Start An Organic Garden
It’s nice to know where your food comes from. However, it’s even better to start an organic garden and grow your own food. This post has affiliate links.
Where I come from organic gardening as we know it today was just gardening.
So the men clear the tall grass with a cutlass (machete) and the women make furrows manually with a hoe. Even as a child I remember my mom strap me on her back at 5am.
She carries me on the long hour walk to the farm with her hoe in one hand, water, food etc for us. Because we are not returning till right before sunset.
The farm is so far away and large that watering was out of the question. Checking for bugs and spraying never is an option. Because we trust that the system set in place by the creator is effective.
This is in essence the whole premise of organic gardening. Even in areas in the west where climatic conditions are not so ideal. There are nevertheless, natural ways to deal with any gardening problems that arise without using harsh destructive chemicals. I do acknowledge however that some fruits and vegetables are harder to grow organically than others.
Farming in Tropical Africa
The secret to organic farming anywhere is fertile soil, lots of water and lots of sunshine. A perfect balance because too much of either or will tip the scale and disrupt harvest. On a small family garden, there is absolutely no need to worry. Commercial farming on the other hand takes a little more planning. But there is an organic natural protocol to deal with diseases, bugs, weeds and other challenges that come with producing food for market.
Fertile soil is key
For us growing up, our primary sustenance comes from the seeds we sow and grow. We cleared the grass put it in furrows and cover with a light layer of dirt initially so that the grass starts to decompse.
A week or two later we go back to the farm. To then fill up the decompsing furrows of grass mounds with soil and proceed to plant our seeds.
I believe that this essential stage of the process is key to providing sufficient nutrients to the plants through out the growing season. Therefore we get a consistently bountiful harvest without using fertilizers, manure etc.
Besides,the plots we farm are rotated each year. We let the plots fallow for two to 3 years in a row. This allows the soil to recharge, remineralize so as to have the nutrition to grow nutritionally dense organic produce.
Sowing and planting
This is not to say that others did not use fertilizer or pesticides and other chemical enhancements. Our community just did not. We had no use for any of it. In fact, I’m going through pictures here online and there is one of a little boy spraying something under farming in sub-Saharan Africa and I’m pretty sure it is a chemical of some sort. We just never had that and probably could not afford it if we needed it. We plant the seeds. The sun shines and the heavy rains come. The seeds die, germinate and produce nutritious organic foods for us to eat.
There is a formula for planting which I learned from my mom. Plant 3 seeds in each shallow whole at regular alternating intervals to create 3 horizontal rows along the planted bed. No tape measure everything is measured by eyeballing, if that’s even a word. That’s what this precious lady is doing up here in this picture. She is planting corn. I can almost see in the picture where she has already planted since I know exactly what she is doing. She is probably going to go back and add peanuts. So knowing where the corn seeds are comes in handy in this case.
Corn and peanuts we usually plant together because corn grows up and peanuts stays low and they complement each other well. One does not disrupt the other. Peanuts do not have a complicated root system that bothers the corn. The roots are the peanuts so they do not go too far from the main plant. And the corn is not bushy enough that it keeps sun from the peanuts. They are a match made in heaven.
When the heavy rains come in the heart of the rainy season, weeding becomes the next step. Do not let the weeds compete with our crops for nutrients. We weed the beds as much as we can by hand of course. No weeding machines here 🙂
If you stay on top of it, we usually get a pretty good harvest if lazy thieves don’t rob us of our harvest before we can get to it. Harvest time is feast time. Fresh boiled peanuts, fresh corn on the cob with roasted African plums, hmmmmm. Nothing like fresh food. Ok, so I get carried away.
I love gardening and I really wish our society is not so far removed from the source of our very existence. Healthy, clean food is life itself.
Try it if you have not already. Roasted or boiled corn with fresh boiled peanuts and roasted African plum, nature’s butter. Yes tastes just like butter but is a vegetable like avocados are. It won’t taste as fresh but you will get the idea. The deliciousness of the simple things in life.
You may like: How to grow fall mums
What is meant by organic gardening
A basic definition of organic gardening is gardening without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. But organic gardening is much more than simply replacing man-made chemicals with those derived from natural sources. It is a philosophy of gardening that supports the health of the whole system.
In an organically managed yard or vegetable garden the emphasis is on cultivating an ecosystem that sustains and nourishes plants. Soil microbes and beneficial insects rather than simply making plants grow. Creating this ecosystem begins with improving the soil.
Improving the soil organically
Add organic matter by mixing compost into the soil to increase it’s capacity to retain water and nutrients. As well as supports beneficial microbes, which are essential to healthy plant growth. Make compost at home from grass clippings, leaves, yard debris, kitchen scraps or purchase from local garden centers.
Another way to add organic matter to the soil is to grow cover crops and turn them into the soil just as they begin to flower. Cover crops include buckwheat, cow peas, millet, and soybeans.
Manure and other animal by-product as organic fertilizer
Compost and organic matter will increase your soil’s ability to hold nutrients. However, some areas may require additional nutrients for larger size farms. Organic non-chemical fertilizers from animal manures and by-products are great for nourishing the soil.
Also use natural deposits such as rock phosphate, and plant products like seaweed and wood ash. Most retailers that carry garden supplies also stock organic fertilizers. You will readily distinguish them by their earthy smell.
Another natural product often added to soil is agricultural lime from naturally occurring limestone. Use lime to raise the soil pH of acidic soil.
Organic natural pest control
Our ecosystem is created with a natural balance. Using chemicals or trying to kill everything in the garden disrupts that balance. Encourage thriving populations of beneficial insects and pest predators in the garden. This will keep pest populations below damaging levels. I love spiders in the garden. They will not eat my vegetables but will eat other vegetable eating bugs. Personally, I am very fund of spiders. Don’t squish the spider please. Sorry, nerd moment there.
Other predators that keeps pests away are bats, birds, lizards, and toads. Plant flowers and plants that support a thriving predator population. Besides, the beautiful flowers also brings in pollinators. It’s a win win for both you, the garden and the ecosystem.
Keep the chemicals away
Whatever you do, there is no need to spray chemical pesticides on your beautiful plants. Kills everything and everybody including you in the long run!!
Remove infected, dying or diseased leaves from the plant. Good sanitation is another method of organic pest control. If you plant asparagus or potatoes, be prepared to fight those Japanese beetles tooth and nail. Hand squeeze the eggs every time you see them and drop the mature beetles in a cup of soapy water so they do not come back.
This will therefore suppress the pest population if you do it consistently. Rotate crops, allow plots to fallow for a year or more.
Get organic ready-made pesticides
If push comes to shove, your neighbourhood garden center has neem oil, bacterium bacillus, sulphur and copper. These are organic minerals you can readily get to control your pest population without killing everybody else.
Follow the recommended instructions on the bottle when using organic and natural pesticides. They break down quickly hence need to be applied more frequently
Also, some diseases and insects cannot be controlled organically. This makes it hard to grow things like peaches organically. Figs, blueberries, watermelons, peppers and eggplants are among the easiest to grow organically.
Why is organic gardening better
An organic lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle. Which is why so many people around the world are choosing to go organic. And while it seems like a more expensive way to live, going organic saves money. In the long run because of the exponential benefits it has on the earth, the yard and the family.
Organic gardening helps to improve the environment. It provides the family with mental and physical benefits, including a decrease chances of diseases.
A great way to adopt an organic lifestyle is to start in your yard and garden.
Going Organic for Longevity
The fundamental theory in organic gardening is that “nature knows best.” Starts from the soil, up to care for lawn and garden. Most of which I have covered already. Feed, nurture and nourish the soil and the plants will thrive. Instead of spraying chemicals. Embracing natural protocols is beneficial not just for gardening but for landscaping and lawn care as well. It creates a rebirth in the life and vitality of the lawn and garden.
Your yard eventually yields healthier flowers and vegetables with much less maintenance. Going organic helps live a cleaner, healthier lifestyle. Therefore promotes wellness, wholeness, longevity and vitality.
SOIL & FOOD BENEFITS
Organic gardening helps to prevent loss of topsoil, toxic runoff, water pollution, soil contamination and poisoning. As well as the death of beneficial insects, birds, critters and other soil organisms. What’s more, there are no pesticide, herbicide or fungicide residues on food. Or synthetic fertilizer residues in the plants and vegetables.
Clean and organic gardening provides for intense, realistic flavors in your food. Produces food higher in vitamins and minerals. Increase organic matter in soil reduces erosion. Conserves water to aid in drought resistance, and feeds plants the way they need to be fed.
INCREASED NUTRIENTS IN PRODUCE
Organic foods have a higher content of vitamins and minerals than do conventionally produced foods. Thanks in large part to the nutrients and trace minerals found in nurtured, chemical-free soil.
To support this fact, the Soil Association conducts a systematic review comparing vitamin and mineral content of organic vs. conventionally grown food. It finds, on average, organic contains higher levels of Vitamin C; essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron and chromium.
The independent review of the evidence finds that organic crops have significantly higher levels of all 21 nutrients. Analysis compare with conventional produce including vitamin C (27% more), magnesium (29% more), iron (21% more) and phosphorous (14% more). Organic spinach, lettuce, cabbage and potatoes shows particularly high levels of minerals.
An organic approach is the best way to ensure a “healthy” lawn and garden.
MENTAL & PHYSICAL BENEFITS
Aside from the obvious physical health benefits of going organic, it also offers many mental health benefits. Working with soil, plants and gardening is meditative and peaceful. So much that organic gardening has made its way into the mental health industry in the form of Horticultural Therapy.
Horticultural Therapy utilizes gardening to improve social, educational, psychological and physical adjustment to improve body, mind, and spirit.
In 1973 the American Horticultural Therapy Association (AHTA) was created. It recognizes horticultural therapy as a professional discipline. Trained therapists work with other therapists and medical professionals to help treat physical injuries. As well as disease, mental illness, conditions associated with aging, social problems, and substance abuse.
The principles of organic gardening go hand-in-hand with this approach.
In theory, improving the soil from which your plants grow, yields better crops. Therefore provides better food for a family for years to come. Eventually, less money spent in the store for food and items to help a poorly cared for garden.
Composting uses decomposed remnants of organic materials as a soil amendment and a seed starting medium. Therefore reduces land-fill waste by recycling chemical free grass cuttings and food scraps.
One-third of the space in landfills is taken up by organic waste from our yards or kitchens. Landfills are nearing their capacity for rubbish and new sites are getting increasingly difficult to find.
Liken composting to recycling. But instead of cans, glass and newspapers, recycle leaves, grass and food wastes, returning them to the earth in a beneficial way.
Conclusively, composting is not only good for your health, it’s good for our planet!! That is the ultimate gold mine of savings right??
Is organic gardening important
Yes indeed for all the reasons I have already indicated so far. Firstly reduces the family intake of pesticides. Secondly, it helps you to contribute your part in saving the environment from toxic chemicals. These two main importance can further bread-down into the following.
- Organic food stops your chance of consuming harmful elements in the form of pesticides, fertilizers, growth hormone inducers.
- It is one of the best ways to stay active, fit and healthy.
- Eliminates the risk of old age diabetes, heart attacks etc. And also offers the best opportunity to stay close to nature and revitalize you totally from within.
- It’s also a cost effective way to do farming in your own space.
- Helps to conserve water as there are no chemicals used. Effectively avoids Nitrogen from leaching into the water.
- Leaves the soil healthy and nutrient rich. As it offers good quality products and serves the standards of the country. Also non food products like cotton can be grown successfully in organic gardening.
How to Start an Organic Garden
The right tools
These are some basic gardening tools you need to start and organic garden.
- Water hose and adjustable sprayer knozzle for watering
- Trellises and cages for vines and tomatoes
- Great pots and not just cute ones
- Neem oil is a must have insecticide and pesticide for organic gardening.
- A great pair of garden gloves do you don’t get blisters
- Ergonomic Garden shovel
- Weeder so maintaining your garden is a breeze.
- Garden tools apron
- Bow rake
- Wheel barrow (yard cart)
- Digging fork
- Snips and shear
- Slicing hoe
- Dibble for planting
- Digging knifeThis is by no means an exhaustive list but is enough to get you started.
Check your soil
- First, check the soil that you will use for organic gardening. Good and healthy soil will not only keep your plants healthy but also nourish you with various nutrients. You can buy a home testing kit and get the soil tested as per your own convenience. Else, you can send a sample of soil to local agricultural extension office to get it tested.
- Plan what seeds and saplings you want to plant when you start an organic garden. For this, enrich your soil and find out which plants suit your soil type. Choose plants that can well adjust to the climate, soil, moisture and light. Try to buy seedlings, that can be grown without the use of fertilizers or pesticides. This will help you to purely organic food free from various toxic chemicals.
- Prepare the organic compost and manure. Start an organic garden by collecting and dumping the organic wastes from your garden and kitchen. Helps the environment by reducing landfills and secondly it’s free, won’t cost a dime.
- Next, plan your daily watering system based on the climate and the season of the year. But it’s better to water the plants in morning instead of at night. As winds blow slowly in the morning hence reduces the chance of evaporation to a great extent. Also, try to water the roots rather than the plants.
- Buy some organic fertilizers or plan what natural organic pest control protocols to apply. Including all or some of the techniques mentioned above. Using beneficial predatory insects like spiders, birds, frogs etc. Plant sunflowers, and other sweet smelling flowers to attract these predators.
How to grow an organic garden
It’s easy to start an organic garden with proper planning and the basic steps outlined above are completed.
Overall, the goal is create a sustainable, earth-friendly ecosystem that plays host to rich soil, a diverse mix of plants. And loads of both pollinators and “good” predators. Follow these steps for planting success:
Choose great soil and sunny spot
- Choose a site with good light. To grow to its full potential (literally!), your backyard organic vegetable garden needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day. Short on space? No big deal. Simply find a sunny spot for a container or two on your doorstep or deck.
- Use stellar soil. Saves a lot of headaches and backaches to garden in soil that looks and feels like brownie mix not bricks. I mixed some minerals with worm castings, coconut coil, manure and let it set for six months. Composted soil is not ready for use until probably a couple of years later. You can alternately start out with organic store bought soil.
Buy great soil if necessary
- For just the right balance of texture and nutrients, use premium-quality Miracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose In-Ground Soil (for in-ground growing)
https://amzn.to/35HFzPlor Miracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose Container Mix (for potted plants)—both enriched with aged compost—or a 50-50 mixture of the two for raised beds.
- Start with strong, vibrant young plants which you can buy like Live Organic plants. Or, if you’d rather sprout your own seeds, be sure to look for organic and or heirloom seeds. Either way, choose plants that grow well together. Including a mix of heirloom varieties that have some inherent disease-resistant characteristics. Also, if you’ve grown a garden before, switch up where you plant different plant types. A practice called crop rotation to help thwart pests and diseases.
- Water well. Since moisture is essential for good growth, be sure to plan for watering from the very start, since most organic gardens require at least an inch of water per week (and even more when it’s hot outside). Easy access to spigots and rain barrels is key to avoid lugging heavy watering cans and dragging hoses around. Even easier is to “set it and forget it” by using drip irrigation tubing (try aPotted Drip Kit, great choice for containers) connected to a timer. Be sure to water right after you plant, too!
Nourish your soil through out the planting season
- Serve nutritious “meals.” Plants constantly pull nutrients from the soil, so it’s your job to replenish them throughout the growing season so your organic garden doesn’t go hungry and start to produce less than its best. To that end, a month after planting, start giving your garden regular helpings of Miracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose Plant Nutrition (check the label to find out how much and how often to feed). Enhanced with micronutrients, it instantly feeds the soil so your plants will have a steady stream of nutrition for their best growth.
How to Protect Your Garden
Once you plant the backyard organic garden of your dreams, you won’t be the only one who wants to visit it. Pests, diseases, weeds, and even harsh weather are sure to visit and can wreak havoc if you’re not prepared. Try these tips:
- Create a support system. Climbing and vining plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans need a leg up. So they stay strong and off the damp ground (home to various pests and diseases). Place a cage or trellis around or next to the plant while it’s still small. Some plants will grab onto the support on their own. Meanwhile others, such as tomatoes, will need twine or other material to tie stems to stakes.
- Make use of mulch. What do you do to protect tender plants in cold weather? Mulch. Likewise, What do you do to keep moisture levels high in dry or hot weather? Mulch. Consequently, What do you do to save your sanity from weeding, weeding, weeding? Mulch! Spread a couple of inches of chopped leaves, straw, or untreated grass clippings over the soil around your vegetables. As well as herbs, and flowers (but don’t pile it against the stems). Be sure to add more as needed.
Invite predators and pollinators for more organic pest control
- Show predators and pollinators some love. An area filled with rich soil and healthy plants will draw lots of creatures. Many of which act as good garden roomies that spread pollen from plant to plant. And/or leave little room for (and even feast on) sap-sucking pests. Don’t forget to be as welcoming to lizards, toads, and spiders as you are to ladybugs and birds. For more info on creating a pollinator-friendly garden, check out How to Attract Pollinators. Or start an organic garden of just flowers to increase your pollinator population.
- Be on the look-out for disease. After you start an organic garden, walk your garden every day if you can and really look at your plants. If any leaves look spotted, measly, or sick, remove them before the ailment can spread to other foliage. When that’s not enough, treat plants with an organic garden disease control spray. Still doesn’t help, be prepared to remove the plant—think of it as a sacrifice in service of the greater garden good. Be sure to put it in the trash, not the compost.
Will you start and organic garden? What are some of your favourite organic gardening tips?