Organic Gardening 101

Watering the Garden

Whether you want control over how your food is being treated or you’re simply tired of paying ‘organic’ prices, growing your own fruits and vegetables can be a fun and delicious activity. It’s possible to hire someone to install and maintain an organic garden. But that’s not the only option. With a little know-how, you can plant and care for your own growing beauties. It doesn’t even have to take a massive amount of work. 

What is an ‘Organic’ Garden?

When it comes to organic gardening, you won’t be using synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. This means you can have the peace of mind that your vegetables are chemical-free. It also means your plants will need to fend for themselves.

Yes, your plants can thrive without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. And yes, there are some strategic, chemical-free things you can do to help them along the way.

Gardening Tools

Gardening Tools

Make sure you have the right tools to get the job done! These include:

  • Clippers
  • Trowel
  • Compost Bin
  • Gardening Gloves
  • Watering Can
  • Soil Testing Kit

Plant Food

You aren’t the only thing that needs to eat. Your plants need food too! This means making sure they have healthy, nutrient-rich soil. You can get at-home soil testing kits that can tell you the pH, Nitrogen, Phosphrous and Potash levels.

If you don’t have time for testing, don’t worry. Make sure to add a healthy amount of organic matter to your soil. The organic matter should be a mix of compost, grass clippings, and manure. You’ll want it to be evenly distributed and incorporated into your soil.

Composting

You can definitely buy composted dirt. But, you can also make your own! Composting is a fabulous, sustainable way to keep waste out of landfills while feeding your plants and your family!

You’re not going to be adding manure to your compost! Your compost bin is only for weeds, clippings, and kitchen scraps. (This includes the carrot tops and onion skins that went unused from last night’s dinner.)

You can certainly compost in a pile behind your house. But a compost bin can make your life a lot easier and less smelly. Add alternating layers of clippings (like leaves and grass) and kitchen scraps (like radish tops and lettuce stalks). Top with a thick layer of soil, to keep all the goodies in place. Turn the bin occasionally to promote the breakdown and ‘composting’ of the organic matter.

Selecting Your Organic Plants

holding tomatoes

It often pays to select plants that can grow in smaller environments (read – plants that need less space). However, depending on the size of your yard, you may love having some larger varieties. Good small-space options include:

  • Coriander
  • Dill
  • Basil
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Sweet Peas
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Scallions
  • Strawberries

If you’re buying seedlings, you’ll want to look for plants that have been raised without fertilizers or pesticides. At big stores, these will often be labeled ‘organic.’ Another good place to find organic seedlings is your local farmer’s market.

Planting Your Organic Garden

Depending on your space, raised flower beds are the go-to solution for many gardeners. Not only do raised beds make it so you don’t have to bend over quite so far to tend your garden, they also help protect your plants. Animals, small children, and unaware partners are less likely to traipse through a raised flower bed.

Alternatively (or in addition), pots can be a great option. This is particularly true for plants that grow like weeds, such as mint and oregano. If you are planting root vegetables in a pot (such as carrots or radishes), make sure to use a deep pot to allow for growth.

You’ll also want to place ample space between your plants. This helps promote air circulation, repelling fungus. Also, think about how tall each plant will grow. Seedlings look small when you buy them, but as they grow they can throw some serious shade. You want to make sure each plant gets plenty of sunlight to thrive.

Watering Your Garden

Your plants will need ample of water. The best time to water is typically in the morning when there is less wind and heat. This cuts down on evaporation and spilling, so that less water is wasted and more water gets to your plants. It also helps keep your plants from being damp overnight, which can make them susceptible to fungal diseases.

In a perfect world, you’ll want to water your plants’ roots specifically. This isn’t always an option, but a good drip system can help. It’s also good to use water as close to the current air temperature as possible to keep the plants from experiencing unnecessary shock.

Weeds!!!

onions

You’re going to get weeds. It doesn’t matter where you live. You’ll want to start pulling them as soon as they show up. Weeds take up space in your flower beds – space your plants need for adequate airflow and sunlight. They also steal nutrients from the soil, which your plants need to thrive.

Protection

Is your garden being attacked by pests? Making sure your garden is getting plenty of light can help cut down on these annoying visitors. Marigolds are another natural deterrent for rodents. They can be planted in pots placed around your garden beds.

Nets can also help. So too can human hair. As gross as it sounds, visit your favorite barber and ask for a bag of clippings. Spread the clippings around the edge of your garden. The hair helps keep larger visitors (like deer) from demolishing all your edibles.

Harvest

Make sure to harvest your plants when they are ripe. Allowing them to spoil in the ground not only attracts pests, it means all your effort is wasted.