As the number of chemicals and insecticides in our food supply increase, and as the genetic modification of our produce reaches frightening proportions, the popularity of organic gardens has exploded. People want to be able to feel good about the food that they are putting into their bodies.
In addition, the recent economic uncertainty, rising food prices and a desire to be more self-sufficient have also fueled the trend towards home gardens.
So just what is an organic garden?
An “organic” garden means that you do not use any fertilizers or pesticides that contain chemicals.
That does not sound easy, and it isn’t, but if you are willing to put the extra work in, then you will end up with produce that is healthier and better tasting than the produce that comes from conventional gardens.
So how do you start an organic garden? The following are 9 steps that you can take to get your garden started…..
#1) Decide What Your Goals Are – Do you want to grow enough just to add a few vegetables to your dinner once in a while? Do you want it to be able to provide enough food for your family if there is a major emergency?
Some people who want to live “off the grid” end up building an organic garden large enough that it will provide almost all of the food that their family needs. It is important to have an idea of what your goals for your garden are BEFORE you get started.
#2) Evaluate Your Land - Once you know what your goals are, you need to evaluate the land that you are currently living on. Is it big enough for an organic garden? Does it get enough sun? Will you need to put up a fence to keep wildlife away?
If you decide that you want a “mega-garden” but you live in a condo, then you may have to end up moving to achieve your goals. If you live on a large piece of property, then you will not just want to stick your garden anywhere – you will want to pick the best location possible.
You will want to pick a spot for your organic garden that gets at least half a day of sunshine and has easy access to water. Also, be certain that it drains well, because you don’t want pools of water to cover your plants.
#3) Clear The Ground - You need to clear rocks, obstacles and all other plant life from the plot of soil where you plan to plant your organic garden. It is especially important to try to eliminate any weeds before you begin. Weeds will choke the life out of your young plants and you don’t want that.
#4) Improve The Soil - It is almost a certainty that you soil will need a boost. Trying to grow a garden without improving the soil is a difficult proposition at best.
So what is the solution? Add organic matter to your soil. Putting a three inch layer of compost, decayed leaves, grass clippings, or old manure on your garden should give your soil the boost it needs.
One way to have a continuous supply of organic fertilizer is to start a compost pile. Recycled leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds, eggshells and kitchen waste make excellent organic fertilizer, and if you build it up over time you should always have all the organic fertilizer that you will need.
#5) Dig Up The Soil - Churning up the soil enables the roots of your new plants to penetrate more easily. It can be very difficult for your plants to penetrate ground that is very hard or very dry.
If you are able to loosen up the top 6 to 12 inches of soil that will help your organic garden immensely. As you dig, try to mix in the organic matter that we talked about in step four.
#6) Pick Your Organic Seeds - This can be a tricky part. Each type of plant has different needs. Many grow better in some climates than in others. Some grow better in different areas of the country than others.
Make sure that you do NOT get seeds that are genetically modified. That would ruin the whole point of having an organic garden.
You will want to pick plants with good local track records. Consulting with other local organic gardeners can be a big help here.
Most of the time you can find excellent directions on the seed packets that you buy. The good seed companies will even tell you the best time of the year to plant the seeds and what they will need over the course of their growth cycle.
A word of caution for those of you who buy small plants for your garden from nurseries instead of growing your own from seeds. Most nurseries carry plants that were conventionally grown using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. These plants will bring trace amounts of these chemicals into your garden. In addition, plants grown in a conventional manner tend to get almost “addicted” to the chemicals that they are raised on, so they don’t tend to do well when they are taken off those chemicals. However, with patience most of these plants can recover and will adjust to chemical free conditions in time.
#7) Put Them In The Ground - This will really make you feel like a farmer! Make sure to consult the directions for your particular seeds regarding how deep to plant them. If you plant your seeds too deep they will have trouble sprouting, but if you plant them too shallow they could get scorched by the sun or they may sprout too quickly.
#8) Water Your Plants - This step can make or break your organic garden. All plants need water, but different types of plants need different amounts of water.
Get educated and figure out what each type of plant that you are growing needs. Then set up a plan and be consistent in executing it so that your garden will not be neglected.
#9) Keep Going And Never Give Up - Success in just about anything comes to those who refuse to quit. Perhaps your first experience with organic gardening will be a disaster. Perhaps it will be a smashing success. Whatever the case is, if you keep working and you don’t give up you will have the best chance for success in the long run.
When you are gobbling down all of those delicious vegetables from your organic garden all of your hard work will be worth it.
An organic garden is not an easy undertaking, but it is extremely rewarding. Good luck and don’t give up!