What is Organic Gardening?
It's gardening that abstains from the use of any synthetic, chemical-based treatment pesticides and fertilizers. It aims to incorporate the entire landscape design and environment in order to promote healthy soil and produce productive plant life.
Dealing with pests and diseases in an organic fashion
- For starters, don't overcrowd your plants (this prevents fungal attacks), don't let them overheat, don't feed them too much (fertilizers), and water them regularly.
- If pests are present, it is important to assess whether or not they are causing sufficient damage to warrant even taking measures against them.
- If necessary, pests should be managed with some physical solution instead of with the application of chemicals.
- Rodents, raccoon, and deer can be fenced out of the garden.
- Birds can be kept away with with netting or simple objects that spin such as pinwheels.
- Horn worms, slugs, and snails can be picked off.
- Aphids can be dislodged by spraying with a hose.
- Oils of hot peppers or garlic can be applied on leaves of affected plants to make them less appealing to predators.
- If you have the space, consider building raised wooden beds. Raised beds help deter some pests, keep crops from being stepped, keep soil from becoming too compacted, and allow proper spacing of plants to prevent harmful over-crowding.
- Use companion plants! Research and utilize the vast amounts of companion planting options and their outcomes. Grow veggies alongside flowering plants. Some examples include chives or garlic near carrots to deter root flies or basil near tomatoes to deter aphids.
- Pull weeds by hand instead of spraying them with chemicals
Use compost as a nutrient-dense fertilizer
Buy compost from a local entity or create your own with the waste from your household! Here's how to compost:
- Your compost can be a simple pile or contained within a custom pen or bin with a lid.
- Compost needs a proper mixture of nitrogen (green matter), carbon (brown matter), soil, moisture, and oxygen. Add alternating layers of carbon (leaves, garden/lawn trimmings) and nitrogen (food scraps) with a thin layer of soil in between.
- Turn (or shake) the pile as new layers are added to oxygenate. Keep the pile only slightly moistened by adding water. Both of these actions will foster material breakdown and microbe growth.
Tips for Growing Potted Plants
- Reuse your old things! You can make a pot out of many different containers. Some good examples include empty olive oil cans, plastic or rubber buckets and tubs, and wooden wine or fruit boxes.
- When starting to grow crops in pots, pay attention to the amount of space a particular crop needs. Find makeshift pots that are deep, shallow, wide, and narrow and match the crop with the right pot. For example, A quick growing salad lettuce could survive in a shallow container such as a kitchen colander but a rooted crop would need a pot with more depth.
- Consider creating your own mini greenhouse. If you have a large clear plastic storage box and detachable lid on hand, put containers filled with plants inside of it and place it in your outdoor space. If you place your mini greenhouse outside with the lid on, the internal temperature will be a few degrees warmer than outside. Ventilate the box on very warm days by putting a stick under the edge of the lid.
- If you have the space consider building raised wooden beds. Raised beds help deter some pests, keep crops from being stepped, keep soil from becoming too compacted, and allow proper spacing of plants to prevent harmful over-crowding.
Tips for starting out and maintaining healthy plants
- Start plants in newspaper pots. The newspapers can be left to degrade naturally and doesn't need to be removed when the plant is relocated into a bigger pot or the ground. Newspaper pots also help seedlings maintain their health, as they prevent seedling roots from being disturbed the way they would be when normally relocating them.
- Sow seeds with a purchased organic potting mix containing limited quantities of nutrients and fertilizers. When sowing seeds, you need sterile soil. Vegetable seeds need sterile soil with no weed seeds or pathogens to keep young seedlings from being damaged. Steer clear of chemically enhanced mixtures.
- The best way to gauge the quality of your soil is to get it tested. You can get a home testing kit or send a sample to your local agricultural extension office. Soil testing offers a breakdown of pH and nutrient levels, as well as treatment recommendations. Make sure you let the testers know you are choosing the organic route.
- Not everyone has the time or space to grow all their vegetables from seeds. You are not any less of a gardener if you purchase organic young plants instead of sowing your own organic seedlings. Just remember to research the optimal conditions for your young plants and carefully plant your them in appropriately-sized containers.
Tips created by Cheyenne Fenstemaker