Planning your Organic Garden – Step by Step
Where to start when growing organics. Often we can be overwhelmed at the beginning of a project – there is simply so much to think about and consider. If starting from scratch, then you actually have a great opportunity to plan and lay out your garden in an attractive, logical way with plenty of room to consider the needs of wildlife, as well as the usual garden requirements such as pathways, seating and utility areas. They key is to be methodical as you consider the various elements of your garden, and what you want to achieve from each one.
Unfortunately, however, not many of us are starting from a greenfield site. So this article is intended to help you identify the main areas to consider in an organic garden, and how best to integrate them into your existing garden layout.
Growing your own vegetables is not only healthy and satisfying, it has also become very popular. I would recommend, if you can, that you put some space aside in your garden to grow your own fruits and vegetables.
There are a number of ways to set about this. If you have decent soil, then you can add organic fertilizers and compost to condition the soil before planting. If your soil is fairly dismal, you suffer from impaired mobility or you just like to move things along more quickly, then raised beds may suit you better. A section of your garden in raised beds can look very attractive, remain tidy and be extremely productive year round.
There are a number of issues to consider, when choosing an area for your vegetables. Ideally you want an area sheltered from wind. Vegetables also need full sun for most of the day, and you will save your legs if you plant your vegetables close to a water source and within a hose-length.
Organic gardens are particularly reliant on wildlife and ‘good’ bugs, so including plants and flowers which are attractive to wildlife can be helpful. Bird baths or feeding stations are also worth considering, as they bring a range of birds into the garden.
Flowers are an important element in the organic garden. Not only do they encourage the ‘good’ bugs into the garden, they also act as decoys for the ‘bad’ bugs that can decimate fruits and vegetables. Flowers can (and should) be integrated into your organic kitchen garden, but most gardeners also enjoy a range of flowering plants throughout their garden, purely for their aesthetic value.
The key to growing flowers successfully in the organic garden is to choose plants that suit your soil and environment. In other words, local plants. Plants that are well adapted to the local conditions will grow more readily, be healthier and therefore more disease resistant.
If you are determined to grow flowers that are not naturally suited to your soil type, then raised beds are, once again, the way to go.
An organic garden has a few more requirements from its utility areas. A compost bin and worm farm are both helpful as they create useful organic fertilizer for your garden. They also help to cut down on the green waste from you home.
You are more likely to add your green waste to your compost bin and worm farm if they are easily reached, on pathways free from mud. However they are also not the most attractive of things, and you probably won’t want them to be easily visible. It is worth noting that a well maintained compost bin or worm farm should not smell. If there is an odor coming from your bins this is an indication that it is not in balance, and needs some attention.
Organic gardens can be very attractive and you may wish to give some thought to your seating areas. A dining table in the middle of your kitchen garden can work very well, and is a great discussion point when you have guests. It is also handy to have somewhere to rest while you are working in your garden!
If you are lucky enough to have large trees in your garden, then seats, tables or chairs under the canopy are a very relaxing place to sit.
These are just a few of the basics you may want to consider when planning your garden. If you take some time at the beginning, even though this is not the most exciting part of gardening, to plan properly, it will make your garden a far more enjoyable place to be.
Fi McMurray is a garden enthusiast and author who has been gardening organically for 10 years. She has been involved with 2 award-winning gardens at the prestigious Ellerslie International Flower Show in Auckland, New Zealand.
Her latest book is “An Introduction to Successful Organic Gardening”, which joins her previous books “Successful Rose Gardening” and “Secrets to a Thriving Herb Garden”. You can find out more about Fi’s books at her website, www.fimcmurray.com
Fi lives north of Auckland, New Zealand, with her husband and two small children.