Nothing has grown faster over the past several years than the organic produce section of the grocery store. As more and more shoppers become aware of the benefits of eating organic, the availability of organic produce is far greater, but unfortunately, the price is also greater than non-organic options. One of the best ways to ensure that you’re eating quality organic produce without depleting your bank account is to grow it yourself. Planting your own organic garden takes time and effort, but it’s definitely worth it. Not sure you have what it takes? We can help! We’ve put together A Beginner’s Guide to Organic Gardening to help get you started on a growing journey you’ll love.
A Beginner’s Guide to Organic Gardening:
Write down the fruits, veggies, and herbs you use. It might be tempting to plant something that sounds exotic or fun, but you’ll get the most use out of your garden if you plant things that you are more likely to use. Basil and oregano are good to herbs to have on-hand for pasta sauces; rosemary is great on roasted veggies and breads; and peppermint and chamomile leaves can be dried and used for teas. (For more information on herbs and their uses, read 11 Incredibly Powerful Herbs and Their Uses.) Veggies like tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, peppers, onions, chives, cucumber and zucchini are popular choices for home gardens. Strawberries and blackberries grow well in many gardens, too.
Research. Take some time to understand what types of food plants grow well in your area, what time of year they should be planted, and what type of conditions they grow well in. Most food-producing plants enjoy lots of sunlight and humidity (think rainforest conditions), but there are certain plants that grow better in different seasons. For organic gardening, you’ll also need to have a plan for fertilizer and pesticides that do not include man-made chemicals.
Plan your garden. Raised bed gardening is especially popular these days for people who do not want to dig up their soil and want to have better control of the type of soil their plants will grow in. Some gardening methods, such as square-foot gardening and container gardening, are more useful for people in urban areas and/or who want smaller gardens.
After you plan what type of garden you want, take some time to map out where you want each of your crops to grow in your garden bed. Decide whether you would like to grow from seeds or buy plants that have already started growing (called “seedlings”). The best way to ensure your garden is organic is to grow from seed, but if you do buy plants, just make sure that they were grown organically without the use of chemical pesticides or fertilizers.
Buy supplies. Include in your research an understanding of what type of equipment and supplies you will need. Make a list before going to the garden-supply store to avoid feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. At a minimum, your list will include seeds or starter plants, organic soil mix and compost, organic plant food and organic fertilizer. You can make your own organic plant food and fertilizer, but commercial ones are also available. If you will need access to a larger vehicle to haul big or long items (like lumber to create a raised bed or several pots for a container garden), arrange that well in advance of your shopping trip. We love The Cook’s Garden for seeds, plants, and other gardening supplies.
Prepare your soil. If you’re going to use convention single-row gardening in ground soil, you’ll need to spend time preparing the soil by adding whatever compost or organic matter necessary and then tilling the soil. (A local nursery should be able to recommend what should be added to the soil in your area to maximize growth in your garden.) For raised bed or square-foot gardening, you’ll need to frame out your raised bed, put together your soil mix, and then spread the soil mix in the bed.
Plant. After you’ve set up your garden, you’ll want to reserve a day to plant your seeds or seedlings in it. Plan to dedicate a good portion of your day to planting your garden. You will need to allow enough time to plant your seeds and thoroughly water your garden bed.
Water, water, water. New seeds require lots of water to germinate. Put a routine in place that allows you time to water your garden daily, twice per day on hot days. Mornings are the best time to water plants.
Maintain. In addition to watering, make sure you apply plant food/ organic fertilizer according to package directions. If you find that you are having insect problems, use an organic pesticide solution.
Enjoy! Once you start seeing the growth of your very own fruits, vegetables and herbs, make sure you use them! For starters, try out our Garden Salad with homegrown ingredients! You can also learn some fun ways to present your produce with our 5 Ways to Make Fruits and Veggies Look Too Pretty to Pass Up.
Do you enjoy growing your own produce? What challenges have you come across, and how have you overcome them? We’d love to hear about your successes. Leave us a comment below.