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Biodynamic Bounty: Harnessing the Power of Holistic Gardening

June 26, 2024

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Biodynamic Bounty: Harnessing the Power of Holistic Gardening

Are you looking forward to your spring and summer garden with its bounty of yummy edibles and joyous blooms? Do you want to see your garden teeming with vibrancy, brimming with succulent produce and blossoming with colors that enrich both your soul and your dinner plate? This is the promise of meaningful yearly garden planning. It’s more than a mere boring task – it’s a strategic roadmap that propels your garden toward greatness, like an orchestra in harmony with you as the conductor.

By embracing yearly garden planning, you harness the power of foresight. You lay the groundwork in advance, aligning the stars to create a harmonious ecosystem where plants thrive in synergy. Say goodbye to the days of haphazard planting that yield… well, not much at all! If you welcome a structured approach that optimizes resources, space and time – whether you consider yourself an organizer or planner or not – you manifest more from your garden.

I realize some of you are not into planning, so for you I have created steps to simplify and shorten the process and make it fun and create. For those who like to plan, embrace my system and manifest abundance in your garden. Thorndale CSA is here to support you every step of the way!

Maximized Harvests

Plan out all four seasons at once. Things can change, but it gives you a plan for those days when you need a bit of clarity. Strategically time your plantings to ensure a continuous yield throughout the seasons.

Ecosystem Balance

Encourage beneficial insects and discourage pests by planning your garden to be a self-sustaining, thriving ecosystem. Diversity is the key – have as many different types of veggies, fruit, flowers and herbs as you can fit into your garden spaces.

Conscious Time Management

By planning all four seasons in advance, you can look at your calendar and consider what else is going on in your life to make strategic decisions about when to start seedlings, when to direct seed, and when to do any soil amending or biodynamic preparation sprays. Book a short free call so we can illuminate the next best step to your garden planning. I look forward to hearing about your amazing garden ideas!

Overcoming Weeds and Poor Growth

If you have garden beds, you likely have weeds or plants that are not growing as well as you think they should. Maybe you are concerned about keeping your soil healthy. That is understandable, because a key to low amounts of easy-to-pull weeds and happy plants and soil is often overlooked or taken for granted.

And when we don’t examine this one thing, all these potential garden bummers can happen, and usually do. Many folks have an understanding they should mulch their garden beds, yet what I see are big misconceptions about mulch and how and when to use it. That is understandable, since most of us just do what is fast and simple, usually whatever we see someone else doing, without giving it much thought or attention.

What I’ve often seen is mulch used incorrectly for what plants need or want, often based on a visual preference that has nothing to do with the plants themselves. Negating what your plants need leads to them not thriving in your landscape. With some information and consideration, you can solve more than one thing with proper mulching.

Instead of simply hauling in a bunch of bagged mulch for everything or not mulching at all, understanding mulches and their proper use can give you a big leg up – not only on those weeds, but to help your plants thrive and protect your valuable soil.

The Power of Mulch

Using the right kind and amount of mulch can provide you:

  • You might be pulling a lot of hard-to-get-at weeds in your garden and struggling to keep up. When I have had to weed an area with landscape fabric under shredded mulch, the landscape fabric becomes more of a weed anchor, with the roots embedded into the fabric, making them hard to get out. Conversely, with the right depth and type of mulch for each space, the weeds can come out really fast and easy, cutting your weeding time in half or more.

  • Many folks know I am often talking about healthy living soil. Mulch is a super important way to protect your soil from being washed away in a heavy rain or bleached by the sun. If you are like most folks, you have either made a time and work or financial investment to build your garden soil, and keeping it covered with mulch is an insurance policy protecting that investment.

  • Plants generally don’t want to be left in a desert of dirt on their own. And different types of plants prefer different types of mulch. This is one determining factor for choosing what mulch you will use where. Another is what you have locally for free. Using your resources will help you keep your garden budget down.

Keeping your soil covered will not only help your soil thrive, as we have discovered, but also help your plants thrive. Many times I have spoken with students or clients who had one of these issues, and mulch was their solution.

To expand and provide you more information on mulching that I can put in one blog post, I have created a short mini-course called A Deep Dive Into Mulch: How and Why to Mulch Your Garden and Your Landscape. It may be a deep dive, but it is still a pretty short course because I value your time. It includes pros, cons and information on all different types of mulches and what mulches different types of plants like to thrive. If you want more info on correctly using mulches and types of mulches so you weed less and your plants and soil thrive, check it out!

Bountiful Spring Greens

A client of mine, Deanna, loves spring greens yet was daunted by lack of success with her spring garden. She realized she didn’t really know how much space different plants needed. She also wasn’t certain what spring plants grow well with each other. She had grown Bak Choi successfully, but that was about all.

She wanted to add more greens and cool weather root crops like radishes, carrots, beets and turnips, yet she was not sure how to integrate them with the greens. In previous years, the root crops ended up being small at best and the greens ended up rotting. She was tired of buying what she felt like was wasted seed. She had tried a couple times and wasn’t happy with the outcome.

When she came to me, this was one of her major concerns – to ensure productivity in her spring garden. She was so happy when she learned that some simple adjustments could make a huge impact on her productivity.

Plant Spacing

Lettuce sown too close together is overly crowded. When you direct seed, it is harder to get plant spacing right. Many folks only direct seed because they do not have a setup to start seeds indoors. This was Deanna’s situation.

Seeds are small and can be hard to handle, so folks at the seed companies tend to expect you to scatter all the seeds in a packet in a row and then thin them so they have room to grow. This is one way to give your plants more space, but a wasteful one.

It is far better to seed with wider spacing. My rule is to seed at about 1/3 the spacing listed on the seed packet as the final plant spacing distance. This allows you to harvest smaller root crops or greens as they begin to crowd, and leave some to get larger. You also don’t waste seed this way, and can have one seed packet often last for a couple years – handy to keep costs down.

Avoid scattering seed close together and then leaving them that way as they get larger. This is how Deanna had rotting plants – not only were they so close they could not get any air circulation and rotted, but they did not have the space to grow to full size and produce the yield you would want.

If your fingers struggle with small seeds, consider these options:

  • Buy pelleted lettuce and carrot seed, which is much easier to work with. Territorial Seed Co has a variety of pelleted lettuce seed.
  • Get an inexpensive hand seeder that will allow you to dispense smaller seeds a bit easier. These can be super simple up to more sophisticated. Territorial has a selection of these as well.

One advantage of being able to start greens seedlings indoors is that it is easier to give each plant the space it needs. I still tend to transplant a bit close together and harvest every other or third one as they begin to crowd each other. This extends the harvest and allows the remaining plants to get larger for harvest later, filling in the space so you are not wasting any.


Another key to spring garden success is timing. Granted, this is trickier as the weather gets less predictable, but there are some tricks you can employ.

First is to succession plant. This is where you plant a new batch of the same crop about every two weeks. This gives you a couple advantages and can be done with either indoor or outdoor seed starting.

Outdoors, if weather turns too warm, hot, wet or dry for a crop, you can try again. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, it is another way to spread out your harvest. This means you don’t harvest it all at once.

This is especially useful for root crops where you are harvesting the entire plant. Indoors, succession plant your spring greens and then transition to following those on with summer greens. Some lettuces will take much more heat than others. A couple of my warm weather favorites here are Valmaine and Jericho romaines.

Lettuces, cabbage and chard are cool loving crops, and you’ll get an earlier harvest if you can start these indoors while it is still too cold to start them outdoors. After you harden them off, they can be transplanted into the ground for your first greens harvest. Spinach, though, doesn’t transplant well, so start that one directly in your garden.

As always, there is trial and error in your specific microclimate, and this is another reason for not scattering all your seed at once.

Companion Planting

Another way to increase the use of your spring garden space is to interplant root crops with leaf crops. Gratefully, this is pretty easy with cool weather crops, because most greens and roots combine just fine.

Lettuces are happy with all the cool weather roots. Spinach and chard go well, as they are in the same plant family. Same idea with kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, turnips, rutabagas and radishes, which are all in the brassica family.

Don’t forget a star of your spring garden – peas! Peas thrive in spring, so plant some of your favorites, be it snow peas, snap peas or shelling peas. We love shelling peas best, granted they hardly make it out of the garden as I tend to just pick and eat them fresh, raw and oh so sweet. My favorites are Green Arrow and Alderman/Telephone Pole. Check the vine height of pea varieties to be sure they match your pea fence. If you don’t have a pea fence, get one – what doesn’t need support like Sugar Ann snap pea.

Pulling this all together, many people have asked me about how to design a spring veggie garden, so let’s put some of these tips together:

Choose your varieties and see when they will mature, if they can take some heat, and how big they will be full sized. Next, use the companion planting tips to choose which plants to put in which bed. Then decide how long you want to harvest each type of plant to create a succession planting schedule. This will tell you when to start your seeds, be it indoors or out.

Remember, root crops are all direct seeded. Finally, choose a block of your garden for each set of plants – for example, one for brassicas, one for peas and carrots, one for lettuce and radishes, etc. Split up each block by how many rounds of succession planting you want, so if you want three rounds, split it into three sections. Plant the first section, two weeks later the second section, and three weeks later the third section.

Tada! You’ve designed your spring garden. Now get out there and enjoy the bounty!

Seed Starting Strategies

Sometime in January or February, I really start honing in on starting seeds indoors for my spring and summer plants. It occurred to me that the steps I take to get ready to start my seeds could be useful for you, so here we go.

I start by deciding what I want to grow in the spring and follow-on for the summer. I make a list of what I want to grow, using variety names where I know them. I also make notes about what I’d like to try that would be new for me. Include any types of crops you would like to replace because they did not do well.

At some point in this process, do an inventory of your seeds and see what gaps you might have between what seeds you have and what is on your list of plants to grow. By mid-January, I have received most of my seed catalogs, although there are a couple stragglers in February.

Once you have your list of what seeds you need, then you can go through your catalogs and see who has what you want. When looking for a new variety, compare not only different choices in one catalog, but in more than one. If you think you have found a variety you want to try, see if any of your other seed companies carry it and read their description as well. More information on the variety helps you hone in on the best one for you to try based on your goals.

I tend to go through each catalog when I get it, and then multiple times thereafter. I’ll put a tick mark by anything that looks interesting and I might want to get. I make a photocopy of the order form so as I start to hone in on what I want to get, I can use the form while looking at the catalogs. That way I am not constantly looking in each catalog for where the order form is.

I don’t send the forms in – I will call first choice or order online – but having the list makes the ordering process faster, simpler and easier, plus I can calculate any tax or shipping for budgeting. Alternatively, I’ll star the items I am not going to order or erase the price so it does not end up in the total. This way I have the list of everything I wanted to grow in case my budget allows for another seed order later.

Another budget tip is to spread out ordering from your preferred companies. Order from the ones who have the first seeds you need to start, and order last from companies with varieties you can start later. I will sometimes adjust who I am buying what from for this purpose. If I see something I want to grow in the fall, I will often wait to order those varieties until June when I’ll be needing to get them started.

Enjoy a cup of tea and browsing those seed catalogs! Bet there are some of you out there who are seed freaks like me – can’t wait for the next seed catalog find yourself trolling through seed websites, always looking for the next thing you want to grow. Then what do you do when you do order your seeds and don’t use the whole packet? Do they go in a drawer or bag in a big jumble? Oh, then sometime later you find some other seeds you just have to get, and those packets get put… well, on the kitchen table, a pocket in your garden bag, in a jar… somewhere. It is time to plant, and you were absolutely sure you got that variety, but darn it, can’t find it – quick, buy more! A month later, oh, there are those seeds I knew I bought, darn, I double bought and now have more than I need. I confess to have done all the above.

The answer is coming up with a seed inventory system that works for you. It can be simple or complex, depending on how many seeds you have and what your personal style is. Make it something that works for you. I have a lot of seeds – I run a seed swap, save seeds, partner with seed companies, and did plant sales for years, so having a system became critical to business. You don’t have to be in business to need to organize your seeds!

Here are some tips to create a seed organization system that works for you:

Review your inventory at least once a year. I like to do it over the winter, and if you have a system in place, it takes much less time so you can get back to important things like looking at more seed catalogs and websites.

A seed inventory journal, templates or worksheets can save you time. Do you love soups in the winter? I sure do – a pot of soup on the stove, heating up the house with its yummy smells. Dried beans are a must-have for winter soups. Today is a pleasantly cool, rainy fall day, perfect for listening to some favorite tunes, enjoying a cup of tea, and shelling beans, humming and dancing while the shelled beans pile up in a bowl, ready to be planted next spring and eaten this winter.

When I shell dried beans, I keep some of the biggest, plumpest ones out for planting the following year. The rest go into jars for eating. There are literally hundreds of varieties of dried beans, so choose the ones you like to eat. Are you into Minestrone soup? Then grow Cannellini beans. Love nachos? Grow pinto or black beans. Can’t get enough of chili? Grow some kidney beans.

Beyond these pretty well known favorites, there are loads of other types to try to make your own unique winter soup. A couple of my lesser known but favorite varieties are Vermont Cranberry and Christmas Limas. Vermont Cranberry is a bush bean, while Christmas Limas are pole beans. They are both beautiful, and both make your soup broth a rich, warm burgundy color.

You can find lots of varieties of dried beans that grow as bush beans or pole beans, depending on which you prefer to grow. I like a bit of both

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Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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