Organic gardening at home

Numerous garden enthusiasts wonder what exactly organic gardening means. The basic answer is that organic gardeners don’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on their plants. However, gardening organically is much more than what you don’t do.

When you garden organically, you consider your plants as part of a system within nature that starts in the soil and includes the water supply, people, wildlife and even insects. An organic gardener endeavors to work in harmony with natural systems and to minimize and continuously replenish any resources the garden consumes.

Organic gardening operates on the concept of recycling. They use kitchen scraps, animal waste, and vegetable waste to mulch and compost. You use common household items like vinegar and soap to prevent pests and weeds.

Organic cultivators rely on developing a healthy, fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops. Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are not permitted under organic standards.

Organic gardening is the merging of plants and soil allowing the Earth to naturally bear what it was made to do. The plants and the soil are one collaborating to provide food and nourishment not only to humans but to animals and microorganisms as well.

It’s not a new age science. It’s actually rather simple and satisfying to the soul!

PREPARING YOUR GARDEN

Your first task is picking where to grow your garden. The site should get at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, and the soil needs to drain well, with no standing puddles. The area must receive adequate air circulation, yet be protected from strong winds. Your house or a thicket of trees serve as a shield from the wind.

After selecting your site, determine how big you intend to make your garden. Be cautious of beginning too ambitiously; tending a plot that’s too big can quickly be a chore. A plot 10 by 10 feet is large enough for some tomato plants, lettuce, a bush variety of cucumber plant, radishes, an endlessly productive zucchini plant, herbs and some flowers.

Once you’ve selected your site, draw out a garden plan; this plan ensures optimal productivity by providing each plant space to grow. Measure the dimensions of the plot and draw a scale model on graph, using, for instance, a one-inch square to represent one foot.

As you draw your plan, keep in mind each plant’s space requirements at maturity, like the little tomato plants you put out in the spring takes up three feet of space by the end of summer. Consider laying out your garden design in blocks instead of the much more familiar rows. Because you don’t have to enable as much space for paths, this enables you to plant more.

Blocks containing a variety of plants encourage mini-gardens of vegetables, herbs and flowers, and are much more diverse than single rows that alternate just two plants. Single crops crowded together are much more susceptible to disease, so the diversity of blocks mean much healthier} plants. Make each block wide enough to reach the middle comfortably from each side.

The layout of your garden depends partially on what it is you wish to plant. Some crops, such as lettuce, radishes and spinach, mature quickly and are short-term residents, unless you plant and harvest them several times during the summer. Various other plants, such as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, grow over the course of the entire season. Perennial herbs and flowers remain in the same spot year after year, requiring an increasing space every year.

Make sure to save your garden plan to use as a reference for rotating crops following year. Besides depleting the soil of nutrients, leaving plants in the same spot each year encourages disease and soil-borne insect killers. No yearly plant should go in the same spot two years in a row. Waiting three years before putting a plant in the same spot, that works even better.

You may consider planting “green manure” plants to fix the soil. Add this to your plan from every year. Clover, Alfalfa, and other such plants fix nutrients from the soil, which can be used by various other plants, along with adding bulk and organic matter to the soil, while they are dug, or tilled directly into the soil.

Another key to growing organically is to pick plants suited to the site. Plants adapted to your climate and conditions are better able to grow without a lot of attention or input; on the other hand, when you attempt to grow a plant that is not right for your site, you probably have to enhance its natural defenses to maintain it healthy, balanced and productive.

Once you plan your garden for this year, you need to actually make a plan for following year as well. Because crop rotation is so vital to keep healthy and balanced soil, as long as you’re making a plan, prepare where you plant what in the following season. This helps you remember what was planted where and save troubles following year.

GET THE SOIL READY

Appropriate soil preparation is the key to successful organic gardening. The objective is to feed the soil, which in turn feeds your plants. Begin by testing your soil to find precisely what you’ve got to deal with. Contact your local Cooperative Extension Service. Most counties and some universities have one; look in the phone book under “Cooperative,” “Extension” or your county name to find what is needed for a soil test. Home test kits are also available at garden-supply stores, but the results are not as accurate or complete.

A soil test determines pH, the soil’s acidity or alkalinity. The suggested pH for a vegetable garden is 6.8. The test results should include guidelines for adjusting the pH, for instance, how much lime to add to acid soils or how much sulfur to add to alkaline soils. Both are readily available at gardening centers.

The test additionally should evaluate the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and various other elements in the soil that are crucial for healthy and balanced plants. The testing agency may recommend nutriments to balance these elements; when you send your sample, make sure to enclose a note specifying that you intend to garden organically so the tester does not suggest chemicals.

easy to grow vegetables for first time gardener
easy to grow vegetables for first time gardener

Some of the nitrogen sources suggested by the tester can be problematic, especially for vegetarians. Bone meal is a slaughterhouse byproduct, fish emulsion is a fish-processing byproduct, cottonseed meal is subject to heavy pesticide usage and urea, or crystallized animal urine, is so processed that it cannot be considered even remotely natural. If nitrogen is a problem for your soil, and you are opposed to using animal byproducts, your best bet may be to plant a nitrogen-fixing cover crop this first year and start your vegetables the following.

When gardeners talk of a soil, they are referring to earth that looks, feels and smells pleasant. Which means fertile soil, with good structure depending on the extent to which the inorganic soil particles; sand, silt, clay, and humus are bound together. No matter what kind of unpleasant soil you begin with, it can be transformed into the stuff great gardens are made of.

You also need to test the soil’s percentage of organic matter, or decomposed plant material. There are various levels of consideration according to your area, which determines if a soil is organic. The very best organic matter to fertilize your garden is compost. As a novice gardener, you may not have compost of your own yet.

Composting involves recycling of natural matter like vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and eggshells. All of these provide nutrients to the soil that a successful organic gardener recognizes be of paramount significance!

When you till up your plot, work in some loosened topsoil along with natural organic matter into the existing soil. Horse or cow manure works the best here. Locate a local farmer and ask if you can buy some dung from him. If you don’t have any of these available to you, most local garden centers have some natural additives that you can till into the soil. You can also use fallen leaves or grass clippings.

By tilling this organic matter into the soil, the organic material forms moisture-holding humus in the soil and the loosened structure permits good drainage. In addition, it provides needed nutrients to your plants and helps them thrive as they grow.

You can make your very own organic fertilizer as well

Be careful that you don’t dig up your plot prematurely in the season. Cool spring soil holds moisture, and disturbing wet soil damages its structure. To determine whether your soil is ready for tilling take the following test.

Jim Crockett, former Public Broadcasting System gardener extraordinaire, suggests that prior to digging you take “the chocolate cake test”: If the soil has the consistency of moist chocolate cake, it’s safe to dig. If it’s more like fudge, wait until the soil dries out to cake consistency.

Soil is structured in layers, and do not disturb those layers. Dig just enough to remove clods of grass, weeds and root masses, shaking and pounding out as much dirt as possible back into your garden. Conserve the grass for composting.

After the dirt is prepared, let the garden rest for a few of days before planting.

It’s almost time to plant!

PLANTING YOUR GARDEN

You can choose to buy plants that are already growing that can be found at most garden centers, however if you do this, you cannot be sure what pesticides or chemicals have come in contact with these plants. Your objective, as an organic gardener, is to prevent these chemicals, so start your garden from seed.

If you intend to plant the seeds directly in the ground, that’s fine, just keep in mind that growing from seed takes a little more time than growing from plants, so be patient!

Don’t get over-anxious here! Several beginners take a seed packet and dump its contents into the ground hoping a couple of plants will spring up. What they don’t realize is that with care, probably ALL come up or at least most of them.

The problem here is that these plants strive for air and light developing tall, weak stems and they will not thrive as they choke each other out.

Some plants can be seeded thickly. These include peas, parsnips, radishes and bush beans. It’s fine to block these together as they grow fine in clumps.

Seeds contain everything they need to grow, except moisture and warmth. However, if you stack 4-inches of soil over them, though, they are overwhelmed. The soil is heavy and cold and usually damp enough to rot the emerging leaf bud before it breaks the surface. Be kind to your seeds. Cover them with {soil| dirt} to a depth no more than 2-times their size. Extremely fine seeds shouldn’t be covered at all.

There are also some vegetables conducive to early planting. These include radishes and leaf lettuce. They tend to come up rapidly and can be harvested before any of your other plants have even begun to bud.

For these types of plants, plant a single row or small bed and keep replanting every two or three weeks in small amounts. You’ll take up the same space, save harvest time, and have a continuous crop throughout the growing season.

While planting your seeds, you’ll need to dig a small trench and sprinkle them evenly throughout the row. The rows should be at least an inch apart, however increasing that distance make for easier weeding and gives you walking space between the rows.

Make sure to, sprinkle them evenly and try to avoid crowding. Simply put, don’t just dump the seed packet in the trench. You need to leave room for the plants to grow and be able to get adequate light and air circulation.

Once they’re planted, mark what you have planted where. You may use a Popsicle stick with the plant name written on the front and stick it in the ground at the beginning of the row. Doing this, once the plants start to bud, you’ll know where to look for them.

home vegetable garden ideas
home vegetable garden ideas

Water adequately after you’ve planted your seeds and then wait. You’ll soon begin to observe small plants popping through the soil and reaching for the sun. Eventually, with appropriate cultivation, you’ll have beautiful plants!

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