When starting your organic garden there are many steps you can take to help it become a success, this article’s purpose is to highlight four of the most important steps that you’ll need to take in order to have an organic vegetable garden that thrives throughout the gardening season. In the past I have not used all of these methods and although my vegetable garden produced a decent harvest, it was no where near where it could have been had I followed these steps.
1. Start with high quality soil
The first step is to start your garden with high quality soil which sometimes can be a lot of work if the soil on your property is pool in quality. On my property we have a combination of sand which turns into clay about 6 inches down, which means that it would take a lot of to bring it up to something usable for most vegetables. I was able to get around this problem and save myself a lot of work and headaches by using raised beds. Raised beds allow you to completely control what soil you use among many other benefits. Read the article “Organic Gardening with Raised Beds” to learn more about them.
A high quality soil should have good water retention, lots of nutrients for your plants and be loose enough (not compact) for the roots to easily spread. I use a mix of peat moss, and compost (which includes manure) with a little bit of vermiculite mixed in. If you have to buy your compost, make sure that you get it from at least three different sources. If you get it all from one source, then you may not get all of the nutrient needs, so by going with three sources you are giving a better chance of covering all the needs of your plants.
2. Plan your Garden
I guess we could have had this as step one, but I feel that proper soil is the most important step. Its important to plan your garden, and not just wing it. You need to know your plants, and the possible threats to their health in order to be successful. Before laying out your garden you’ll need to know the light requirements of each of your plants, as well as what pants go well with it (see the next tip for more information on this). With proper planning you can be prepared if some of your plants get hit with disease or harmful pests. You can make sure you have the materials on hand, or at the very least the information on how to handle the problem so when it happens you can get your plant back to health as fast as possible to reduce damage. This is more important for vegetables because if a problem goes unchecked, you could lose your crop.
3. Use companion planting
Use companion planting to deter problems before they happen. Organic vegetable gardening relies heavily on using plants that benefit each other together. When you use companion plants, they work together to kill or deter pests and diseases. some companion plants lure pests away from your crops, (think of it as a decoy), others deter them by producing a smell, or a hostile environment (a prickly bush), other companion plants attract beneficial insects which prey on the harmful pests. (Not all bugs in your garden are bad!).
One other often overlooked benefit is some plants actually give your vegetables a better taste (planting basil with tomatoes will give the tomatoes a better taste). Another reason to know your companions is some plants do worse when they are paired with certain plants. So by knowing your plants companions and following them, you’ll make sure you have a healthy and happy organic garden.
4. Use mulches and ground cover
The final tip is to use mulches and ground cover to protect your crops, these provide multiple benefits but the most prominent one is they keep the moisture in your soil. By covering the ground, the suns rays can’t evaporate the water in your soil as quickly, so your plants have more water available to them to grow. Another benefit of mulches and ground cover is they fill out all the extra space so weeds don’t have room to grow. Some of the most common mulches include straw, cedar strips and even plastic sheets (in colder climates/seasons).
Ground covers do the same thing as mulches, but consist of living plants. a popular ground cover is using clover, as it not only covers the ground, but it also puts more nutrients back into the soil then it takes away. At the end of the season you just turn it over into the soil and now you have more organic matter in your garden to feed your vegetables and plants.
I hope these organic gardening tips will help you in your gardening adventure. When I started out I made a lot of mistakes, and I definitely would have benefited by having it all laid out for me in one place. Check out the rest of our articles to learn more about organic gardening.