The Basics of Organic Gardening

By: Beth Krietsch Featured, Gardening guide, Organic

Organic gardening is a growing process where no synthetic pesticides or synthetic fertilizers are used. Instead, compost, grass clippings, and other types of organic matter are used to nurture and feed the soil to help plants and vegetables grow.

Organic gardening often involves a focus on the overall health of the natural system, including plants, animals, insects, people, soil, and water. This whole system approach allows the gardener to maintain the natural and harmonious balance of the land by replenishing resources that are depleted in the gardening process. Here are the basic considerations for organic gardening.

Soil

Organic matter helps soil hold and retain water and is critical to keeping the soil in your garden healthy. Organic matter can be mixed into soil or used as a top layer in your garden. By adding this to your garden, you’ll add important nutrients, encourage microbial activity, and influence soil structure.

Organic matter can be derived from compost—and you can make your own compost at home. Mushroom soil, peat moss, leaf mold, and manure are other alternative forms of organic matter that you can add to the soil in your garden.

This organic matter is often in the form of compost, which you can create yourself using leaf and grass clippings from your property, food scraps, decaying plants, manure, and more. Mushroom soil, peat moss, leaf mold, and manure are alternative forms of organic matter you can add to your garden. Mixing compost into your soil will help it retain moisture—and a top layer of mulch will reduce surface runoff.

Planting

Native plants are often easier to cultivate and require fewer resources than growing invasive species. As an added benefit, native plants attract pollinators to your garden. You can research native plants by searching online, reading, asking with farmers or growers in your area, shopping for seeds and seedlings at a local farmers market, or using the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

Water

The best time to water your garden is early in the morning, before the sun strengthens and winds pick up. Watering at this time of day minimizes water lost through evaporation and allows plants to better tolerate the sun’s harsh rays as the day goes on. The second-best time of day to water is late afternoon. Water slowly and focus on delivering water to the plants’ roots, not the more visible flowers or buds.

Keeping disease and weeds at bay

A healthy mulch covering can help minimize weeds. If any do appear, put on your gardening gloves and remove the weeds by hand. A natural weed prevention strategy is to rotate the crops that you plant in your garden each year.

If you spot a diseased plant, remove it from your garden. If just a portion of the plant is diseased, you can remove it from the garden, cut back the diseased sections, and replant in a pot to see if the plant’s health improves.

When in doubt, take action. Keeping a watchful eye on your garden is the best preventative strategy for keeping weeds and disease at bay. Here’s our recipe for all-natural weed killer.

Pest control

It’s possible to grow and cultivate a thriving garden without using pesticides. One natural measure for keeping pests from damaging your garden is to attract beneficial insects and predators like birds, spiders, lizards, ladybugs, beetles, toads, and bats to your garden and your property.

Be realistic about expectations. It’s likely that you’ll see some pests in your organic garden. The key is keeping those pest populations as low as possible. For example, if you do spot an aphid, try removing it from the plant by brushing it with a gardening glove or spraying the plant with water. If this isn’t effective, you can try other tactics to remove pests from your organic garden.

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