When starting an organic vegetable garden you must start from the ground up. Compost is the key to a lush, bountiful organic garden. If you don’t already have your own compost, check with your local municipality. Most give away leaf compost for free. Some even deliver by the truckload to your home!
Leaf compost is very rich in organic matter; however, it still needs a few amendments. Lime added to your compost will balance the Ph and Gypsum added (about 5lbs. per 100 sq. ft.) will keep the soil nice and loose, it also adds trace minerals such as calcium which is great for the soil. Adding these will also help plants intake the nutrients they need to thrive. Work this into the top 4”-6” of soil.
Another important key to growing organic veggies is sunlight. Take some time to watch the sun as it moves across your property throughout the day. Start your garden where it will get the maximum amount of sun and plant your rows from NE to SW. It is also important to water your garden in the early morning between the hours of 6 and 10 am. The will allow for good water absorption and any water left on the leaves will evaporate before the heat of mid-day. Watering in the middle of the day is not recommended because the water will evaporate before it has a chance to really soak in (or you will have to water longer to get the same effect). The leaves of the plants may also burn as the water on the leaves heats up. Never, ever water your garden in the evening unless you want a tough battle with the evil fungus! Let me explain. When you water in the evening it is cooler and dark. The ground will absorb the water well, however, the round will only suck up so much, and then the garden is left with water on the leaves and puddles (even small ones) around the stems. There is no sun to gently evaporate the excess. Water and air can carry fungus spores naturally. The water laying on the leaves and around the stems acts as a fertilizer to the evil fungus and it grows literally overnight. Before you know it you have black spots on your tomato and pepper plant and curling leaves on your cucumbers!
Ok, once you have chosen your location, prepared the soil, and have placed your plants in rows, use your recycled newspaper as a weed preventer between the rows. Once the newspaper is wet, no weed can penetrate it.
It’s not very pretty, do like I do and give it a covering of mulch. Newspaper and mulch also serve a dual purpose…they help retain moisture around the plants. Just try to keep them away from the stems of your plants.
Pretty simple so far, huh? There is a great misnomer about the word ORGANIC. Many people think that organic means work. It’s just the opposite. Working with nature, and using simple principles is always easier and more successful than working against nature with harmful chemical based fertilizers and control products.
Beneficial insects in your garden are a must. Lady bugs and Preying Mantis will eat many unwanted insects. Bats are also great insect eaters. And no, they will not get stuck in your hair! Install a bat box up in a tree and you will have less garden pests and mosquitoes in your yard. Bats are nocturnal so they won’t bother you at all. They are actually great fun to watch at dusk, dancing in the moonlight.
If you do find yourself with a garden invasion of nasty little critters, there are a few easy tricks. If you only see a few insects, pick them off, put in a refuse bag and throw in the trash. If you have more than a few, a solution of soapy water generally will do the trick. Using recycled bath or dishwater works great. It also saves precious water. If your garden is too large to bucket the water from your sink or tub, pour some liquid dish soap in a hose end sprayer and spray the garden. A good soak of the plants is what you want. You can do this weekly all the way until harvest.
As for fertilizing your veggies, there is nothing better than Merrill’s! When I find a product that works this well, I have to spread the word. Merrill’s Compost Fertilizer or Compost Tea (a water soluble fertilizer) is an All Natural Certified Organic Fertilizer. Your plants will love it! They will grow bigger, and yield more veggies than any other fertilizer I’ve ever used.
Ok, now let me tell you how to rid your garden of the EVIL FUNGUS. If you come across a plant (particularly tomatoes) that is curling or wilting with no other apparent signs of disease, (and it’s been getting adequate water) pull it our and dispose of it immediately. Throw it in the garbage… do not put it in your compost bin!
Do not replant in that spot again this season? It could have Fusarium Wilt or some other disease that attacks the root system of the plant and can travel quickly from plant to plant. If you have Black Spot or Powdery Mildew, make sure you are only watering in the morning, and you can get an organic fungus control at greennationgardens.com or your local garden center.
Now that the gardening season is over, when breaking down your garden… COMPOST IT! Any newspaper and mulch can be placed in your compost to break down naturally to be added back into your garden next year. Plant stems unfortunately have to go into the garbage. They are fibrous and difficult to break down. You do not want any disease spores wintering over in your compost bin. Make sure to test the Ph and amend your soil yearly to replace the nutrients and trace minerals your veggies took from the soil. After all, the organic vegetables you’ll be growing the following growing season will be looking for those very same nutrients. They’ll thank you for it with a bountiful array of fresh organic produce, and your family will thank you for all the wonderful goodness you have provided them with no chemicals, and that is a wonderful thing!
HAPPY “ORGANIC” GARDENING!