOTE: Urea and calcium cyanamide are organic compounds, but since they are synthetic,
it is doubtful that most organic gardeners would consider them acceptable.
A. Natural Deposits (Rocks, Sands, Shells, etc.)
Such naturally occurring materials are usually not easily obtained
in today's modern agriculture; however, where available they represent sources
of mainly potash, phosphorus, and lime (calcium and magnesium) for organic
1. Phosphorus Rock phosphates are natural deposits of phosphate
in combination with calcium. The material as dug from the earth is very hard
and yields its phosphorus very slowly. When finely ground and with impurities
removed, the powdery material is only slightly soluble in water, but may be
beneficial to plants in subsequent seasons following application. The reaction
of phosphate rock with acids from decaying organic matter in the garden or
compost tend to make the phosphorus available to garden plants.
Apply ground rock phosphate at the rate of 2-3 pounds per 100
square feet of garden soil.
Or, when applying manure or compost, mix at the rate of 21 pounds
phosphate per 25 pounds manure or compost.
Broadcast the material over the soil surface and work into the
topsoil at least three weeks before planting. Manure or other organic fertilizer
should be added at this time.
Since the materials are so slowly decomposed, sidedressings are
2. Potash Potassium is widely distributed in nature, occurring
in rocks, soils, tissues of plants and animals, and water of seas and lakes.
In gardening practice, materials such as wood ashes, tobacco stems,
wool suint, seaweed, potash salts, greensand, and ground rock potash are used
alone, in combination with other materials yielding other nutrients, mixed with
manure, or in compost piles.
Since the potash bearing materials vary so much in composition
and rate of decomposition, specific application rates must be determined for
each material and its combinations.
In general, ground rock potash at 5 pounds per 100 square feet
may be broadcast over the soil surface three weeks prior to planting and
3. Trace elements An advantage for using organic materials as
fertilizers is that they contain many of the secondary or trace elements also
needed by the plants in addition to N, P, and K (for example, manganese in
Besides the general amounts of trace elements found in most
organic materials, certain ones are concentrated into such naturally occurring
materials as gypsum (calcium and sulfur), marl (calcium), dolomite (calcium
and magnesium), limestone (calcium), basic slag (iron, calcium, manganese, and
magnesium), and finely ground borosilicates.
4. Lime Reducing the acidity of the soil is the primary purpose
for using lime in the garden. However, liming materials also provide nutrients
for plant use. Calcium and magnesium are the two elements most commonly
provided by lime.
Natural deposits of lime which an organic gardener might use
are limestone, dolomite, shell, and marl. Allthese forms must be finely
ground to provide maximum benefit to the soil and plants.
Lime to sweeten the soil should be applied only when the needs
have been established by a reliable soil test. Under most Florida soil conditions,
applications of 2 to 3 pounds of finely ground dolomitic limestone per 100 square
feet usually will be sufficient except on very acid soils.
Apply lime well in advance of the planting date, preferably
2 to 3 months before the garden is planted. Mix well with the soil and
keep moist for best reaction.
In irrigating the garden it is advisable to thoroughly wet the soil once
a week unless sufficient rain falls. Thus, the soil will be moistened through-
out the root zone. Light sprinklings every day merely tend to wet the surface
and encourage shallow root growth.
Use of organic materials as soil conditioners and fertilizers tend to
improve the ability of the soil to retain moisture. Also, a good garden
mulch will conserve soil moisture.
A mulch is any material, usually organic, which is placed on the soil
surface around the plants. Organic materials most commonly used for mulching
are leaves, grass clippings, pine straw, sawdust, and wood shavings. Synthetic
materials, mostly plastic sheeting, have been used quite often in recent years.
Among the benefits of a mulch are (a) conserves soil moisture, (b) con-
serves nutrients, (c) reduces soil erosion, (d) reduces crop loss due to
nematodes, (e) reduces weed growth, (f) provides barrier between fruit and
soil, thus reducing soil rot on fruit, and (g) moderates the soil temperature.
Apply mulch before or after seeding or transplanting. Roll back the
mulch with a rake in order to wet the soil beneath when irrigating, for best
At the end of the garden season, the mulch may be removed and composted,
or cut into the garden soil. Most mulch is woody and should have manure or
other rich organic fertilizer applied with it when cutting into the soil.
XI. WEED CONTROL
The primary purpose of cultivation is to control weeds. Weeds are easy
to control when they are small. Shallow cultivation and hoeing is advised in
order to reduce damage to the root system. A garden mulch, such as pine straw
leaves, or other material, will help to keep weeds from growing.
XII. INSECT AND DISEASE CONTROL
During periods when infestations of various garden pests are high,
control by natural means becomes very difficult. However, the following
practices will help to reduce losses.
1. Plant resistant varieties (see planting guide).
2. Plant seed from disease-free plants.
3. Select pest-free transplants.
4. For cutworms, place a cardboard collar around plant stems at
5. Spade garden early so vegetation has time to rot before planting.
6. Use a mulch; vegetables touching the soil may rot.
7. Clean up crop refuse early.
8. Plant as early in the spring as practical.
9. Keep out weeds which harbor insects and diseases.
10. Hand-pick insects.
11. Water in morning so plants are not wet at night.
12. Dispose of severely diseased plants before they contaminate others.
13. Some insects, like cabbage worms, may be killed by spraying with
natural preparations such as Bacillus thuringiensis.
14. Rotate garden areas.
15. Bake transplanting soil in oven at 3500 F. for 1 hour.
16. Certain cover crops, like Crotolaria spectabalis and marigolds, tend
to reduce nematodes.
17. A good garden mulch tends to reduce damage caused by nematodes.
18. Many organic gardeners approve of and use sprays and other preparations
containing naturally occurring materials. Pyrethrin, rotenone, and ryania are
examples of natural poisons from plant parts. These give some control to some
insects under certain conditions.
19. Natural predators should be encouraged wherever possible; however,
predators raised in captivity, then released into the garden area are usually
Organic Gardening Supplies
Suitable materials for growing vegetables the Organic Way are not
always easy to locate. The "conventional" garden supply centers carry many
products, especially seeds and equipment, which may be used by the organic
enthusiast. However, for the difficult to find items, the following dealers
are listed as possible sources.
The naming of these suppliers does not mean to imply an endorsement of
their products or their business at the exclusion of other similar dealers.
Ecology Trading Center
788 Old Country Road
Phone: (415) 592-0305
San Francisco 585-1016
Kitner Health Food; kelp seaweed
and concentrate. 4 miles north
of Cedaredge 81413
Charles M. Perol
Elmbrook Farm, Torrington Road
DIST. OF COLUMBIA
Cosmic View, Inc. Greensand,
granite dust, phos. rock, etc.
4822 MacArthur Boulevard, N. W.
Phone: (202) 333-1737
Lake-Cook Farm Supply Company
997 Lee Street, Des Plaines 60016
Phone: (312) 824-4406
Hybro-tite dist. Korn-Kob mulch
Bob & Dorothy Arnett
Arnett Natural Food and
Farming Supplies, 836 S. Summit
Arkansas City 67005
Happy Acres, Inc.
Miracle Soil Tone Mfrs.
P. 0. Box 711
(on Highway 1247, Elihu)
Phone: (606) 678-8896
Lee McComb, Lee's Fruit Company
Box 450, 5 mi. N. on U. S. Rt. 27
& 441, Leesburg 32748
Phone: (904) 753-2064
T-All Organic Company, Inc.
"Life Cycle" nat. fertilizers, dried
poultry manure, tung meal, etc.
P. 0. Box 1326
Ira D. Ebersole
25295 S. W. 194th Avenue
R. D. #2
Kimberly Barn, Re-Vita
mineralizer soft rock phos.;
granite meal, lime
1221 East Kimberly Road
Bruckmann's--Fertrell, rock phos.,
179 (rear) So. Broadway
"Hojas Del Monte" leaf mold
"Villa-V" health spa
"Uncle Luke's Feed Store"
Perkins Crosslake Garden
Center and Nursery, Inc.
1325 Terrill Road
Scotch Plains 07076
Phone: (201) 322-5552
Loloma Nursery: Fertex, garden
supplies, vegetable plants, trees
Rodeo Road, Santa Fe 87591
Phone: (505) 982-3310
456 Hempstead Turnpike
West Hempstead, L.I. 11552
Eisman Organic Garden Supplies
Fertrell Dist., composts, soil
6046 Benken Lane, Cincinnati 45211
Phone: (513) 574-1444
Nature's Way Products
Complete Organic Line
Fred A. Veith, 3505 Mozart Avenue
Send Stamp, price list
Hiffner's Organic Gardens
Re-Vita mineralizer, Hybro-Tite,
Everything for organic growers
2450 Hazel Drive, Beavercreek,
R. E. Meredith, Roto-Hoe
Sales and Service
Fertrell, Greensand & rock phos.
6621 Troy Road, Rt. #2
Phone: (513) 964-1030
John A. Johnson
Natural Development Company
The Garden Mart
Terra Tonic and Amaze
5108 Bissonnet Street
A. Z. Richards, Jr.
Key Minerals Corporation
P. 0. Box 2364
Salt Lake City
Kenneth E. Gorman
Griffin Brothers, Inc.
2043 Church Street
Evergreen Organic Supplies
Route #2, Box 839
Natural Soil Conditioners
The Garden Spot,
West 239 N. 6548 Maple Avenue
U. S. Organic Feed Company
100% Pure organic fertilizer
1133-B South Memorial Drive
Phone: (918) 836-5106
Directory Source "Organic Gardening and Farming" Magazine
Probably the most widely distributed journal on the subject of organic
gardening is the "Organic Gardening and Farming" magazine. A subscription to
it may be obtained from 33 East Minor Street, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 18049.