Organic Gardening – The Basics to Starting a Small Garden
Gardening has come a long way since I was a child. I remember seeing people try their hand at putting in a garden the size of Alabama. This was a time when everyone thought bigger was better. Huge gardens were planted with the hopes of getting fresh vegetables for the table. This was a great way to bring healthy fresh produce to the family table at a cost efficient price. The only problem was that by planting the back 40 acres with vegetables, the end product was overwhelming. Not to mention trying to maintain that over-sized garden was a job in itself. A huge garden would take hours upon hours to weed, till, and pick the growing produce. Once the produce started to come in there was an overabundance of vegetables. The whole neighborhood was living off of your garden. This did save money for the owner but it also helped the whole community while the gardener did all the work.
Today a backyard garden can be a great way to save on your growing food bill. In the years that I have been gardening, I have found that creating a small efficient space with multiple vegetables can be very rewarding and quite a savings to a growing family. To do this organically is now more important than ever. It is estimated that each year in North America alone that 136 million pounds of pesticides are used on lawns and gardens. In fact, the happy homeowner uses approximately three times the amount of pesticides as the farmer. This is not good for humans and definitely not good for the environment. If there is a way to produce healthy and vitamin rich vegetables in this day and age, then it is important that we all try to help Mother Earth heal. This is what organic gardening is all about.
To start your garden, pick a sunny location. This is a space in your yard that gets the most sun all day. If it is shaded by trees and scrubs, then these can be trimmed back to allow the most sun during the daylight hours. Summer has longer days of sunshine, so we want to use as much as we possibly can to have the garden produce as much as possible. Ultimately too much shade will slow down the growing process and lessen your overall end product. Once the spot is chosen, then we must turn over the soil either by hand or with the use of a tiller. This aerates the soil by turning under any grass or weeds back into the soil. Once this is done then we can plan the garden spot.
Planning is important because we want to use the space we have so diligently prepared effectively and get the most for the small space we will be using. Remember the direction of the sun and plan your garden with the taller vegetables towards the back and the shorter ones to the front. This will use the sunshine more beneficially. Another part of the planning stage of your garden is the layout of the rows. I have found in the past that using tighter rows can cut down on having to weed or mulch larger walkways. Once the planning and layout is done, we can proceed to planting the garden with seeds and/or plants. Seeds will need time to germinate emerge as young sprouts. Mature plants such as tomato plants can be purchased from a local source in your area and can cut down of having to wait for germination. Some vegetables will still need to be started from seed but use whatever plantings you can get to shorten the time until production of fruit.
The garden will now be taking shape especially once the rows become visible with the small shoots poking through the soil. As the plants mature and grow in size, it is important to pull the soil up around the base of the plants. This encourages root growth and discourage weed growth. With tomatoes it is desirable to make a hill that supports the plant even though tomato baskets or other stands will be necessary to help support the plant as it grows. At this point we can start covering the soil with an organic mulch or straw to further discourage the growth of weeds. This is another reason it is good to keep the width of the rows narrow. The straw will keep the moisture in the soil during dry periods and also keep the weeds at bay. Once this step is done, there is little left to do other than wait for the garden to start producing vegetables.
Watch your garden carefully for any invaders such as insects that will destroy all that you have done so far. There are beneficial insects such as ladybugs that are attracted to your garden and will prey on harmful insects or their larvae. Ladybugs consume aphids, mites, white flies and scale. There are also homemade mixes that are inexpensive to make with the added point of knowing what you are putting on your garden. These mixes are made from garlic, cayenne, stinging nettles or horsetail and diluted in water. An example of one homemade recipe for killing soft bodied insects (mites, aphids and mealybugs) consists of one tablespoon of canola oil (oil smothers the insect) and a few drops of Ivory liquid soap mixed in a quart of water. Shake well and pour into a spray bottle. Spray the infected plant from bottom to top being sure to get the underside of the leaves of the plant. The ideal time to spray is in the morning because the sun will help dry the mix on the plant and help kill off the harmful insect. Also remember that if it rains, additional spraying may be necessary in order to rid your garden of it’s pests.
Well, this is the basics but should get you started on your own little corner of heaven. There are other aspects of organic gardening such as composting that will be covered in another article. Good Luck and happy gardening.