When you consume those well-shaped, fine-looking vegetables bought from the market, you are also consuming the toxic pesticides and other harmful chemicals used to grow them. Yes, the plants absorb these elements that are harmful to humans. But with organic gardening, you don’t use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. So, how do you grow an organic garden in your backyard? Here’s how to get started:
Prep the Soil
Acidity has a strong effect on the way plants take in soil nutrients. Firstly, you’ll want to get your hands on a home testing kit so you can know the pH level of your soil. A pH of 6.5 is just about right for most backyard gardens. Below 6.0, nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are less present. You can lower your soil pH by adding hummus to it.
To make soil humus, mix leaf, compost, grass clippings and manure. Mix all this into your soil. Alternatively, you can get manure from the market. Make sure never to use manure from meat-eating animals.
Make Good Compost
Dig a pit, about three-feet deep and three-feet wide. Pile up carbon-rich materials such as leaves and kitchen scraps. After the pit is partially filled, put six-inches of soil over the pile and water it to foster some microbe action. Make another layer in a similar way. If the compost smells, add more of dry leaves, sawdust, and straw. Turn the layers, frequently.
Select the Right Plants
Select plants that are tolerant of your physical environment and its conditions. Sunlight, heat, cold, moisture, humidity and the quality of the soil all come into play here. Buy seedlings that are grown without the addition of pesticides and fertilizers.
Try to buy stocky seedlings, without overcrowded roots. You can use seeds for growing sunflowers, coriander, annual phlox, annual poppies, lupine, Matthiola, bicornis, dill, squash, cucumber, morning glories, and sweet peas larkspur.
Wide Beds and Walking Paths
Make your garden beds wide and leave ample space between rows for walking. Group the plants and put them on specific beds. Such spacing facilitates air circulation and repels fungal attacks.
Seedlings grow both in height and width. So, plant the seedlings well-enough a part, as per the suggestion of the nursery. If space is your major constraint, the following plants provide minimal space and maximum yield:
- Indeterminate varieties of tomatoes
- Non-hybrid Pole beans that grow and produce until frost
- Zucchini hybrids
- Sweet Chard
- Tall Snow Peas
Since it is cooler in the morning, watering plants in the morning permits more time for water to evaporate. If you water them in the evening, your plants will stay damp over the night, making them susceptible to bacterial and fungal diseases.
Water the roots, not the greenery. You may adopt soak or drip method or you can water the bases by hand. If you water twice a week, there will be deeper rooting and stronger plants.
Pull Out Weeds
Weeds eat away the nutrients, surrounding the roots of the plants. They also cause space constraints by smothering the area your plants have to grow. Pull weeds whenever you find them. You can apply organic mulch also, to protect the soil. You can use straw or wood chips.
Protection Against Pesticides
Do not apply pesticides if you find your plants infested with unwanted insects. A natural, innovative way to prevent pests is to foster pest predators such as frogs, lizards, toads, bats, birds or benign insects such as lady bugs. Small blossoms like dill and alyssum can attract beneficial insects. You can also use sprays of hot pepper or garlic or horticultural oils.
Timely harvesting enables plants to produce more. Check your garden daily to identify and pick plants when they are fresh. If you want them to dry them for storage purposes, pick them after they flower.
Do not wash herbs before drying or using them. For leafy greens, pick a little from every plant in a sporadic manner. If your harvest exceeds you, store them in a freezer, a roof cellar or try pressure canning.
Remove sick plants during the season and rake beneath them to avoid problems created by diseased leaves. Burn the infected plants or put them far away from your garden. Leave the healthy plants as foods for birds and wildlife.