We are all trying to eat more healthily, and that includes eating organic foods. These usually use fewer pesticides, are safer for families, and are better for the environment. But for those of us trying to buy more organic produce, the difference in cost can be extreme. We’ve all been to the grocer and seen the extreme difference between regular items and their organic counterparts.
What’s the solution? Why, to start growing your organic vegetables, of course!
You can always call in a professional to help build an organic garden in your yard, but you’ll be surprised how easy it is to simply grow your organic garden. You can just start with one or two plants and see how you go. It’s easy and fun to learn! Anyone can do it, and it’s also a great way to get the family out of the house.
If you’re not using man-made, synthetic fertilizers, then you’re an organic gardener. These synthetic fertilizers are not as well trusted by the public, as most would prefer knowing their plants were grown via organic, natural methods. Fortunately for us, there are still tools and tips to remember to help your plants grow without these chemicals. Below, we’ll take a look at some good tips to follow to start your organic garden.
Firstly, you’ll need to ensure you have the following items. They should be available in your shed but are easy to purchase and not too expensive.
- Clippers or pruners
- A trowel set
- A testing kit for soil
- Bin for compost
- Can for watering
Getting Soil Ready
The first step to take with your garden is to make sure your soil is prepared and ready to grow. Just like us, plants need food, and you need to ensure your plants have plenty of nutrients to feast on. Some good healthy soil will mean that your plants go strong and look luscious. Since we’re growing organically, we want to avoid the artificial chemicals that can hard microbes and worms in the dirt that will do our plants good.
Our first step is to test the soil. Find a soil tester kit and send a sample to a local agricultural office that can do the testing for you. They will give you a full rundown of the levels of nutrients in your soil, and give you solid advice on what you can do to treat your soil. Make sure you inform them that you are growing organically.
If you haven’t got enough time available to test your soil, at least make sure it is full of humus, which is a mix of broken-down clippings, manure, and compost. Be sure to compost your manure beforehand if you plan on growing straight away. You can purchase manure that is from sustainably raised livestock.
Gardens LOVE compost, and it’s easy to make, and free! Compost benefits your garden in several ways such as keeping water in your soil, reducing weeds, and using your food waste for a good purpose. You can be generous with compost, so put it around your plants, or combine it with potting mix.
If possible, you should set up a compost bin in your house. Have it long with your regular bins, and fill it with any organic materials such as fruit and vegetable off-cuts. That way you’ll always have some organic material to add to your compost bin.
Compost works by combining carbon and nitrogen in your organic rubbish, along with the soil, air, and water in the natural environment. While it may seem like a difficult mix to create, there’s no need to spend time trying to create the perfect mixture. Compost will work well with a minimum of effort.
Steps to making compost
- Get an area that’s about three square feet. You can use a compost bin to help you here. One that can be mixed to help with mixing would be perfect!
- Take turns adding layers of “brown” material, such as trimmings from your garden, and “green” material like manure and the waste from your kitchen. Put a section of soil between each layer.
- On top of the pile, place soil up to five or so inches. Mix all this each time you add a new layer along with some water. If the weather is cold, your compost will be good to go in about two months.
- If you are mixing the compost properly, it shouldn’t stink. If it is, just add some more “brown” material like clippings or even sawdust and mix more often.
Finding the Right Plants
It will help to find plants that are suited to your specific garden. It’s a good idea to look for the USDA’s Hardiness Zones to find the plants that suit the moisture, soil type, and light levels of your area. The more these conditions are suited to your plants, the easier they’ll be able to survive in your garden.
When purchasing seedlings, be sure to check if they were grown using chemicals. Try checking out farmers’ markets in your area, as these will probably have plants perfectly suited to your conditions. Buy seedlings before they have bloomed or the roots are too fully developed.
Some plants that you should grow from seed include cucumbers, sweet peas, squash, sunflowers, dill, and coriander.
Planting Your Seeds
If you’re planning on harvesting, make sure you structure your garden in beds that you can avoid walking on. Raised beds would be a great idea here. Grouping similar plants together will reduce the chances of weeds growing and allows you to use compost specific to those plants. Put a lot of space between rows to help the air circulate among plants.
While you’re planting, also think about the shadows your plants will create, and make sure there will be enough light for all.
Let’s take a look at some of the organic produce that can be grown easily, in a short amount of time.
- Intermediate tomatoes – These will continue to fruit while the plant grows!
- Pole beans – If you keep picking these, they’ll keep growing.
- Zucchini – These should grow easily if conditions are right.
- Sugar snap peas and snow peas – These are great ones for kids to grow and can be picked and eaten as soon as they appear.
All of these are great choices for beginner gardeners, as they don’t take a great deal of know-how to grow. If you set the right conditions and keep an eye on them, you will be surprised at how well they produce delicious food!
It’s worth checking out what kinds of plants are perfectly suited to your area. This will mean you don’t need to spend much time treating and changing your soil, and conditions will already be suited for the plants you are growing.
Watering Your Plants
The best time to water plants is morning time, before the heat of the sun and wind gets to the plants. Watering at night means fungus will have a better chance to flourish.
You should also aim to wet the roots of the plant rather than the leaves. You may even want to set up a drip or soak system.
If the plants are well developed, it’s only necessary to water once a week. Remember to use water that is around the same temperature as the air around you, to stop damaging the plants.
Getting Rid of Weeds
Weeds are a natural part of growing a garden. The best way to rid your garden of weeds is to pull them out by hand. It’s great exercise!
To get a handle on weeds in your garden, apply mulch to keep soil safe. We recommend natural mulch. You can purchase straw inexpensively, but it will be gone quickly. Another more expensive option is wood chips. You might also consider applying lawn clippings directly, but due to their high levels of nitrogen, it may be better to add them to your compost.
Protecting Your Plants
It’s also natural that bugs and pests will find your garden, and you will need to respond. The first thing to do will be to ensure that the conditions or your soil are good and there are the right levels of moisture, light, and nutrients available. Remember that you should also grow many different plants together. A big block of the same plant will be very tempting for pests in your area that have a taste for it.
You may also want to consider having an environment that is amenable to natural pest-eaters like frogs, lizards, and birds. Some insects will also be good to have around, such as ladybugs, as these will also eat the nasty things that eat your plants. They can be purchased directly from gardening stores.
There is an organic bacteria called bacillus thuringiensis, that will attack and destroy pests as well. There are also plenty of DIY methods such as garlic and hot pepper sprays out there.
Harvesting Your Plants
Now it’s time for the fun part! Remember that if you tend to harvest more often, your plants will produce more for you.
When it is the right time of the season, make sure you check your plants every day to check if the time is right. For the freshest possible harvest, pick them just as they’re required. If you’re planning on storing them before eating, wait just before they begin to produce flowers, as this is when the flavor content will be highest. It’s best to harvest herbs, except for basil, in the morning while there is still dew on them.
Leafy greens should be picked here and there from the crop. This will allow the crops to continue growing and flourishing even after they are harvested. When picking broccoli, hold off until the head is as large as possible. Snip it at the “leaf node” which will ensure the plant continues to grow well. Always use sharp scissors or pruning shears instead of your fingers, as this will ensure the least amount of damage to the plant.
Cleaning Your Garden
When plants are out of season, check if you notice if any of them are sick or diseased. If this happens, be sure to remove all of the plant’s root system and all leaves. Rake the area as well, since diseased plants can spread and cause big problems. Burn these, or bury them deep in the ground. You do not want your whole garden to become infected!
If the plants are just old and dying, it’s fine to just leave them. They will provide food for neighboring plants and other animals in the area, and help take care of your soil. Don’t pull these out, as this will mess up your soil and provide an opportunity for weeds to flourish.