What does organic gardening really mean? Simply put, it’s gardening without the use of fertilizers or pesticides on the plants. It doesn’t stop there, though. Organic gardening is also an attitude change, thinking of plants as part of Nature’s whole system that involves soil, water supply, people, wildlife, and insects.
Thus, an organic gardener aims to work in harmony with natural systems, to reduce and continuously restock any resources consumed by the garden.
If you have been depending on chemicals for your gardening for a long time, you would need to make changes in stages, because the plants have already been artificially protected by chemicals. The plants, therefore, only get nutrients from what you feed it and none from the natural breaking down of matter. If you remove that without making up for it, your might have problems. Too much nitrogen from chemical fertilizers weaken plants. They may look lush for a while, but if they are putting too much effort into leaf growth, their resistance to disease weakens. The first step is to strengthen the soil’s health so that it would breathe again by adding as much organic matter as possible. If you don’t have snow on the ground, it is not yet too late to do this. Stack up shredded leaves, mulch, and manure and simply allow them break down over the winter season. Soon enough these will attract the worms, good fungi, and other tiny creatures that feed on the soil and further break it down for you.
Healthy soil has trace minerals that can be added with kelp meal or bone meal to gives it a steadysupply of nutrients. When the soil has recovered, you can take away the chemicals. If the soil is not compacted, the worms will do the work of loosening it for you. It would be best to create permanent beds that are never walked on. Keeping it loose will be effective in natural turning and well-being of the plants’ roots. No need to have solid sides to the bed; simply mound the soil to a width that can be easily reached across, and then treat it as hallowed ground.
To get the upper hand on weeds, you can hoe or pull them young and add mulch afterward to smother them. Start early on the bugs, before they multiply, using the least invasive method first: pick out and crush beetles and cabbage loopers; rinse off aphids with strong water pressure. If, however, the situation has gotten out of hand, use an insecticidal soap. For desperate measures, use Neem. Floating row covers are a quite handy. They are light weight blankets that create a protective barrier from insects. Don’t forget to seal the edges well with dirt to keep them out.
Compost is Crucial
It is actually easy to start a compost pile, particularly if you have the time and patience. The basic technique is to layer uniform portions of brown matter (e.g., straw, dried leaves) and green ones (i.e., grass clippings, plant matter, kitchen scraps, manure). The smaller the pieces that you add into the pile, the faster for it to decompose. Keep the pile wet, but not too much. The more you turn it, the faster it will work. Things rot, after all.
Bear in mind to do succession plantings, specifically with crops that grow quickly like lettuce, radishes, bush beans, carrots, beets, and spinach. This means you would need to plant again as the first crop reaches maturity. It’s basically a continuing harvest in a season that allows you to have fresh, organic garden vegetables almost all the time.
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