If you’re new to organic gardening, you might be confused as to what makes it different from other, more “traditional” forms of gardening. In simple terms, organic gardening is the act of growing fruits, vegetables and other plants without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.
This is an oversimplification, of course, and growing plants organically is a process of viewing your garden as an organic ecosystem all its own. This system begins with the rich soil or other growing medium that the plant inhabits, and also includes the water, sunlight, air, and even insects that share this space. The garden can be in an open plot of land, a greenhouse, or even containers as container gardening is becoming more and more popular, especially in the city.
An organic gardener strives to work in harmony with this natural ecosystem, and he or she is a short of shepherd who tends to the plants and is constantly replenishing the resources that the garden consumes. The gardener also engages in careful soil building, seeding and breeding, pruning, pest management, composting, and more.
Tip: Make a good bed for your plants. A couple of weeks before you’re ready to actually plant, and after the soil has dried out to the point where it doesn’t clump in your hand, you can start preparing your bed. First get a good rank and turn up the soil about a foot deep, and then add a one inch layer of compost over the top. Then wait and watch for any weeds that appear in the coming days, and pull them out immediately. With luck you’ll remove most of the weeds and weed seeds before you plant your garden.
Tip: To furrow in straight lines – or not. There’s really no hard and fast rule about furrowing your garden, and planting in straight rows. Many people like the look of their vegetables and other plants arranged in neat rows, but others don’t. One option is to plant along a grid pattern, with one plant at the intersection of each square.
Tip: Make sure to mulch. Mulch is a great way of covering exposed soil, and keeping light from reaching those pesky weed seeds. Your mulch can consist of shredded and crumpled leaves, dried grass clippings, straw, even bark. Spread it evenly, a couple of inches deep. An added bonus of the mulch is that it decomposes over time, and adds vital nutrients to the soil.
Tip: Use the sun. If you’re having persistent weed problems, and you’ve tried almost everything, you might want to try solarizing. This technique works best with a new bed that hasn’t been planted, but you can use anytime there’s a hot sun, as in the late spring and summer months. First turn up the soil and rake out all the weeds that you can, then wet things down. Cover the areas you want to treat with a think layer of clear plastic, and secure the corners and edges. The plastic will serve as a sort of greenhouse, and bake off any weeds and weed seeds.
Tip: Encourage predators in your garden. That is predators who dine on pesky insects, the ones that can wreak havoc on your plants if you’re not careful. One way to do this is mix in flowers and herbs among your vegetables. These plant will draw in predatory insects like ladybugs or lacewings, which are hungry predators that dine on moth eggs, aphids, caterpillars, mites and more. Other beneficial predators include lizards, toads, and even garter snakes.
Tip: Make sure your plants are healthy. The strong survive in nature, and insects go after sick or weak plants. So your best defense is usually to choose hardy plants that are well suited to the climate and conditions, and keep them healthy. And try not to let your plants get too dry, too wet, or too shaded for long periods of time.