Instead of buying organic produce at your local supermarket, why not grow your own? Organic gardening is easier than you may think. You don’t even need much space for your new organic garden – a raised bed or even a container garden can provide a surprising amount of delicious, healthy produce. Of course, you can also grow a traditional long row garden organically.
What Makes an Organic Garden?
It’s a garden “growing in harmony with nature” rather than in conflict with the world around it. Applying chemical agents like herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers create chaos in your tiny section of the ecosystem.
By improving your soil naturally, and relying on non-chemical means of removing weeds and preventing pests in your garden, you’re doing your part in keeping the ecosystem healthy and well balanced. According to Horticulture Agent Charlotte Glen, the goal of an organic gardener is “cultivating an ecosystem that sustains and nourishes plants, soil microbes, and beneficial insects rather than simply making plants grow.”
Choose Your Garden Spot
Whether it’s a few pots on your balcony or a more traditional garden space, your organic garden needs plenty of sunshine (at least 6 hours a day), access to water, and good drainage. Good soil helps, too.
You’ll enjoy it more (and notice any potential problems sooner) if it’s close by rather than somewhere ‘outback’. This is especially important for an organic garden, where you’re not depending on chemicals to repel invaders.
Decide on a Garden Type
A traditional garden consists of long rows of vegetables. It requires a lot of hard work and compost to get this kind of garden in shape for growing things organically. This type of garden also requires the most work throughout the growing season – thinning, weeding, and watering. It’s also probably best suited to large families or those dedicated to ‘putting food by’ through canning, freezing, or dehydrating.
A raised garden bed provides perfect growing conditions for your organic vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. Like a container garden, it allows you to control the quality of the soil. It also lets you grow quite a variety of produce for such a small space. If you’re sure you need more space, just add another raised bed.
Create The Perfect Soil
Healthy soil produces healthy plants, which are better able to fend off pests and diseases. Many native soils are low in organic matter (humus or compost) and lack the perfect drainage most garden plants crave. So, what can you do to help? Add compost! Unlike chemical fertilizers, compost not only improves drainage and water retention, but it provides plenty of the macro and micro-nutrients healthy plants need to thrive, as well as beneficial nematodes and microbes. It’s also easy to make using kitchen scraps and yard waste.
If you need to purchase compost while your homemade pile is ‘cooking’, choose as wide a variety as you can find. The more different composted materials you add to your garden, the wider the variety of nutrients they’ll provide. A turkey’s diet is much different from a cow’s or earthworm’s and so is the output. Then there are things like composted corn cobs, cocoa shells, cottonseed meal… Kelp and seaweed are great because they provide additional nutrients not found in land-based sources.
Plant a ‘Patchwork’ Garden
Planting a patchwork of different plants close together has several benefits in an organic garden. It’ll crowd out weeds and confuse pests. It’s hard for a bean beetle to find a few bean plants when they’re surrounded by carrots, onions, parsley, and even marigolds. What’s a poor pest to do? He’ll go bother someone else’s garden!
This patchwork technique works especially well in raised beds. It lets you harvest a smaller amount of a larger variety of crops and it looks pretty, too! Planting in raised beds also lets you save water. All the water goes directly to your plants instead of to muddy pathways or (shudder!) weeds.
A thick layer of grass clippings or wood shavings around your plants also saves water and keeps your garden looking neat. This organic mulch will also deter those pesky weeds and keep the soil cooler and moister in the heat of summer.
Don’t Go Overboard
It’s easy to overplant your new organic garden, especially if it’s your very first garden. If you plant that entire packet of carrot seeds, you could end up with a truckload of carrots! Even Bugs Bunny might be a little intimidated by that harvest! Instead, plant what you think your family will enjoy fresh this year and save the rest of the seeds for next year. Properly stored seeds will last through several growing seasons.
And remember, you don’t have to plant every kind of vegetable or herb the first year. Let everyone in the family pick one or two favorites (as long as they’ll grow in your area) and enjoy your first organic harvest. You can always try a few more varieties next year.
Avoid Over-Watering Your Organic Garden
Now that you have your garden in full-bloom, the last thing you want to do is over-water it. You want to make sure that your garden is getting enough sun throughout the day, but there are certain times where your garden should be getting water – typically early in the morning or in the evening. Adding a drip irrigation system is a great way to ensure that your organic garden is getting exactly what it needs. If you use a hose sprinkler, pick up a timer that will hook up between your hose and your water spout. With some smart irrigation systems are controlled by your phone and will automatically disperse water at your request.
Use Only Organic Pesticides
One of the greatest advantages of growing your own vegetables organically is that they won’t have any of the nasty pesticide residues that plague the ‘dirty dozen’. Not only is this better for your health, but it’s also better for beneficial insects, essential pollinators, and the environment in general. Plus your vegetables and herbs will just naturally taste better without the tinge of chemicals!
For more interesting garden tips, read this article and then get outside and start your very own organic garden! You’ll reap a harvest of fresh air, healthy exercise, and delicious vegetables.