Organic Home Gardening – Getting Started with the Basics
Have you ever thought about gardening organically at home, but weren’t sure where to start?
Many gardeners would love to garden without all the chemicals and sprays, but worry that organic home gardening is difficult and time consuming. Not so! It can be a straightforward and easy way to garden. And it’s also cheaper as you no longer have all those chemicals and sprays to buy.
In this article we’ll look at the basics of organic gardening – they keys to getting a good foundation so your plants have the best possible chance of success. We’ll look at how to prepare your soil, and see how easy it actually is to understand and improve your soil from the outset. We’ll also have a quick look at the bugs in your garden, and how you can protect your plants from the bad ones, and encourage the good ones.
Organic gardening may require a little more time and understanding from you as a gardener, however the rewards and satisfaction are huge. Read on to find out the basics you need to know.
The main things to know about organic gardening:
Your soil is the lifeblood of your plants, and time spent now (boring as it is!) will really help you later. Firstly, you need to understand what type of soil you have. Most soils fall along a continuum from sandy to clay, and all can be improved by digging in rich organic matter. It also helps to know the acidity of your soil and the easiest way to find out is using a pH testing kit from your local garden center. These are very simply to use and will let you know if your soil is acid, alkaline, or just right. Ideally you want your soil to be just slightly acid – between 6.0 and 7.0 pH is ideal – and there are a number of organic ways we can achieve this. If you need to improve the pH of your soil then your garden center is your best place to start, as they will understand the soil types in your region.
Once you start gardening then feeding your soil twice a year with organic fertilizers and compost will help keep your soil in great condition.
If growing from seed then you can find a huge range of organic seeds available these days. It’s also best to try to find plants that are naturally disease resistant – they will often say so on the packet. Heritage seeds can be ideal, and also provide another point of interest in your garden. If you’re growing vegetables, then only plant vegetables that you will eat! This will help to keep you interested in your garden and reduce waste.
Finally, work out a crop rotation plan to help maintain the health of your soil. A 4 year rotation plan is ideal.
Pests are a constant menace in the garden and tend to worry organic gardeners in particular. However there are a range of pest control methods available. These can include companion planting, manually removing the bugs – either from the plant or the planet, depending on how annoyed you are with them – and there are also a range of homemade organic sprays and teas which can be very effective. A simple spray of dishwashing detergent (only a few drops), water and neem oil is great for aphids, whitefly and other pests.
But remember that your garden needs the good insects such as ladybugs and hoverflies, so be careful when you spray.
Fertilizers and soil conditioning:
Homemade fertilizers and compost are a great way to feed your soil and also reduce your household waste – all your green waste can go into your compost bin and worm farm. Generally, depending on your climate, homemade compost will be ready to use after 3 to 4 months. It will smell sweet and be crumbly in your hand.
Fertilizers can also be animal-based if you have a local friendly farmer with a ready supply of the main ingredient, however if you are using animal manure make sure it is completely rotted and decomposed before you add to your garden.
The only other equipment you may want to consider when gardening organically is a compost bin or worm farm. You can buy these from your garden centre or make one yourself. Just ensure that your bins are easy to reach from the house on a clean path, otherwise you are less likely to add your green waste.
And now you’re ready to plant! I wish you happy, healthy and successful gardening.
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.