Organic Gardening: Why Fight Mother Nature,
When You Can Grow-it-Organically?

Photo of Steve in the Tomato Temple
Steve in the Tomato Temple
© Steve Masley…Click IMAGE to Enlarge

Organic gardening is booming. With headlines about pesticide residues, e. coli and salmonella outbreaks, and the high cost of organic produce, people are looking for ways to grow food organically.

Growing organically isn't rocket science. The basic principles–Feeding the soil to feed the plants, Using plant vigor and the ecosystem to fight off pests–have been around for centuries. Science has made refinements, but the core ideas are unchanged.

I've been growing food organically for 29 years. I taught the Local Sustainable Agriculture Field Practicum at Stanford University in 2007 and 2008, and make my living designing, installing, and maintaining organic gardens and edible landscapes in the San Francisco Bay Area.

SaladScape of ‘Santoro’ and ‘Mervielles des Quatre Saison’ Lettuce
SaladScape of ‘Santoro’ and ‘Mervielles des
Quatre Saison’ Lettuce
© Steve Masley
Click IMAGE to Enlarge

I started Grow-it-Organically as a way to teach clients and students the ins and outs of organic vegetable gardening. Most of the photos on this site were taken in my garden or gardens planted for clients. Some photos on the Vegetable Varieties pages are from our seed source, Cook's Garden Seeds.

Vegetables fall into 5 main plant families. If you're adept at growing tomatoes, you know something about growing peppers, chiles, and eggplants, because they're in the same family and share similar soil, water, and fertilizer needs, as well as some common pests and diseases.

How to Grow Vegetables goes into vegetable plant families, and the shared needs and problems of similar crops. Fall Vegetables describes the differences between cool-season and summer vegetables.

If you’re a locavore looking for ways to reduce your carbon footprint, you can’t get any more local than your own balcony, deck, or back yard. Even if you live in an apartment highrise, with all the options for Growing Vegetables in Containers, balcony farmers and container gardeners can grow some of their own vegetables on a small deck or terrace.

Beginning gardeners can avoid a lot of wasted time and effort by going to Starting a Vegetable Garden, and checking out the list of the top 10 mistakes beginning gardeners make.


‘Academic’ (Pointy-Headed) Cabbage, a.k.a., ‘Caraflex’
Tomato Varieties—'Enchantment' 2
Green Bean Varieties—'Spanish Musica' 3
Growing Tomatoes ‘Italian-Grandfather-style’. Fruit Sets in Fat Clusters Along the Stake


Organic Gardening is Based on
Ecology, Not Chemistry

Organic Gardening mimics—and amplifies—natural ecosystems. Instead of bathing your vegetables in chemical fertilizers, organic gardeners "feed the soil to feed the plants", adding organic matter to the soil and relying on the soil food web to release nutrients to vegetables. Instead of spraying poisons to control pests, organic gardening relies on plant vigor and natural garden pest control to keep insect pests in check.

The biggest problem with using chemicals in the garden is this: Chemicals simplify ecosystems. Use a nitrate salt fertilizer or an herbicide, and kiss the beneficial fungi (the ones that help control pathogens) in your soil goodbye. Earthworm populations dive—literally—as they head for the subsoil or out of the garden.

Click to Enlarge

Images on this site link to either larger images for a clearer view, or related pages.

Apply an insecticide, and the first insects to die are the gnat-sized parasitic wasps that control aphids and caterpillars—before they cover everything in sight. Even the “inert” carrier oils in insecticides are lethal to these tiny garden allies.

In the 29 years I’ve been growing organic vegetables, I’ve made almost every mistake a gardener can make, and heard about the rest.

Experience is the best teacher, but trust me, you don’t want to make a compost pile like my first compost pile. And your neighbors don’t want you to, either. How to Compost shows you how to do it right the first time.

Whether you have sandy soil, clay soil, or a soil that's too acidic or alkaline for growing vegetables, Facts About Soil gives you all the information you need for improving garden soil. Organic NPK Fertilizers covers everything you need to know about organic fertilizers and soil amendments.

Vegetable Garden Planting Strategies covers plant spacing, interplanting, companion planting, crop rotation, and other basic concepts of organic gardening. Preventing Vegetable Diseases offers ideas to prevent diseases from getting out of hand in your garden.

Planting Herbs provides general rules and tips on how to grow herbs organically.

You can also find specific information on growing tomatoes, basil, peppers, hot peppers, green beans, squash, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, spinach, carrots, cilantro, artichokes, and other vegetables by clicking on these links or on the photo navigation links on the right.

I put everything I know about how to grow, harvest, and enjoy the fruits of your labor into each plant profile, including tips about varieties, timing, harvesting, and recipes, as well as gardening tips I’ve picked up over the years.

I hope this site is helpful. Happy Gardening!

Oh, and if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, check out my Consulting and Garden Design page, and my profile on Houzz.com, which features some of the gardens I've created.


Click Any Image to See a Larger Version
Northern Highbush Blueberry 'Berkeley' 1
'Lemon Gem' Marigolds, Closeup
'McKenna's Giant' Columbine 2
‘Globe’ Artichoke from Page’s Garden
Tomato Varieties—‘Sweet Cluster’
Growing Lettuce—SaladScape of Skyphos and Santoro Lettuce



Top of Page  |   About Us  |   How to Grow Vegetables
Alphabetical List of Vegetables (Varieties)  |   Planting herbs
How to Compost  |   Growing Vegetables in Containers
Natural Garden Pest Control  |   Facts About Soil  |   Organic NPK Fertilizers  |   Contact Us  |   Find us on Google+



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Comments from other Visitors


Thanks for all the great info! I have been gardening over 30 yrs and still learned things from your site!

--   Verlee Deana Norris Jenkins, Clinton, Arkansas

Awesome site, very informative, well laid out, very user friendly!--   Dorothy Carothers

I just love this site! I am on it just about everyday - just reading all the information you have posted. Thank you so much for your creative ideas, plant information and the beautiful pictures. This is My site for all my gardening questions. I have already started tomatoes, peppers and floral seeds under lights. Thanks again, Judy--   Judy Gianetto, Wolcott, Connecticut

Great info and very useful. I'm starting a new garden this spring and you've given me a lot of tips. Thanks and keep it up. Angie--   Gardener Angie

This looks like a fantastic website, full of useful information on growing organically. I'll be returning to it regularly!--   Vera Lynne, Sydney, Australia

I am recommending your website to my Master Gardener students. It is very informative and contains good info on growing organically.--   John Haase, Oklahoma State University

Awesome site! Really going to help me in my container gardening adventures this summer!--   Michelle Doherty

I found your site while looking for changing the pH info for an article I am writing. Now I will be linking to you on my blog as well, and visiting here often!--   Pam Carter

Greetings from 'Down under' in Victoria, Australia. Great gardening site with lots of info. Have put you on the favourite list for all the things I keep forgetting. Beautiful photos of your tomatoes etc. Kind regards and happy gardening.--   Liam, Victoria, Australia

I love your site! And, I'm lovin' my garden more because of it. Thank you for doing so, and helping folks like me get more out of my garden.--   Will Johnson, Denver, Colorado

I seriously learned how much healthier all my gardens could get just by reading your treatises on soil, pH, and bacterial/fungal symbiosis. Totally changed my world. I barely need to use anything to control pests now, where my gardens needed NEEM almost constantly before your site educated me.--   Khonsu Lunaris

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