Some of Our
Organic Gardening Tips
Organic gardeners stick to fertilizers made from animal or vegetable by-products and get creative when dealing with unwanted pests.
Organic gardening simply means not using synthetic or chemical fertilizers, insecticides or pesticides. Instead, organic gardeners stick to fertilizers made from animal or vegetable by-products and get creative when dealing with unwanted pests — often utilizing beneficial insects or plants that deter the unwelcome visitors.
Not only does an organic garden cause less harm than conventional-type gardening, it actually has many benefits.
- Organically grown food helps defend against cancer with its higher essential vitamins and nutrients.
- By eating organically grown food, you ingest fewer chemicals.
- Organic gardens feed the soil rather than depletes it.
- Most organic gardeners use compost, which reduces the amount of waste going to landfills.
How to Plan a Garden
Take a look around your yard at all times of the day (and the year, if possible) to determine where the sun hits and for how long. When deciding what plants to grow, the amount of sun an area gets is crucial.
Seed and plant labels list how much sun is required to grow the plant. Here’s what they mean:
Sun means direct sunlight at least eight hours a day.
Shade means less than four hours of direct sunlight.
Partial Sun means between four and six hours of sunlight a day.
Do as little or as much as you want with this one. Some people love to plan where every plant will go. Others would rather just stick a bunch of plants in the ground and see how it looks. If you do want to spend some time designing a garden, think about the following:
Height: You can add height to your garden with:
- Raised beds or containers
- Climbing flowers or vines
- Tall flowers such as hollyhocks and sunflowers
- Trees and bushes in the middle of a flowerbed (make sure they will be manageable in twenty years!)
Color: Use a color wheel to see what flower colors will look good together, or choose contrasting colors.
- Blue, green, lavender and other “cool” colored blooms grow better in shady spots.
- Monochromatic gardens (all one color) are considered harmonious.
Texture: What is texture? It is the perceived surface structure of the plant. Are the leaves fine or coarse? Is the plant open and airy or dense?
Look for a variety of foliage — wide, flat leaves; tall narrow blades — whatever suits your fancy.
When the rest of your garden is brown, ornamental grasses add color, as well as texture.
Scent: Flowers like gardenia and plumeria will add a pleasing aroma to the garden.
Choose a Good Location
Most crops grow best when they get at least six hours of sun a day, so be sure to plant your garden in a sunlight-rich location. If that sunny spot is close to a convenient water source for irrigation, that’s even better. Sowing your seeds or planting your transplants near a water source will make it easier to keep your soil at the optimal moisture level.
Before you plant, make sure your soil is in the best shape it can be. The healthier your soil is, the less work you’ll have to do keeping your plants happy. Read more about preparing garden soil, but if you have an area in your yard that has good soil (and gets enough sunlight) that may be the place to grow your garden.
Foregoing a chemical fertilizer for an organic one determines whether you harm the soil or make it healthier. Healthy soil is essential for healthy plants, so use an organic plant fertilizer.
Nutrient solutions such as compost teas, worm teas made from worm castings, provide good plant nutrition and overall plant health.
Better than synthetic fertilizers, these organic fertilizers won’t burn your plants, and foster growth of important soil microorganisms while they fertilize.
Timing is everything when fertilizing because plant nutrient needs change as the plant grows. Annual plants, for example, benefit most when fertilized with a solution high in nitrogen when they are first planted (for growth and leaf development) and then switched to a low-nitrogen, high-phosphorous solution to encourage blooming.
Now for the fun part! Flipping through a seed catalog or browsing plants at the nursery are activities most gardeners love.
Plant Natives — Consider choosing plants that are native to your area. It’s easier to grow plants that are adapted to your soil and climate than trying to change your yard to match the needs of an exotic plant.
Check with the local Cooperative Extension Service to discover what grows best in your neck of the woods.
Other resources for finding out what grows well locally are your neighbors. See what’s growing around town and talk to folks with gardens. Chai Family Foundation offers heirloom garden seeds — not the sort you’ll find in box stores — that are non-treated, non-GMO. Planting instructions are included with each packet.
Perennials Keep Going and Going — When you plant perennials (plants that come back year after year) you don’t have to worry about redoing the garden each spring.
Companion planting — Some plants, when grown together, help each other out. For example, leeks repel carrot fly and carrots repel onion fly and leek moth. By growing leeks, carrots and onions together they deter each other’s pests. Other plants replenish nutrients that another plant loses (read more about companion planting).
Attracting Bugs — Not every insect is a bad insect. Many bugs will help fight garden pests. For example, ladybugs eat aphids, and they like sunflowers and lupine. Plant these two flowers and you’ll invite the critters that will take care of your aphid problem.
By attracting or introducing beneficial bugs to your backyard you can let someone else do the work for you.