How to start an organic garden for beginners ?
Organic garden for Beginners is an introductory guide for those who wants to start their own organic farm. For some people, gardening is a passion. Some people garden just as a hobby. For still others, it’s a way to feed their families. Organic gardening is a great way to provide healthy food for you and your loved ones.
Most people want to plant so that they can decide the type of food they consume without fear of pesticides or preservatives. Often, commercially grown produce is cultivated in greenhouses with the use of pesticides and chemicals to enhance their growth. The side effects of chemical pesticides on the human body can truly take its toll. Too many people hop on the “organic bandwagon” as a means of mitigating the threats to themselves and their loved ones that sometimes come with foods cooked commercially.
It’s easier than you think. If you have been gardening for years, or just start growing your own food, organic gardening will give you peace of mind and pride in your produce. Don’t have any clues how to start? That’s why you’re reading this article!
WHY GARDEN ORGANICALLY?
Organic gardening is really just a theory when you think about it. People have been developing stuff without using chemicals for years. Our country’s early settlers didn’t have Miracle-Gro or Sevin Dust so they just got it right.
There are many, many advantages to gardening organically. Probably first and foremost is that Food produced using organic agriculture is more nourishing and more healthful. Vitamin C and dry matter contents are higher, on average, in organically grown crops then they are in non-organic crops. Mineral contents are also higher, on average, in organically grown crops. Food grown organically contains “substantially higher concentrations of antioxidants and other health promoting compounds than crops produced with pesticides.
Many people think that organically grown foods taste better. Also, some foods grown without pesticides produce a higher amount of an anti-oxidant that has been found to reduce the risk of some cancers. You will save money not only by growing your own food, but you can even make a little extra cash on the side by selling your own all-natural foods that are so popular in the grocery stores these days.
THE RISK OF CHEMICALS
Everywhere in our daily life, we have chemicals. Shampoo, toothpaste, many foodstuffs, like our clothes contain or are made using chemicals. As well as environmental pollution, the use of chemicals can be far more dangerous. But we focus on gardening and the use of these substances in our food. Chemical fertilizers are one of the influential forms of food production.
Chemical fertilizers are quick-acting, short-term plant boosters and are responsible for:
- Deterioration of soil friability creating hardpans soil
- Destruction of beneficial soil life, including earthworms
- Altering vitamin and protein content of certain crops
- Making certain crops more vulnerable to diseases
- Preventing plants from absorbing some needed minerals
The soil must be regarded as a living organism. An acid fertilizer, because of its acids, dissolves the cementing material, made up of the dead bodies of soil organisms, which holds the rock particles together in the form of soil crumbs. This compact surface layer of rock particles encourages rain water to run off rather than enter the soil.
Highly soluble fertilizer, such as 5-10-5, enters the soil water solution quickly so that much of it can be leached into our ground water without benefiting the plants at all. The soil assumes a cement-like hardness with this compound. At high concentrations, they reach the subsoil where they bind with clay to form impermeable layers of precipitate known as hardpan.
- Artificial chemical fertilizers contain acids (sulfuric and hydrochloric) increases acidity of the soil.
- Earthworms, whose numerous borings made the soil more porous, are killed.
- Acid fertilizers also destroy the cementing material that binds rock particles together in crumbs.
- Plants will have less nutrient value.
- Lowers the capacity of corn to produce high protein content.
- Long-term use of such chemicals may deplete the soil and make it unable to sustain further growth.
So it becomes obvious that growing your food naturally is the best way to go. Let’s take a moment and look at what exactly organic gardening is.
WHAT IS ORGANIC GARDENING?
Many gardeners wonder what organic gardening means exactly. The easy answer is to avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on plants in organic farms. Yet organic gardening is much more than you do.
When you garden organically, you think of your plants as part of a whole system of nature that starts in the soil and includes water supplies, people, wildlife and even insects. An organic gardener is committed to working in harmony with natural systems and to minimizing and continuously replenishing all the 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 gardening is the blending of plants and soil, allowing the Earth to naturally bear what it was made to do. Plants and soil function together to provide food and nutrition not only to humans, but also to animals and organisms. It’s not a science of the new age. It’s quite simple, actually, and it can satisfy the soul! So let’s get a little more in-depth on getting started.
How To Plan Your Bio Garden?
- Choose your site
- Choose a site where to plant your garden
- The site should receive six hours of direct sunlight
- Soil should drain well with no standing puddles
- The site 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. 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.
STARTING SEEDS INDOORS
Starting your seeds indoors will lessen the amount of time you have to wait to see results in your garden, and many people prefer to grow their plants indoors first to ready them for the growing season. It can be motivational and satisfying.
If space is available near a sunny window, start seeds four to eight weeks before the plant-out date. Almost any container with drainage holes in the bottom will work for planting. Paper milk cartons cut in half, Styrofoam cups, tin cans, plastic trays and pots are common containers used. For convenience, however, you may wish to start plants in the plastic trays and pots available at garden supply centers.
Use a rich, well-drained soil. If you use soil from the yard, it should be top soil that is well drained and not high in clay. The best soils are often found around established shrubs and trees. Add sphagnum peat and sharp sand to the soil in a ratio of about one-half volume of each, and mixed thoroughly. To kill weed seeds and some damaging soil fungi present in your commercial soil, place the soil mix in shallow trays or baking pans in an oven for 45 minutes at 250 degrees. For best results, the soil should be moist.
After the soil has cooled, fill containers firmly but do not pack. Allow about 3/4 inch from the soil surface to the rim of the container. Place seeds on the soil surface. Use a piece of window screen or old flour sifter to sift soil over the seeds to the depth indicated on the seed packet.
Cover the containers with plastic sheets or panes of glass and place in a cool room (60 to 65 degrees) away from direct sunlight until germination. By doing this, you will almost eliminate the necessity of watering the bed again before the seeds germinate. Be sure to keep an eye on it though. DON’T let it completely dry out!
Germination can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of months, depending on what you are growing, so patience will have to be on of your virtues.
When seeds germinate, move them gradually (over two or three days) into brighter light. When the seedlings have developed the first true leaves (the leaves above the cotyledons or “seed leaves”), thin to one plant per container if using partitioned trays or peat pots. Use tweezers to pinch off unwanted seedlings rather than pulling them, to avoid disturbing the remaining seedling.
About one week prior to planting-out time, gradually expose seedlings to longer periods outdoors unless temperatures are below 50 degrees. At the same time, reduce watering to a minimum as long as plants do not wilt. This will help the plants adjust to full exposure without undergoing undue shock at planting time.
When it comes time for planting in the ground, carefully remove the plant from its container keeping the roots intact. Dig a small hole in the garden plot and place the plant into the hole. Cover up the roots completely nearly up to the bottom leaves of the plant. Pack down the soil around the plant and water!
You’re on your way to becoming an organic gardener, but there’s still much more to learn! There are pitfalls to gardening that you must address to have a successful garden. First, we’ll address those pesky weeds.
How To CONTROL The WEEDS ?
Weeds can be an organic gardener’s curse. Weed control is a problem. There really is no easy answer to this problem. It just takes time and effort to control the unwanted overgrowth in your garden. This is where mulching and composting come into play.
- Twice a week, run the edge of a sharp hoe just under the surface of the soil to behead tiny weeds
- Put down a layer of mulch to hold in moisture and smother weeds.
- Choose ingredients that allow the soil to breathe, let water in and keep light out.
- Organic mulches—straw, grass clippings, leaves, shredded bark—nourish the soil as they decompose. They are fairly effective weed barriers.
- You can also apply a layer of compost to control weeds.\
- “Ssoil Solarization”. Soil solarization involves placing thick plastic sheeting on top of the weeds and allowing the natural sun to “bake” the weeds until they die.
- Cover your ground with newspaper. Because the paper will naturally decompose, it is environmentally friendly as well
- Also consider Kraft paper – like grocery bags – or cardboard.
Place common household vinegar in a spray bottle and apply to those weeds. Vinegar is the organic equivalent of the commercial Round-Up, so be careful when applying around thriving plants.
How To Handle PESTS
For the natural gardener, pest control might seem like a daunting task. After all, you’re committed to not using harmful chemicals in your garden, yet these chemicals can get rid of pests quickly and easily.
When you see insects in your garden, take some time to really watch what they’re doing. Are they actually destroying the plant or just nibbling it a bit?
The best defenses against insect attack are preventative measures. Grow plants suited to the site and they’ll be less stressed out. Don’t let them be too wet, too dry or too shaded. Design a diverse garden, so that pests of a particular plant won’t decimate an entire section of the garden. Healthy soil will naturally produce plants that are resistant to insects and disease, but pests are a part of gardening.
There are different ways you can control pests naturally
- Sprays and Powders – There are a number of natural botanical sprays and powders available in garden centers. These are derived from plants and not made in a lab. We’ll look at a few of the more common ones available to you.
- Insecticidal Soap – Bacteria spray commonly known as Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).
- Neem Spray
- Horticultural Oil
- Rotenone and Pyrethrum – If you are using a spray, dilute it in water and use only as needed. The best time to apply sprays and powders is in the evening or in early morning. And always read the labels of anything you buy commercially. Just because a pesticide is organic doesn’t mean it isn’t toxic.
Animals and Bugs
Birds, ladybugs and praying mantises are the gardener’s best friends when it comes to insect control.
Birds can be encouraged into the garden by feeding, hanging a birdhouse providing a bird bath or by planting plants that provide berries for them to eat.
Ladybugs are now for sale by the pint, quart or gallon.
Also, grow plants with small blossoms like sweet alyssum and dill, which attract predatory insects who feed on flowers’ nectar between attacks on pests.
Organic pest control is a comprehensive approach instead of a chemical approach. Create a healthy biodiversity so that the insects and microbes will control themselves. Using natural products and building healthy soil is the best long-term treatment for pests.
COMMON GARDEN PESTS
There are literally hundreds of common garden pests that can attack your plants and threaten the viability of your gardening efforts. We couldn’t possibly address all of them. There are, however, some that occur in more frequency than others.
Aphids : They feed in colonies, so where there’s one, there’s definitely more. Aphid feeding can cause leaves to curl and become deformed. Once this has happened, the aphids are protected from any treatment you give to the plant, so it’s important to attack the problem as soon as possible. Ants are usually present where aphids are, so if there are ants in the garden, there are probably aphids as well. To control aphids drench plants with strong sprays of water from a garden hose, keep your plants as healthy, spray dormant oil, insecticidal soap, summer oil, and homemade garlic sprays.
Cabbage Loopers : The best way to control cabbage loopers is to handpick the larvae a few times a week. Attract predatory and parasitic insects to the garden with pollen and nectar plants.
Earwigs : To get rid of earwigs use the general spray and trap them is probably the best way. One way we like is to take a shallow dish and place beer in it. Any beer will do. The earwigs will be attracted to the beer, climb in, drink, and die. You can sift out the dead ones and reuse the beer for trapping again. They are also attracted to corn oil, fish oil, or water and vinegar. You can place these in dishes just like the
Thrips : Thrips are best controlled with sprays as we’ve described. You can also spray the plants with soapy water. Lady bugs will eat thrips as well, so attract those lady bugs to your garden!
Hornworm : The best way to control hornworms is to handpick them off your plants.
Slugs : While possibly cruel, the most effective way to kill a slug is to sprinkle it with salt. You can trap the slugs by placing a plastic bag in the garden containing two decaying lettuce leaves, 2 cups of bran cereal, and pouring beer over the whole mess. Put the bag out before sundown. In the morning, check to see if the slugs are in there and dispose of them.
MAKING YOUR OWN COMPOST
Compost is what happens when leaves, grass clippings, vegetable and fruit scraps, woodchips, straw, and small twigs are combined, then allowed to break down into a soil-like texture. Compost introduces and feeds diverse life in the soil, including bacteria, insects, worms, and more which support vigorous plant growth.
Compost is created from layers of grass clippings, leaves, weeds, kitchen scraps and, if available, farm animal manure. If you have meat eaters in your home, don’t use their meat scraps, which will attract rodents. Also, do not use litter from your dog or cat; it doesn’t break down properly and contains too many pathogens.
The important requirement is to be sure the waste material is covered with soil, so it doesn’t attract rats, other rodents or flies. You can build your layers directly on the ground, without any frame at all; if you use a container, be sure it is well ventilated.
Composting actually recycles garden waste and returns the nutrients that have been taken from the soil. By using organic composting agents, it is possible to speed-up the process of decomposition.
You can read more about compost here…
TENDING THE GARDEN
You’ve spent quite a bit time and effort to make sure your garden is laid out in the most promising way and considering how best to grow that garden organically. Now you need to take care of your plot.
Plants need light and water to grow. The light is already taken care of by Mother Nature; you have to take care of the water!
- Be sure to water thoroughly so the soil is soaked to a depth of 4 to 6-inches.
- Germinating seeds and seedlings need to be kept uniformly moist without being washed away
- Hand water your plants
- DO NOT over water your garden
- Use organic fertilizer only
- Fertilize your plants once every three to four weeks.
You can read more about tending your garden here…
RECIPES FOR YOUR ORGANIC GARDEN
You don’t have to purchase commercially produced organic products for your garden. Many can be made by you with a minimum of effort. Of course, you’ll have to buy the ingredients, but we can assure you that in the long run, it’ll be much cheaper than buying those other products.
- Organic Fertilizer
- Garlic Pest Control Spray
- Dormant Oil
- Homemade Insecticidal Soap
- All Purpose Pesticide Soap Spray
- Bug Juice
- You can read more here
Gardening in any form is therapeutic and relaxing not to mention a way to enjoy success as you bite into the first ripe tomato of the season. When you choose to go organic, you are making a choice to protect the environment as well as your family when you grow your own food.
While most of this article has been directed toward vegetable gardens, the same concepts can be applied to flower gardens. Going organic is as important to the Earth as we need to preserve our natural resources and insure we have a healthy place to live.
Consider providing your child with his or her own garden plot. Don’t make it too big and plant a few different types of vegetables. We would suggest a tomato plant, a carrot plant, a couple of beans, and perhaps a watermelon. You will be teaching your child valuable, valuable lessons as they tend to their own garden and experience the “fruits” of their own labors!
The health benefits of organic gardening are many, but the emotional benefits are so much more. By going organic, you will know that you are doing everything you can not only for Mother Earth, but also for your family. We should all strive for the natural pleasures that we have been given.
And yes, growing things in the dirt is one of them! Happy gardening!