Organic Gardening Essentials
Bamboozled by all the jargon? Biodynamics, permaculture, crop rotation, mulching, biodiversity, and so much more!
Before you start digging, there are a number of considerations to take into account when starting to garden organically. The mantra for all organic gardeners is to ‘feed the soil not the plant’, so first things first:
- Get to know your land, what’s it’s orientation ? what type of soil do you have? Where is it sunny or shady or the driest? Spend time every day if possible on your land, even if it’s a quiet stroll around in the evening with a glass of wine in hand, you’ll be surprised at what you notice
- Having identified what type of soil you have ( there are plenty of inexpensive kits available ) does it need improving? All soils will benefit from the addition of organic matter – if it’s early days then you are unlikely to have your own compost – there are many different types available from garden centres, until you can get your own compost started. Beware that not all composts in garden centres are organic!
- Perhaps most important what do you want to grow? Are you looking for a stunning show of flowers or do you want to experience the fresh flavours of your own fruit and vegetables? Most plants are fairly amenable and will survive with some neglect, but if you give plants the right conditions, that includes the right soil, sufficient food and water then they will thrive and you will reap the benefits.
- Having got to know your land, you need to learn a little more about the plants you want to grow, do they have specific requirements, some prefer acid soils, others like dry shade, others rich moist soils. It’s always worth looking at what your neighbours are growing, especially the gardens that put on a great show, although you need to be careful that the show isn’t due to huge amounts of chemicals!
- As an Organic gardener you will NOT be using synthetic chemicals! however all is not lost as there are numerous organic alternatives to most gardening problems. There are a range of natural remedies , including natural fertilisers such as liquid teas, companion planting making use of mother nature’s own defences
- Good garden hygiene is essential, NEVER put diseased plants in the compost, always remove or burn. ALWAYS clean any equipment used when dealing with diseased plants, before using elsewhere in the garden, to avoid spreading the disease
- Another essential rule is NEVER water plants in full sun, the water droplets magnify the sun’s rays and the leaves will burn, plus the water will evaporate more quickly. To reduce the amount of watering, you can place mulch around plants, create a wicking bed, or even have a no watering regime ! which makes the plants grow longer tap roots and therefore more resilient to dry periods
- Organic gardeners ,as with conventional gardening can extend the growing season by a variety of methods – greenhouses, cloches, cold frames , hot beds, heat sinks and more
- Where possible garden with nature, just by not using chemicals will make your garden more friendly to wildlife. Create different habitats, provide housing for insects as well as putting out food, especially at times of shortage. You will not only see the benefits to the general health of your garden, but have the pleasure of seeing a greater variety of insects and birds visiting your garden.
- Lastly but definitely not least, ENJOY your garden, take time out to wonder at the variety of wildlife, lift your head when weeding and watch the dragon flies dancing on the pond you’ve built and savour the flowers you’ve grown and the vegetables on your table!