What is Organic Gardening and How to Start an Organic Garden?

Organic gardening is an often misunderstood activity. In reality, it’s not much different from regular gardening. People just want clean products and greenery in their gardens, which is why they turn to organic gardening. There are a few specific rules that organic gardeners must adhere to, but it’s pretty much the same process. Here’s how you can better understand an organic garden and easily start one.

What is organic gardening, exactly?

While gardening seems like a pretty straightforward activity, there’s a lot of flavour and variety to this activity. While gardeners mostly do the same things in their gardens, it really depends on the plants that they grow and the tools that they use.

Organic gardening is specific in that it doesn’t use any synthetic products such as artificial pesticides and fertilizers. Only natural products are used to grow and maintain a garden. This way of gardening helps replenish the plant’s most needed resources while not stripping away anything important to the garden’s ecosystem. You have to look at the garden as part of a large and delicate natural system that shouldn’t be disrupted.

This means treating every part of your garden with the care that it deserves. Everything from the soil to the insect life in your garden must be replenished and maintained as you grow your desired plants. This is the philosophy that an organic gardener must stick to in order to grow a lush and healthy garden.

Preparing the soil

When it comes to organic gardening, the soil is the most important element. It's the bread and butter of gardening in general, but organic gardening pays extra attention to keeping it ideal for plants. As the name would suggest, organic gardening primarily deals with adding organic substances to the soil and avoids the use of synthetic fertilizers. 

Much like human beings, plants require diverse and healthy nutrition in order to have balanced and healthy growth. They also require nutrients that are relatively fresh to produce the best results. This nutrition is given through the soil they’re planted in, and you have to tend to it from time to time.

Getting the organic fertilizers is an easy enough task, but there’s more to the process than that. You also have to prepare the soil so that it can optimally feed the plant. This means introducing a good PH balance for the soil. You will have to test the soil to first determine if there’s some kind of imbalance present. You can send a sample to your local agricultural office for a proper test in a lab environment, or you can simply test it yourself on a home testing kit. It makes little difference how you get your results, as long as you make sure they’re accurate. Once you have results, you can adequately balance out the PH with organic substances.

Composting organically

As previously mentioned, you need to compost your garden to get the best possible results. This nutrition rule applies to every kind of garden, but organic gardens use different kinds of compost than regular gardens.

The rule of thumbs is that you don't get synthetic compost for your organic garden. This isn't a very difficult challenge, as you can make your own compost quite easily. This is how most organic gardeners get by.

You probably have all the materials you need to make adequate compost locally. Use these readily available resources for your organic gardening needs and you won’t have to buy compost any time soon. All you really need are leaves, garden trimmings, and kitchen leftovers. Most gardeners will have an abundance of each of these available, so there aren’t likely to be any shortages.

Start by designating an unused area in your garden that’s about three square feet in surface. This will be the area where you create your compost. Start with a layer of dead leaves. Create alternating layers of leaves, trimmings, and kitchen leftovers, while putting soil between each of the layers. As you layer the pile, turn it over every time you add a layer. When you think your pile is big enough, cover it with five inches of soil. Add a bit of water every so often, so that moisture remains there to stimulate microorganisms. After a month, you’ll have the compost you need for your garden.

Choosing plants

At this point, you have pretty much everything you need in terms of soil preparation. Now it’s time to pick which plants will grace your garden. This isn’t an easy decision, especially when you’re aiming for an organic garden.

The soil sampling and testing that you’ve done before will be very helpful for determining which plants would best thrive in your soil. You're trying to create specific micro conditions in your garden, and they can’t possibly fit every kind of plant. However, they might vary from one area of the garden to the next, which is why you have to take other conditions into account as well.

The levels of moisture, light, and drainage are very important for a particular spot. Some plants require more moisture and sunlight than others, and this means you’ll have to pick and choose where to plant them for optimal results. Since you need seedlings, it would be best to visit your local farmers market. Look for plants that haven’t been raised with pesticides or synthetic chemicals. A great benefit of seed and farmers markets is that you’ll often find the exact plants that are most suited for your area’s climate. It’s an easy way to stick to good plant choices without doing too much research.

Planting in beds

There are numerous benefits to planting crops in beds. They help protect your plants from your own mistakes while gardening. Accidentally stepping on or otherwise damaging your fruits and vegetables would be a waste, so why not wall them off slightly? Plus, planting in beds also reduces the time you’ll spend weeding and watering your plants. A tighter formation will waste less water as well.

Organic gardening also sees some benefits from planting in beds. You’ll be able to more efficiently use your homemade compost. Plants will be better able to utilize the nutrients provided in the soil and compost if they’re tightly packed with them.

Make sure that the plants aren’t too close to one another. They need proper air circulation between them to prevent fungal infections. Not to mention, they need adequate space to spread their roots and grow, so you have to account for that as well. Create uniform rows with equal space between them and this won’t be a problem.

Adding potted plants

No garden is complete without a few potplants here and there. While most of your plants will be in plant beds, some aren’t optimally placed in free ground. A pot can give you a compact and aesthetic small detail wherever you want one. You don’t have to worry about the plant growing too much and taking over part of your garden.

Some of the more popular outdoor potplants include Orchids, Ivy, Cosmos, and Gardenia. Many plants are pretty flexible in terms of whether they go inside or outside. It depends on their preferences for sunlight and watering. Even delicate forest plants like Anthurium can be kept outside in pots, as long as you keep them in the shade.

Apply your organic fertilizers and water them regularly and you’ll have ideal potplants for your balcony, garden, or front lawn. They’ll grow to match the pot size and you’ll have a healthy plant that improves the aesthetic of your outdoor area.

Watering needs

After planting everything you wanted to have in your garden, it’s time to water these plants. In most cases, you’ll really want to water them right after planting. To start and maintain their growth, they’ll need a lot of water, so keep that in mind right after you’re done planting in the flower beds and pots.

There’s no need to water most plants more than once per day. The general consensus is that you want to add lots of water at once instead of small amounts numerous times. This is because there’s always a bit of water left at the surface that evaporates. The more often you water, the more the water has a chance to evaporate before being utilized by the plant. If you suspect a plant is getting drier, check if it has extra watering needs throughout the seasons. You’ll eventually find a balance that will allow you to gauge just how much water each and every plant needs.

Mornings are the optimal time to water your garden. There are minimal winds and there won’t be a lot of evaporation from the ground. Well-established plants should be watered less and less, so remember not to get into a habit of drenching every plant you see in the garden.

Weeding the garden

Every gardener has to remove the weeds from their lawn and garden. It’s an essential part of garden maintenance. Weeds show uncontrollable growth and sap the soil of the resources that your desired plants need. Worse yet, they also provide nutrients and shelter for insects that can then wreak havoc on the rest of your garden. Similarly, parasites often emerge in gardens due to the presence of weeds that host them.

Taking care of weeds is one of the premier challenges of organic gardening. You can’t rely on regular herbicides, so you have to do the job by hand. It’s not particularly difficult for any small or medium garden, but larger gardens might take two sessions of weeding to get them all out. It’s also good exercise, as the weeds tend to be tougher than most plants. The good news is that any time you spend weeding will be time spent in the sun and fresh air, so you don’t lose out on much.

Conclusion

Organic gardening is one of the most rewarding activities you can partake in. It can provide you with healthy fruit and vegetables, while also giving you something nice to look at in your garden. Most of all, the benefits of this type of gardening extend all the way to the ecosystem around the garden. You aren't using any harmful substances that could be toxic to native wildlife, so they are allowed to flourish.

Amelia
 

Amelia Robinson is a lover of plants and gardens, as well as an educator on this topic. It’s her goal to make sure that you get the chance to learn what you need to about gardening to succeed with your own home garden at the blog RobinsonLovePlants.com. You’re not going to find just a collection of basic articles about gardening here. Instead, she wants to answer the difficult questions for you. She tweets at @robinsonplants

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