On Feb. 4, Jeanne Pinsof Nolan, noted North Shore organic gardener and ever-popular presenter, gave her audience a breath of spring at the Wilmette Library’s “Greener Choices,” co-sponsored by Go Green Wilmette. Jeanne extolled the benefits of organic gardening, especially through using healthier soil. Growing your own organic food that is pesticide- and herbicide-free has major health benefits for you and your family.
Her five keys to a successful garden are sun (6-8 hours); soil (add organic nutrients and aerate); paths to keep from damaging plants; irrigation (drip is best); and fencing (with mesh inside to keep critters out).
She talked about the benefits of raised beds—for convenience and if ground soil isn’t good. It’s also vital to use only untreated wood for gardens, particularly raised beds. If you do container gardening, potting soil is best.
Planting choices and timing are extremely important. Radishes, peas, lettuce, and carrots are good for spring planting. Tomatoes and peppers are good for the summer. Fall planting can include the spring suggestions and during winter you can plant garlic.
Some of the more difficult plants are summer squash, zucchini and yellow squash because of the threat the vine root borer. Plants are sometimes choosy about their companions. Keep peas and beans away from onions. Tomatoes like basil, but basil needs containment. Cabbage likes dill and broccoli likes fennel.
Remember that plants need room to spread and that they will spread, sometimes much more than you think. It is possible to plant a well-organized garden so that maintenance can usually be limited to 1 to 2 hours weekly.
Nolan recommended using hot pepper or garlic sprays to keep critters at bay. Deer don’t seem to like rosemary, but rosemary will take over unless contained. An audience member suggested planting marigolds around the garden perimeter.
All in all, gardening is good for renewing our spirits. As Jeanne said, “It’s constructive relaxation.”
Gardening can be a great family activity too. Jeanne mentioned that author Richard Louv stressed the importance of the natural experience in our lives. He coined the phrase, “nature-deficit disorder” to describe how small a role nature plays in contemporary society.
Be sure to check out Jeanne’s website (www.theorganicgardener.net) for ideas and pictures of gardens she has worked on as well as her own garden at home. Don’t miss her presentation this spring at Going Green Matters (www.goinggreenmatters.org), Go Green Wilmette’s 2012 Environmental Fair from 1-5 p.m. March 11 at the Woman’s Club of Wilmette, 930 Greenleaf.