Organic Gardening Tips

1. Test your soil:

If you are looking to have a successful outcome with an organic vegetable garden, you should first test your soil with a do-it-yourself home testing kit before you plant anything. These testing kits can be found at local garden centers and on the Internet at garden speciality stores. The kits use a number scale, 0 to 14, that helps you determine the acidity or alkalinity (also known as pH) levels of your soil. For most vegetables, an ideal number is about 6.5. If the results are too acidic (towards the low end of the scale) or too alkaline (towards the high end of the scale), your plants will not be able reap the benefits of the soil’s nutrients. Once you know the results of your soil, you will be able to adjust the soil accordingly by balancing these levels with the nutrients it is lacking.

2. Make plans ahead of time and decide where and how you will grow your garden:

If you have high quality soil in your yard and you have determined a location, you will want to take advantage of the benefits found in it. Healthy soils have upwards of 650 million microorganisms per one gram of soil. These organisms already present, such as earthworms and other forms of soil life are essential to the life of the soil and will help your garden prosper by providing your plants with valuable nutrients and minerals.

What to do if your soil is not healthy or if you do not have space for a garden at home:

    • Build a raised bed
    • By making a raised bed, you will have control over the garden’s soil quality. When building your bed, use untreated wood, stones, or brick as a side border and be sure to make the border at least 16 inches high as the depth is important. The plants’ roots will need room to stretch and grow.

    • Consider container gardening
    • If you are a city dweller, you do not have to miss out on the benefits of growing your own produce. Plant in containers that are large enough to accommodate root growth. Be sure they also have drainage holes. If you are planting organic herbs, pots that are at least 6 inches across are ideal. Another helpful hint is to use plastic pots instead of terra cotta pots. Plastic may not be as aesthetically pleasing, but they will hold moisture longer and will not dry out as quickly as terra cotta pots.

3. Select authentic, high quality organic vegetable seeds to use in your garden:

Organic seeds can be found at local nurseries, garden stores, home centers, online seed stores, seed catalogs, and farm supply stores. Always make sure the seed company is “certified organic” and be sure to stay away from any seeds that are “genetically engineered.” To save money, start growing the seeds indoors and transplant outdoors when ready.

4. Make your own compost:

Compost, also known as gardeners gold, is a vital element in organic gardening that improves the soil structure of your garden. Compost provides a great source of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, and micro/macronutrients essential for plant growth. It also aids in stabilizing soil moisture and pH which helps keep the soil cooler during the summer months.

Other benefits of organic compost:

  • Great source of food for wildlife because it attracts insects and fungi that eat decaying matter. These small animals support larger animals like songbirds
  • Suppresses plant disease
  • Assists in controlling soil erosion

How to compost:

  • Build or buy a compost bin. These can be found at home centers, garden centers, and online.
  • Place compost material in repeated layers. To give your compost the best result, alternate layers of green matter with brown matter. An example would be alternating kitchen scraps with straw/stalks or dead leaves with grass clippings.

Some ideas for good compostables:

  • Aquarium water, plants, and algae
  • Tea leaves/coffee grounds
  • Pet rabbit or hamster droppings

5. Use water wisely:

Water conservation, harvesting, and recycling are great methods for organic gardening.

  • Recycle/harvest rain water
  • Not only is rainwater is a great way to hydrate your plants, but it is also an excellent way to lower your monthly water bills, reduce storm-water runoff, and prevent flooding and erosion. It is generally clean, free of containments and byproducts such as minerals, fluoride and chlorine and has a low pH which plants and soils like. Rainwater can be collected and stored using gutters, downspouts, rain barrels and/or cisterns and can be used whenever needed, even later in the season during dry weather

Watering tips:

  • Water your garden when the air and soil are cool, typically in the early morning or evening hours. During these times, less water will be lost due to evaporation.
  • Water deeply but less often. Direct the water at the root systems at the base of the plant. This will encourage plants to grow deeper roots, causing them to need less watering. Shallow watering causes the roots to grow close to the surface, making them more vulnerable to drought.