A Step-by-Step Guide to Organic Gardening for Beginners
Gone are those days when only the health conscious people knew how to start an organic garden. Food gardening is in trend, as almost 20% more households switch to indoor cultivation during the past five years from 2014.
All credit goes to the increasing awareness of the benefits of organic gardening as well as the disadvantages of cultivation with chemicals and other harmful techniques. In fact, during your childhood, you may have planted a seed in a small container and watered it daily.
However, it is agreeable that this childhood experience does not make you an expert you create your own garden of fresh food and flowers. Well, at the same time, it is interesting to recognize that it is neither tough nor costly to do so.
Many are of the opinion that starting and maintaining an organic garden is unworkable, pricey, and somewhat outlandish. It is agreeable that starting an organic garden may cost somewhat more, as you manage your own garden without using chemical addictions.
However, the same cost tends to go down in the long run, as you improve the soil quality, use your own compost, and implement sensible and sustainable practices.
So, why would you wait to get started to make a difference? Knowledge is the key for organic gardening for beginners! To provide you the basic knowledge, here is a step-by-step guide to get started!
Step 1: Know Your Planting Zone
Before you actually start planting, you need to understand your zone or area of planting. To do so, you need to know the following aspects:
- Climate, as plants grow well only if there is optimum temperature, sunlight, humidity, and water. Knowing about the climate helps in comprehending which plants should you grow. For a better understanding of which plants will grow best in your area, you need to know the USDA’s plant hardiness zones. This is essential for growing perennial plants that live for several years. Similarly, you also need to know the growing season length, which is the average time per year during which the temperature is above the freezing point. This information is handy for planting annual plants living only for a year (most flowers and veggies).
- Location, as organic gardening can be done in several sizes and shapes. So, you need to know what will be the best option. It is not necessary to have a garden outside, as even indoor organic gardening or organic container gardening are trendy options that reduce stress and improve air quality. For outdoor planting, ensure that the location you choose maximizes all the requirements – soil, water, light, and nutrients. You can grow directly in the soil (simple and affordable), raised beds (productive but costly), or in containers (great for smaller space but need more water). Here are a few recommendations as per the plants you choose to grow:
- Herbs or veggies: Location receiving at least six hours of sunlight daily and offering proper draining facility
- Flowers: Location receiving up to eight hours of sunlight daily and having not too sandy, not too sticky soil with sufficient organic matter for both perennials and annuals
- Soil, as it affects your decision of choosing the plants to grow. Depending upon the type of soil your location has, you are required to choose the plants to grow.
While looking for the above information, consider asking the following questions to yourself:
- What types of plants (your own food or just fancy flowers) you wish to grow?
- How much time you can give to gardening? Gardening needs regular care through weeding and watering. If time is less, consider starting with a small area.
- What will be your watering strategy? How much water is required? This depends on temperature (high means more water), soil (should be moist up to two to three inches down), and amount of rain (more means less water). You can use a can or sprinkler for watering the plants.
- Which equipment or tools you will be using? Well, very few tools are required for organic gardening for beginners. However, the larger is the gardening scale, the more tools you will require. It is best to start with minimum tools and expand the arsenal later. If you prefer a container garden, which is the simplest style, the basic tools required are containers, watering can, soil, and a strong kitchen spoon or a small trowel. If you choose a raised bed, you also need a shovel, digging fork, and a hoe. Later, when you expand the gardening area, you will need bigger tools.
To get the most out of your gardening, you need to set up the gardening goals. For example, if the goal is to feed your family for months, it is best to start with a smaller garden to get enough hands-on.
Step 2: Make Pre-preparations
Now, it is time to buy quality seeds, prepare the soil, and make your compost. Regardless of the size, you need the right seeds. It is recommended to buy certified organic seeds of high quality that are not modified in any way.
Seeds are cheaper and are available in varieties. However, you need to use them indoors a few weeks prior to the last frost date. This can indicate as early as March. On the other hand, seedlings can be used directly by following the instructions on their packets.
For buying organic seedlings, your local farmers’ market is the great place to check out, as it offers native plants and varieties. Consider stocky seedlings with few roots that are not overcrowded.
Next, you need organic soil or bring your gardening indoors, in case your chosen location does not have high quality soil or compost pile. Chemical soil is not beneficial, as it makes harms both your produce and beneficial bacteria in the soil. In short, you need highly nutritious organic soil.
The best way to measure the soil’s quality is to test it. You can do it at home with a kit or give a sample to a local agriculture extension office. The latter one gives you a report of potential Hydrogen or pH (alkaline or acidic) structure and nutrient levels along with the treatment recommendations.
You also need to know the type of soil, which you can do as follows:
Procedure: Firmly squeeze a handful of moist soil and open your hand.
- Optimal quality if the shape is retained but crushes upon stabbing it gently
- Clay-based if the soil does not crush after stabbing and retains the shape after opening the hand
- Sandy if the soil falls apart
Note: Test in fall and add organic stuff prior to winter.
In case there is no time for testing, ensure that soil has ample of organic matter. According to 1000 Gardening Questions & Answers, consider mixing organic manure brought from local livestock, compost, and leaf and grass clippings. Avoid manure from animals that dine on meat.
Step 3: Planting and Watering
After buying your seeds or plants, you need to dig a hole that is deep and double the width of your plant’s root ball. Put them in the prepared area, and fill back the soil you just dug. It is a good practice to set up a diverse garden (mix different plants) to keep harmful pests away and boosting biodiversity.
In case of more than one plant to harvest, group them tightly. Doing so reduces water waste and weeds and improves the effectiveness of the compost and nutrients. Keep much space between rows for ensuring better air circulation and repelling fungal harm.
Consider watering plants at or near air temperature in the morning, as there are no strong winds to result in evaporation and that tender greenery is kept away. Watering in evening preserve dampness over night, which only invite fungal and bacterial infections for your produce.
Further, water only the roots and not greenery to keep easy damage at bay. Many experts suggest occasional but substantial watering for established plants, usually not more than an inch per week including rain. Just watering once or twice facilitates deeper rooting for making plants stronger.
Step 4: Mulching and Weeding
For outdoor organic gardening, a 3-inch layer of organic mulch is essential to keep weeds away as much as possible and retain organic gardening soil moisture.
Marthastewart.com defines mulch as anything applicable to the soil surface for reducing weeding and watering frequency as well as for stabilizing temperature. So, mulch can be chopped leaves, grass clippings, and hay.
Still, it is a fact that weeds are indispensable, as their small seeds are omnipresent. While there are commercial solutions available (most of them are toxic), it is best to pull weeds by hand if the soil is wet. If it is dry, a hoe is your best weed puller. It might be a hard work but is a beneficial exercise.
You can find some tips here to tend and maintain your organic garden.
Going organic is not strange but normal enough to yield healthier and more copious produce than the commercially-centered options.
To that, just add the benefit of peace of mind you get, as you keep harmful ingredients, wildlife habitat destruction, global warming, and mystifying byproducts away from your own landscape.
This is perhaps why homelife.com.au claims organic gardening to be practical and ethical. Such gardening solves the several cultivation concerns by using practical measures, such as drip irrigation, recycling, mulching, and using grey water.
It is really easy to go for organic gardening for beginners, with some diligence.