What is Organic Gardening
Many gardeners wonder what exactly organic gardening means. The simple answer is that organic gardeners don’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on their plants. But gardening organically is much more than what you don’t do.
When you garden organically, you think of your plants as part of a whole system within nature that starts in the soil and includes the water supply, people, wildlife and even insects. An organic gardener strives to work in harmony with natural systems and to minimize and continually replenish any resources the garden consumes.
Organic gardening operates on the concept of recycling. You use animal waste, kitchen scraps, and vegetable waste to mulch and compost. You will use common household items like vinegar and soap to prevent pests and weeds.
Organic growers rely on developing a healthy, fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops. Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are not allowed under organic standards.
Organic gardening is the merging together of plants and soil allowing the Earth to naturally bear what it was made to do. The plants and the soil are one working together to provide food and nourishment not only to humans but to animals and organisms as well.
It’s not a new age science. It’s actually quite simple and can be satisfying to the soul! So let’s get more in-depth on getting started.
Your first task is choosing where to plant your garden. The site should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight daily, and the soil should drain well, with no standing puddles. The area should receive adequate air circulation, yet be protected from strong winds. Your house or a thicket of trees can act as a shield from the wind.
After choosing your site, decide how large you want to make your garden. Beware of beginning too ambitiously; tending a plot that’s too large can quickly become a chore. A plot 10 feet long by 10 feet wide is large enough for some tomato plants, lettuce, a bush variety of cucumber plant, radishes, an endlessly productive zucchini plant, herbs and some flowers.
Once you’ve chosen your site, draw out a garden plan; this plan will ensure maximum productivity by giving each plant room to grow. Measure the dimensions of the plot and draw a scale model on graph paper, using, for example, a one-inch square to represent one foot. As you draw your plan, keep in mind each plant’s space requirements at maturity–the little tomato plants you put out in the spring will take up three feet of space by the end of summer. Consider laying out your garden design in blocks instead of the more familiar rows. Because you don’t have to allow as much space for paths, this will enable you to plant more.
Blocks containing a variety of plants encourage mini-gardens of vegetables, herbs and flowers, and are more diverse than single rows that alternate just two plants. Single crops crowded together are more susceptible to disease, so the diversity of blocks can mean healthier plants. Make each block just wide enough so you can comfortably reach the middle from each side.
The layout of your garden depends in part on what it is you want to plant. Some crops, such as lettuce, radishes and spinach, mature quickly and will be short-term residents, unless you plant and harvest them several times during the summer. Other plants, such as tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, will grow over the course of the entire season. Perennial herbs and flowers will remain in the same spot year after year, requiring an increasing amount of space each year.
Be sure to save your garden plan to use as a reference for rotating crops next year. Besides depleting the soil of nutrients, leaving plants in the same spot each year encourages disease and soil-borne insect predators. No annual plant should go in the same spot two years in a row. If you wait three years before putting a plant in the same spot, that works even better.
It is a good idea to consider planting “green manure” plants to fix the soil. You can add this to your plan from year to year. Clover, Alfalfa, and other such plants fix nutrients from the soil, which can be used by other plants, as well as adding bulk and organic matter to the soil, when they are dug, or tilled directly into the soil.
Another key to growing organically is to choose plants suited to the site. Plants adapted to your climate and conditions are better able to grow without a lot of attention or input; on the other hand, when you try to grow a plant that is not right for your site, you will probably have to boost its natural defenses to keep it healthy and productive.
Once you plan out your garden for this year, you should really make a plan for next year as well. Because crop rotation is so important to keep healthy soil, as long as you’re making a plan, draw up where you will plant what in the next season. This will help you remember what was planted where and save troubles next year.
So now you know where you’ll put your garden and what you’re going to put in it. Let’s get started on the planting!