When I was first married, I began planting a vegetable garden each spring as a hobby with the added bonus of saving a few dollars on my grocery bill. At the end of each winter I would sit and plan out exactly what it was I thought I would like to grow that year. I would list everything I would need. Seeds, some soil or peat, annual herbs and….commercial fertilizer.
I thought that as long as my vegetables
were large and my yield high that I was doing something good. That is until I bought a subscription to a gardening magazine in 1991 and read my first article on Organic gardening. I was dumbfounded. For years I thought that my kids were healthier because they were eating lots of fresh vegetables. How wrong I was. I made up my mind then and there that no chemicals would ever go into my garden again. I even changed the location of my garden plot the next spring so that I would be starting completely fresh. What a difference it has made.
Here are a few suggestions on growing your own organic garden.
Planning and Maximizing Space:
* When planning your garden make sure that taller growing varieties do not shade low growing plants. For example, you should not plant tomatoes or corn to close to bush beans, carrots or herbs. However some plants such as lettuce grow best in partial shade and would do well here. .
* Plant long rooted and short rooted veggies together. Alternating onions and carrots or parsnips will make the most of your space and bring a bigger crop. .
* Planting quick growing seeds such as radish with herbs maximizes space. .
* Plant pole beans and squash with your corn. The trailing plants will use the corn for climbing.
* Plant Chrysanthemums around and throughout your garden. They add color and beauty as well as repelling bugs.
* Citronella ,verbena, pennyroyal, geranium, lavender, rosemary, basil, thyme, allspice, garlic, and peppermint are all said to repel bugs, and give off a pleasant smell. .
* Tomato plants emit a chemical that wards off diamond-back moth caterpillars known to enjoy cabbage leaves. Planting the two together is a good idea.
Composting is probably the most important part of organic gardening and can be done with little effort. Adding organic compost to your garden will improve it`s structure and water holding capacity. It also provides aeration for soils that contain too much clay or sand. You do not need a fancy container or compost bin to create your own compost either. All you need is an inconspicuous spot in your yard and a pitchfork.
* You will need a variety of plant material to start off with. Grass clippings and scraps from your kitchen provide nitrogen while leaves and a little dried straw provide carbon. You simply toss in organic materials as they become available. For faster composting, use a pitchfork and turn the pile about every two weeks. .
* Never put animal fat, bones or meat in your compost pile. .
* Never use diseased plant matter in your mix, as they could cause contamination. .
* Add coffee grounds and eggshells. They will add vital minerals and could deter small unwanted garden guests. .
* When your pile is finished composting, it will only be about half the size. You will know if it is ready to use when no plant matter can be identified and it looks like dark earth.
* Spread your compost between your rows and give your garden a good watering.
* Plant Cherry tomatoes at the edge of the garden. They will be easily accessible for the kids to snack on without having to tromp through your garden. .
* Maximize space by growing squash, melons, and pumpkins someplace other than in the garden. Their long trails and big leaves take up a lot of room. Along a fence is the perfect spot. .
* Never pick beans when they are wet. They could stop growing if you do. .
* Never water cucumber plants in full sunlight, it will burn and blacken the leaves. .
* Always rotate your crop. Plants will grow better if they are in a different place in the garden each year. .
* Always plant a little extra. Half the fun of gardening is sharing your bounty with friends and family.