Saturday, January 24, 2015
Organic gardening can seem complicated. In reality, it is pretty simple and straightforward. You are gardening the way your grandparents did when they were young. Just think of what they would have done in raising a garden. Basically, you garden using only natural inputs.
Here are the five basics:
- Get rid of all the chemicals. This includes all chemical fertilizers. You can give them away or take them to your local hazardous waste disposal site. You should never dump the chemicals in your yard, down the drain, in the sewer or down the toilet.
- Feed the soil naturally. Your soil should ideally be 20% clay, 35% silt, and 45% sand. They call this loamy soil. You can test your soil by filling a quart jar 1/3 full of soil and 2/3 full of water. Shake and let settle. The top layer is clay, the middle silt and the bottom sand. You can increase the silt in the soil by adding compost. Make sure you get your compost from a reliable source.
- Natural pest control. You do have options for keeping pests under control without chemicals. Do a daily walk through the garden to manually remove the “bad” insects, use row covers to keep the pests from getting inside, use traps like buried cups with beer, bringing beneficial insects into your garden. It may take 2-3 seasons for your garden to come into balance after going all organic.
- Leverage earthworms. Earthworms till the garden for you; no tiller needed. At the same time, they fertilize. Worm castings are great. They add nitrogen and beneficial microbes. One of things that earthworms love is cardboard. To attract earthworms, lay down a layer of cardboard in your garden, then cover with mulch. You will be amazed at the number of earthworms that invade your garden!
- Control weeds naturally. When you go organic, you can no longer use chemicals to get rid of weeds. You can use a natural pre-emergent like corn gluten that is applied at the time the forsythias come into bloom. Corn gluten will also keep any garden seeds you have planted from sprouting. You can also spritz weeds with a vinegar spray that burns them up. My favorite control is mulch with hand pulling of weeds. I plant my vegetables and fruits in my mulched flower garden bed. Any new garden beds, I cover the grass with cardboard, natural fertilizer and then with mulch a few months before I am ready to begin planting.