Organic gardening isn’t just about not using manmade chemicals. It’s more of a lifestyle, trying to garden in harmony with nature.
In our previous post, we talked about organic pest control and how to deter larger pests from poaching your veggies. You want an ecosystem where beneficial insects, natural predators, and soil microbes encourage balance in your healthy garden.
Today, let’s talk about some basic tips for your healthy organic garden. Here they are:
1. Start with good soil, compost, and a thick layer of mulch. These will help your garden become healthier and more able to resist disease and insect pests. Mulch also protects the lower leaves of your plants from soil splashing, which can further spread disease. It keeps the soil cooler in summer and warmer In winter as well.
2. Animal manures make excellent fertilizer for your organic garden, but you need to be careful. Don’t use fresh manure on growing plants, especially if you are nearing harvest time. Apply fresh manure to the soil in the fall and plow it in or allow it to incorporate into the soil over the winter so the ammonia levels will have time to fall.
Poultry manure has the most nitrogen in it. Both poultry and dairy manure have fewer weed seeds that could cause problems in your garden.
3. Avoid planting large blocks of the same type of plant. This encourages pests to move in and might be a huge problem if they’re infected by a disease. Planting your crops too close together can encourage disease and pests. If you increase the distance between plants, you get better air circulation and light intensity.
4. Protect your soil from getting compacted. Avoid high-traffic parts of your land and use raised beds or wide rows to keep this from occurring. Also, having clear pathways between your plant rows helps keep the soil from getting tamped down too much.
5. Inspect your plants every day, even if you’re not watering or fertilizing. This way, you can catch pests and diseases early, before they become a huge problem. Do a little research or ask your local cooperative extension agent about the best ways to control local pests without using harmful chemicals.
6. Let your leafy crops, such as broccoli or greens, flower at the end of the growing season. This will give your beneficial insects even more nectar to encourage them to hang around and will provide a more natural “end” to the harvest.
7. If you’re willing to share a bit of fruit, put up some birdhouses and a birdbath to attract insect-eating winged friends. They might nibble at the fruit, but you can always put out netting to keep them from eating too much.
8. Rotate your crops every year. Crop rotation has long been known to be a useful trick in your gardening arsenal. Vegetables in the same botanical family shouldn’t be planted in the same area for at least three years – for example, watermelon, cucumber, squash, cantaloupe, and pumpkins are all in the same plant family. Alternate those with peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, or potatoes.
A winter cover crop can also add valuable nutrients to the soil, then be plowed into that soil in the spring as compost. Buckwheat is a good winter crop, and its early-blooming flowers attract helpful insects in the spring. Other popular crops include ryegrass, winter rye, winter peas, oats, wheat, clovers, and hairy vetch.
You can even start your cover crop while your fall veggies are still producing, giving it time to start a good root system.
9. If you’re growing tomatoes, always cage them to keep the fruits from touching the ground and to increase the air circulation in the lower parts of the plants. Pinch off the suckers (lateral buds) up to the node before the first fruit cluster too, for the same reason. This will reduce diseases in your tomatoes.
Hopefully, your organic gardening experience is fulfilling and satisfying. Just stick to our tips and tricks and you’ll have a healthy organic garden in no time.
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