Dig In

Feed Your Food

By Patricia Bailey
Posted 6/14/18

The warm weather has slowly arrived and the earth is ready to host the vegetable and herbs we’ve been anxious to place in our gardens. I’ve amended my garden & raised beds with …

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Dig In

Feed Your Food


The warm weather has slowly arrived and the earth is ready to host the vegetable and herbs we’ve been anxious to place in our gardens.

I’ve amended my garden & raised beds with organic matter from the compost pile along with leaf mold from the leaves that were raked last fall. The soil is rich with microbes, dark in color and light & airy in texture achieving an overall humus profile that is an optimum fertile ground for this year’s crops. That coupled with proper non-synthetic fertilizers should yield an incredible harvest.

When deciding what and where to plant I like to think of the seating arrangement at the dinner table. Just as you might pair folks next to each other because they have similar interests in crime novels you should begin to look at your plants and what they may share in common. Or better yet, what meal would they share.

For example, spinach and peppers both love nitrogen. Whereas beans, carrots and cauliflower do not. This helps me determine where in the garden they will be planted and it makes it easy for me to keep on top of their fertilizing needs.

Beets, Swiss chard, kohlrabi, and broccoli are all fond of blood meal, as they need nitrogen to flourish. I like to plant them in rows next to one another. Blood meal has the added benefit of being a deterrent to moles, squirrels and rabbits.

Tomatoes, potatoes and peas all benefit from calcium and phosphorus to promote healthy growth. When planting these neighbors I give a regular feeding of bone meal. It also aids the tomatoes in fighting blossom end rot. You could also use crushed eggshells.

Fish emulsion is high in organic nitrogen and if you’re lucky enough to know a fisherman, you could make your own. Brew a batch of fish scraps/shells and let cool. Strain and pour around your nitrogen loving green leafy plants. They’ll thank you for it.

Coffee grounds are another source of natural organic matter high in acidity and nitrogen.

As with any fertilizer or nutrient be sure to follow instructions on how much to use and how often. Before long, you’ll have successfully grown your vegetables organically. And, that certainly would make for a delightful dinner conversation topic.

Patricia Bailey is a Community Outreach Horticulturist. Having a deep appreciation for the quality of life a good garden can bring to those in need, she spearheads school programs, mentors young people and provides local charities with fresh organic vegetables. 

Patricia Bailey

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.