I love eating organic fruits and vegetables but it is not always possible to find them. Or to track down what I need for a specific recipe. And sometimes when I do find them at my favorite organic shops and markets, the prices are too high for my pocketbook that week.
Have you ever encountered that problem?
Even if you only have a tiny patch of green space, growing your own herbs, vegetables and fruit can be both rewarding and delicious. However, many gardeners rely on pesticides, herbicides and fungicides — not to mention chemical fertilizers — to help their gardens grow. That’s not only unnecessary, it’s also unhealthy. All those nutritious veggies pack a much healthier punch if they’re sans harmful chemicals.
Well, starting your own organic garden could be one of the best ways to eat more organic foods for less.
Now if you haven’t the slightest clue how to plan your organic garden, like me, here are a few tips I found to help you get started:
1. Prepare Your Soil
Because your soil is the foundation of your garden, it is important to make sure it’s full of the right nutrients to feed your garden. Mix in organic material like compost or humus and consider having your soil tested. The proper soil conditions can make the difference between a sparse crop and award-winning vegetables.
2. Pick Appropriate Plants
What are you going to grow in your garden? Initially, in addition to what you’re going to grow, you’ll want to decide if you want to purchase plants or start your garden from seeds. If you start early enough you can use seeds. If not, you can purchase organic plants from your local nursery. Regardless of what you choose, seeds or plants, make sure they’re grown without chemicals.
Not all plants are appropriate for the area you live in. While you might be able to control the temperature, humidity, and rain conditions inside your house, you can’t do it out in the garden. If you pick appropriate plants for your area, you may be able to avoid using fertilizers and save on water use too. Research what plants are native to your surrounding areas and try planting them in your own garden. Wildflowers, are just that, they can pretty much be left alone and will thrive in most areas.
3. Organize Your Garden
Before transferring your plants into your garden, mark where you’re going to plant them. Make sure there is plenty of room between plants so they have room to grow and thrive. A tiny tomato plant can grow several feet high and several feet wide. Leave room.
4. Pick Natural Repelling Plants
You don’t need to rely on poisons to keep away garden-ruining pests. Many plants produce chemicals that repel these pests naturally. By putting them in or around you garden, you can keep your garden safe with little effort and no chemicals. Many herbs like hot pepper, vanilla, and lavender can help repel insects from your garden. Marigolds drive bugs away and if you plant them around the perimeter of your garden, they’ll help protect your herbs, greens and veggies.
5. Use Natural Pesticides, Herbicides and Fungicides
It’s been said that home gardeners generally use more chemicals on their gardens than farmers do. That’s a lot of chemicals! Interestingly enough, mild detergent and water protect many plants from harmful pests. Hot pepper sprays also work to fend off pests. And natural predators like frogs and ladybugs can keep your garden healthy and full.
6. Maintain Your Garden
Watering and weeding are all you have in store for you until it’s time to harvest. Take care to not over water. Soil should be moist but not soaking.
Weed on a regular basis to make sure your plants have all the nutrients and room in the soil they need to grow. We’re all looking for a quick and easy way to safely get rid of weeds without chemicals, but the good old fashioned way is still very effective. If you take time every day to pull the weeds you can find, you’ll only need to spend a few minutes, so it won’t seem like a lot of time-consuming work. (You can even get the kids involved, just be sure to do it properly so they don’t spread the seeds around.) There are even some common weeds that are edible — just make sure no pesticides could have gotten on them.
7. Consider Crop Rotation
Farmers all over the world use crop rotation to naturally fertilize plants. The concept is to change what crop you’re putting in a certain field each year. Plants use different nutrients and put other nutrients back into the soil. If you rotate crops that replace the nutrients the other plants use, you will have to fertilize the soil less. You can use this same concept in your garden by planting different plants every year, or just rotating where you put specific plants in the garden.
Organic gardening isn’t difficult when you start with a healthy foundation. Before you dive in and start a garden large enough to feed an army, choose a few plants you know your family will eat. Grow those successfully and next year you can grow a bigger garden.
Organic Gardening is Good and Green: Pass It On
So, you’ve made all these changes and are using a low-water, chemical free garden? Well, you still haven’t done the most important thing: pass it on!
One garden can make a dent, but more can make a bigger difference.
Tell your friends, teach your kids. You can even visit their school and teach your kids friends!
Every little bit helps to make a better world.
Do you live in an urban environment?
Are you interested in starting an organic garden or do you already have one?
What do you grow? Share your experiences and suggestions with us.