As I thought about organic gardening tips, my thoughts drifted to days gone by when organic was the only kind of gardening. Our ancestors were the real experts! And, I might add, they were really good at organic gardening. They usually grew enough food to last the family at least a year.
There are several elements that will help you to achieve organic gardening. Creating an ecosystem that keeps pests at bay and enriching the soil, which improves the overall health of plants. Planting a garden that not only creates food, but also attracts beneficial insects and pollinators.
Using organic matter (mulching) to enrich the health of the soil. Worms feed on this organic matter which in turn will give you a rich fertile soil. Create a habitat for frogs, lizards, bats. These are a huge bonus, for they will feed on intruding pests.
In the beginning stages, you’ll want to focus on building your soil and keeping it covered with a mulch.
To get a grasp on organic gardening let’s look back at how our ancestors gardened.
I was at the local farmer’s market last year and found myself at an older gentleman’s table. He was probably nearing his eighties and his sister was helping him on this particular day. I bought several garlic from him to plant in our garden. I always ask if the produce has been sprayed before buying. His sister proudly answers my question with a story! Turns out, where the mall is now located was their childhood farm. Their dad always fertilized with chicken manure…and her brother carries on this garden lesson today!
One of the most famous organic gardeners from the past is President Thomas Jefferson. He kept 5 daily journals, one of those being a garden journal. Here he documented things like the weather and plant information. An interesting garden story about this President is his response to his daughter when he was away. She wrote him about the problem she was having with cabbage and his reply, asking her when was the last time the plants had been manured!
Manure builds the soil. Making the soil healthy in turn builds the health of your produce. There is the belief by some that healthy plants are less likely to be attacked by pests! Now, I’m still building my soil, so I can’t testify to the truth of that statement yet.
In the book “Foxfire 3” is recorded an interview with Beulah Perry. She was born before the turn of the century and spent her younger years on a farm. Gardening became one of her main interests. Beulah said, “You take people that use stable manure for their garden-I think that makes a difference in the flavor of the food; it grows off better. Stable manure is really good for a garden.”*
So, from looking back we see that manure is a big win in organic gardening! A good way to fertilize with aged manure is to mix it in with your soil before planting. You can also add it to compost and then apply on your garden.
You may also be interested in: Easy Way to Plant Potatoes
Another win for organic gardening is mulching. Mulching, like manure, helps build the soil. A modern mulching trend has been with wood chips. Be warned that wood chips need to age before applying to the garden. They will draw nutrients out of the soil as they decompose before releasing nutrients into the soil.
For my preferred mulch ingredient I look to Ruth Stout. She popularized mulching with hay. Simply cover your gardening area with several feet of hay. This also keeps grass at bay. When it’s time to plant seeds, pull back the hay and plant in the soil. Once the plant is up, pull hay to snuggle around your plant.
Mulching your garden holds in moisture. This is a bonus during the hot dry days of summer. Less watering equals less work in the garden.
Companion planting involves placing plants together that help each other and avoid plantings that hinder each others’ growth. This method groups plantings of herbs and flowers together with your veggies. I’ll give you a few examples. Oregano planted near any vegetable is a win. It will deter pests. Nasturtiums are great to plant with tomatoes because they lure aphids away from the tomato. They also attract beneficial aphid predators!
Creating water systems in your garden will do two things. One, water will be held in that area, which will slowly seep into the ground, causing vegetation to thrive because there is plenty of water in the soil. Two, a water scape will provide a habitat for frogs and other animals like lizards or birds which will feed on pests. Some examples of waterscapes are ponds and swales.
Are you growing your own food this year? Let me know in the comments if you are and if you’ll be growing organic.
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These are links to the books I mentioned in the post: