It’s a sad situation.
You get plenty of fruits and vegetables from your grocery store. But something’s not right.
Why don’t you feel like eating the food you bought with your hard earned money? There’s something wrong with the taste but you can’t put your finger on it.
And what about the news reports that show the blatant use of chemicals for growing food. Is there a safer way to get food for your family?
You’ve come to the right place because there is a way. There is a way to eat healthy food. There is a way to eat tasty food. And there is a way to save money doing so.
Organic gardening can help you achieve this while using the teachings of nature.
What is organic gardening?
Organic gardening is a way to grow plants in cooperation with nature. You grow with a focus on the health of the ecosystem.
This means taking care of the plants, animals, insects, people, soil, and water.
You avoid using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in your garden.
The idea with organic gardening is to replenish what you take from the earth. If you grow plants you return them back as part of compost. If you grow plants that deplete nitrogen, you also grow legumes that replenish it back.
What are the benefits or organic gardening?
Eat healthy food
Mass-produced food is treated with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides to protect the yield. Some of these may be very harmful to our health.
Growing your own organic food means you don’t need to worry about this problem. You can control what goes into the soil, water, fertilizer, and compost in your organic garden.
Grow tasty varieties of food
Mass-produced food comes with another problem. Its flavor is not that great. No wonder many people and kids don’t enjoy eating fruits and vegetables.
Such food needs to be stored for a long time until it reaches your grocery store. It needs to be made resistant to pests and diseases.
The process which is used to treat the plants tends to reduce the flavor from the fruits and vegetables. The varieties available for a vegetable or fruit are limited to those with a long shelf-life.
When you grow your own food, you don’t have such restrictions. You can grow any variety that you want including heirloom fruits and vegetables. These have an intense flavor that you’ll not find in store bought ones.
It’s a great feeling to harvest fresh fruits and vegetables from your organic garden.
Protect the environment
Growing food in a commercial setting takes a toll on the environment.
We know the problems that synthetic chemicals and pesticides cause. They contaminate the water, air, soil and harm humans as well as wildlife.
Growing a large batch of crops invites pests and diseases that can wipe out the entire production.
Organic gardening helps you grow in cooperation with nature. You grow plants that invite beneficial insects, birds, and animals to your garden. And help balance the ecosystem.
Your organic garden helps improve the soil, water, and air rather than damage it.
Saves you money
You spend a lot of money buying food from the store. And this is not in your control. There could be a shortage of food due to pests, diseases, or transportation.
There’s nothing much you can do other than pay more to buy your food.
Organic gardening can help you grow food for your entire family. This helps you save a lot of money on your grocery bills.
Your food will be ready to harvest right outside your front yard. So you don’t need to visit the grocery store as often. And save money on gas as well.
Have fun and enjoy the process
It’s fun when you’re able to grow your own food. Doing so in an organic manner will give you even more satisfaction. You know you’re helping the planet.
There’s great joy in enjoying the harvest of fruits and vegetables that you have grown. And that taste a lot better than the store bought ones.
If you have a surplus of fruits and vegetables, you can give it away to your family, friends, and neighbors. This helps you build a stronger community.
You could give away the food to those in need at a soup kitchen or shelter.
How to prepare the soil for organic gardening?
The soil is the most important factor for your organic gardening. You want a healthy soil that is full of nutrients and essential microorganisms.
You want soil that retains water while draining out the excess. And you want soil that has good air circulation.
Get the soil tested
Send them a few samples of the soil from different locations of your garden. And they’ll send you a detailed breakdown of your soil and what you can do to improve it.
The most important factors of your soil are the pH level and the nutrients in the soil.
pH level indicates how acidic or alkaline your soil is. This ranges from 0 to 14 with 0 being most acidic and 14 being most alkaline.
You want your soil to be between 5.5 to 7.0 on this scale so it’s suitable for growing plants.
The nutrients in your soil include nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Nitrogen helps your plants grow foliage. Phosphorus helps in photosynthesis and cell division. And potassium helps to make the plant strong and grow fast.
The test will show what you need to do to get the pH and nutrients to the right level. It’s good to do the test in fall so you can fix the problems in winter. And your garden will be ready the next growing season.
The one thing that can give great improvement to your garden soil is compost. It’s rich, organic matter as a result of animal and plant decomposition.
The compost will add the required nutrients to your soil. It’ll make the soil friable so it retains enough moisture but drains out the excess.
The compost is loose enough so the air circulation is good for the roots and microorganisms.
It encourages microorganisms to thrive and enrich it with nutrients.
You can buy compost from your local garden center but it’s not the best way. The compost has to have a mix of several materials so it’s good.
The best way to do this is either to mix several types of compost you bought or make your own compost.
You can make your own compost with a compost pile or a compost bin. You need to add layers of brown and green material to fill up the pile.
Brown materials contain carbon such as dried leaves, wood chips, branches, straw. Green materials are rich in nitrogen. Some examples are grass clippings, coffee grounds, kitchen waste.
You want to roughly have 25 parts brown material to 1 part green material in the compost pile.
Keep turning the compost pile every few weeks and add moisture to it if dry. After a couple of months, you’ll have good compost ready for adding to your garden soil.
How to choose the right plants for your organic garden?
Growing an organic garden means you need to choose plants suitable for your climate. These are native plants that have grown for centuries in that particular environment.
You can use companion planting to attract beneficial insects and birds.
You can use the USDA hardiness zone map to figure out plants suitable for your garden.
This map indicates the average annual minimum winter temperature divided into 10-degree zones. The zones are regions of the United States.
Zones above 9 are the warm zones while those below tend to be cold. When you buy seeds or plants, you can check on the packet which zone they are suitable for.
You can choose to grow the plants from seed or buy the seedlings from a garden center. Make sure that the seeds you buy are certified organic.
Make sure the seedlings are raised without using chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
You could also buy the seeds and seedlings from a farmer’s market where you can get the organic plants.
How to water the plants in your organic garden?
You need to give plenty of water to the plants in your organic garden. The best time to water the plants is in the morning.
This will help reduce the loss of water due to evaporation as the roots will get enough time to absorb it.
The excess water will evaporate as the sun shines. This will ensure the plants don’t remain damp and attract bacterial or fungal infections.
You want to water the roots of the plants rather than splash water on the foliage. This will protect them from pests and diseases of the soil reaching the leaves. That’s why you should avoid using a sprinkler to water your organic garden.
The best way to water your organic garden is with a drip or soak system that provides adequate water to the roots. You can use a regular watering can if nothing else but do be careful.
Your plants will need about an inch of water every week including rainfall. It’s best to be infrequent in watering the plants as this will encourage deep rooting.
How to get rid of weeds in your organic garden?
Weeds can be a nuisance in your organic garden if you’re not careful. But don’t be tempted to use any synthetic weed killer.
The best way to get rid of the weeds from your garden is to keep an eye on them. If you find some growing, it’s time to put your gloves and pull them out.
If the weeds have not gone to seed, you can add them to your compost pile. Otherwise, throw them away or burn them.
If you want your organic garden to be weed free you can add a layer of mulch. The mulch can be material like straw, hay, wood chips dried leaves, or grass clippings.
The mulch protects your garden from weeds. It blocks sunlight from reaching the seeds and allowing them to sprout.
The mulch also helps regulate the temperature in the soil so it’s not too cold or too warm. It helps keep moisture in the soil so the roots can have access to it.
If you use organic mulch, it decomposes over time and adds rich, organic matter to the soil.
How to protect your plants from pests and diseases?
People who want to start an organic garden may be worried about what to do with pests and diseases. But that’s not a difficult problem to solve.
The main reason plants suffer from pests and disease is if they’re weak or stressed. So make sure the plants are getting enough light, nutrients, and moisture.
It’s good to use inter-planting where you grow several types of plants together. This will avoid spreading the infection to all your plants.
Grow native plants that encourage beneficial insects and wildlife to your organic garden. They will get rid of pests for you.
This could be predators like frogs, toads, lizards, birds, and bats. And they could be beneficial insects like aphids, green lacewings, and brown beetles.
You could use barriers like nets and row covers to protect your vegetables from pests that lay eggs on them. You can use yellow sticky traps to catch pests that reach your garden. You can add foil collars to the base of the plant to protect from cutworms.
If you do have a few pests, consider letting them eat some of your plants. As long as it’s not an infestation, it’s OK to share your plants with them.
If you do have to get rid of pests, make sure to study about them and distinguish pests from beneficial insects. Because you don’t want to harm the beneficial ones.
You can use organic pesticides like horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, garlic or hot pepper sprays to get rid of pests. Some other organic materials to use include BT, spinosad, and diatomaceous earth.
If some part of a plant is diseased, you can cut it off and dispose of it. If the entire plant is infected, you need to remove the plant and destroy it.
The best way to protect your plants from disease is to use crop rotation. Every few years, change the type of plants you’re growing in a garden bed.
You can cycle the plants you grow across your different garden beds. This will not give pests and diseases enough time to affect your garden bed.
How to harvest plants in your organic garden?
You’ve grown a wonderful organic garden and now it’s time to harvest the fruits and vegetables of your labor.
The more fruits and vegetables you harvest from your garden, the more plants will produce.
Notice the season of harvest and check your plants every day for the produce growing on them.
When harvesting, pick from different plants instead of from a single one.
You want to cut the produce from the plant with a sharp knife, scissors, or a good bypass pruner.
You might get a surplus of produce that you can distribute to family, friends, neighbors, or those in need. You can store the surplus if you freeze it or use the canning method.
How to clean up your organic garden?
It’s important to keep your organic garden clean and free from debris. This will help protect it from pests and diseases.
Keep an eye on the plants in your garden for signs of stress and disease. If some part of a plant is diseased, you can try to cut it out. But if the entire plant has a disease, it’s best to pull it out and burn it.
Plants like annuals can be left in your organic garden for the winter. They provide food and habitat to birds and wildlife during winter.
They also protect the soil from erosion that can take place when nothing is growing in the soil. And it’ll prevent weeds from growing in your garden when it’s barren.
Clean up the dead and fallen foliage from the garden so pests cannot make their home in them. Add them to your compost pile as a good source of carbon.
Organic gardening can change your life.
It’s a way of growing your own fruits and vegetables the way nature intended it to be.
No need of harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers. No need for limiting the varieties of vegetables you eat. And no need for depending on others for growing your own food.
It’s not hard to start organic gardening. All you need to do is take that first step.
Get out in the garden and take a look at your soil. Find out how it is and what you can do to improve it.
Go out there and ask Mother Nature’s help. I’m sure she’ll be happy to do so.