Organic Gardening 101: Grow Your Own Natural Food
Starting an organic garden is a great choice to make on your journey to living a healthier life. Setting up your own organic garden will help you avoid the pesticides used in mass production and it most definitely will be beneficial to the environment. Don’t worry if you feel like you don’t exactly know where to start, it’s absolutely fine just starting with a small patch. There are also several tools on the market that will help you plant and maintain your garden.
Organic gardening does not mean that by not using fertilizers or pesticides, the plants are left alone with no protection. You will need to build a space that ensures the formation of a natural biodiversity. So, in this article, we’re going to look at the main things that you need to take into consideration to make sure your organic garden stays healthy and some tips and tricks to help it flourish.
The first step of organic gardening, of course, is preparing the soil. However, keep in mind that there are natural microbes in the soil that are beneficial to the plants. So essentially, what you need to do is enrich the soil, not sterilize it.
The best thing to start with is to get the soil tested. There are home kits you can buy on the market. For even better accuracy, you can send the sample to your local agricultural extension office and in exchange for their fee, you will get a comprehensive result on the Ph and nutrient levels of the soil and a recommendation for a proper treatment. This is a great way to start your organic gardening adventure with sure footing if you’re uncertain on your own.
If you’re still not sure about this procedure, keep in mind that your soil has to have plenty of organic humus. You can enrich the soil by mixing in compost, leaves, grass, yard debris and manure. When it comes to manure, make sure it is composted. If you don’t plan on harvesting for the next two months after application then you can skip that step. Also, you will want manure from animals that have been organically raised. For this, you can check out the local livestock.
Organic gardening features a lot of compost. Making your own compost is not very difficult. You only need to remember the two components that form the compost: carbon and nitrogen. Mixed with soil and water, carbon and nitrogen make for a great treatment for your garden. The carbon material is made of leaves and garden trimmings and the nitrogen material of kitchen scraps such as dry potato strips, lettuce roots, and ginger sprouts mixed in with manure.
You can mix your compost in a pile or in a bin so you can rotate it and get better results. Your compost space needs to be at least three feet square. Then alternate the carbon and nitrogen layers and add a thin layer of soil in between. Add another few inches of soil on the top of the pile. Keep in mind to turn the pile as you add new layers and add very little water to your compost, enough to keep it moist and foster the beneficial bacteria. If the compost is properly maintained, it shouldn’t smell. If it does, add more carbon material and turn it more frequently. The compost should form in a minimum of two months.
Choosing the right plants for your organic garden has now been made easier by the U.S Department of Agriculture. The department’s website is up to date on the hardiness zones, so you can make sure which plants thrive the most in your region. If you feel you can set up a little more variety then keep in mind the spots you want to put your plants in. Consider moisture, light, soil quality.
If you want to buy seedlings, it might be best to check the local farmer’s market for native plants that are best suited for you. Seedlings are always a very good option if you want to grow coriander, dill, squash, sweet peas and cucumbers.
When planting the crops, it’s best to group your plants in beds that you will not walk on. It’s much easier to keep a structure to your garden as you will know where to use the compost and you will not waste water. Also, for the air to circulate properly, try and give your plants plenty of space to grow. However, keep in mind that it’s also best to avoid overshadowing so trimming is necessary. You can start out with tomatoes, pole beans or zucchini, which are known to yield results quick and easy.
The best time to water your crops is in the mornings when it’s cool and less windy. This way water will not evaporate as much. In the evenings, the water will keep the plants damp which might lead to some fungal diseases to develop. Be sure not to soak your plants constantly, but add water once or twice per week and target the roots, not the greenery because it’s very fragile and will damage easily.
To further protect the soil and keep your plants fresh, add organic mulch to the base. This will limit weeds sprouting in your organic garden so you can most definitely avoid the pesticides on the market.
Check your plants daily during the harvest season. For herbs, if you want to use them fresh then you can pick them when you need them. However, if you want to store them for later, wait for them to almost flower, the flavor will be best then. Herbs generally need to be harvested during mid-morning expect for basil which needs a little more attention. It’s best to harvest basil in the late afternoon as the plant likes to enjoy the sun a little more.
In the case of leafy greens, it’s best to pick a little from each plant. Cut right above the leaf node with sharp scissors. Avoid ripping the plant with your fingers as you might damage it significantly.
With all this information at hand, don’t be afraid to start your organic gardening endeavor. The ingredients are simple and all you have to do is pay attention to a few details. Make sure your plants receive enough light, moisture, and air. In addition, if you see frogs, toads and birds in your garden, that is a very good sign that it is thriving. Natural predators are part of a healthy biodiversity and will also keep the pests to a minimum. And don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Related: The best organic gardeners wear the proper shoes. Click here to see more.