Organic Gardening Is Easier Than You Think!
The cold and grayness of the winter blues are slowly giving way to warmer and sunnier days. Ah yes, springtime is here! Birds are singing, bees are buzzing, and everything is beginning to bud. Now is the time to plan your organic garden!
Imagine going to the backyard to shop for fresh fruits and vegetables. With a little planning and some manual labor, your local farmers’ market could be only steps away!
Whether you have a green thumb or not, organic gardening is not as difficult as you might think. Being outside with your hands immersed in the soil can be very cathartic. For me, there is something very satisfying when cultivating a simple seed into life. The smell of the earth, the sun warming my back, watching my little plot slowly team with life. It’s a great way to relieve the stress from a chaotic day.
Even if you do not have a backyard, container gardening can be just as pleasing. Not to mention, gardening is a great way to teach your children about eating healthy as well as sustainability. You may even be able to get them to help cook a meal with your bounty! More importantly, knowing what is and is not in your fresh produce will give you peace of mind.
The Basics of Organic Gardening
First and foremost you need to determine your plant hardiness zone, meaning, when and what to plant depending on your area of the country. Gilmor has the best planting zone calendar that I have found. Just enter your zip code and it will give you a list of flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables that are suitable for your climate and when to plant them.
1. Select The Garden Area
Where should I create my garden? Ideally, your chosen location should receive 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. Avoid planting near large trees and roots as they will steal the nutrients and water from your garden.
2. Soil Quality
Nutrient-rich soil is key for a healthy organic garden. It might be worth testing your soil as different types of soil require different methods to make it ideal for planting. For instance, clay soil may have an abundance of nutrients but tends to retain too much water. Sandy soils do not retain enough water. DIY soil testing kits are widely available at your local garden center or big box store.
Adding organic compost improves the soil’s texture and will attract soil microorganisms which will increase the nutrients. Healthy soil results in productive plants that are larger and more disease resistant. As a general rule soil depth should be at least 12″ to 18″ deep for vegetables.
3. Organic Fertilizer
Organic fertilizers nourish your plants and build the structure of the soil. When preparing the garden before planting, I add organic fertilizer to the top 2 to 3 inches of soil. Also when planting I will sometimes add fertilizer into the planting hole.
But what should I look for in fertilizer? First of all, the fertilizer should be balanced with an NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) of 4-6-4 or something near the 5 range. A good fertilizer will also contain calcium, magnesium and sulfur. Boron or manganese and iron are also good. The bag should have the OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) label.
My personal choices that I have used successfully are Dr. Earth Organic Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer 4-6-3, and FoxFarm FX14059 FoxFarm Happy Frog Tomato and Vegetable Fertilizer 5-7-3
4. Choosing Your Organic Seeds
One would think that this is the easiest part of gardening, not so grasshopper. Knowing how much and when to water is vital for the health of your garden. Not enough water your crops will develop short roots and most likely wither and die. Too much water will invite fungus and if you water in the evening you have invited pesky insects to treat your garden as though it were Thanksgiving!
The best time to water is from 5:00 AM to 10:00 AM. Soak the soil to a depth of 5 to 6 inches, which will encourage the plants to grow deeper roots. Watering the base of the plants and not the foliage will prevent fungus and unwanted insects.
6. What To Plant Where
Companion planting can make your garden healthier and more productive by preventing weed growth, deterring pests or enticing beneficial insects and optimizing the soil to name a few. For instance, planting basil near tomatoes repels destructive insects and will increase the tomatoes flavor.
Mulching your garden beds will not only suppress weed growth but will aid in regulating soil temperature, conserving water, preventing erosion, and enriching the soil and it looks lovely to boot.
Reap The Benefits!
Now that you have the basics, enjoy the process and savor the rewards. Gardening can be relaxing and enjoyable. Come harvest time, your taste buds will thank you.