Guide to Organic Gardening
What You Need to Know
- Organic gardening is where chemical-based pesticides are not used and the emphasis is on recycling the materials that nature provides.
- Organic gardening is not just fun and a good way of getting fresh air and exercise, it can also provide you with cheap, tasty and organic food.
- Recycle your kitchen and garden waste by making compost, though don’t put meat or bones onto your heap.
- So-called annuals – plants that grow all-year-round – are useful tools in the fight against pests as they attract a range of ‘friendly’ insects.
- Keep plants growing steadily by never letting them go short of water. Dry roots lead to stressed plants that are more likely to succumb to disease.
- Tomatoes are perhaps the easiest – and most enjoyable – produce to grow in an organic garden.
- Pull up weeds as soon as they appear. Remember, all green waste can be added to the compost heap and so be recycled for the benefit of your garden plants.
What is Organic Gardening?
Organic gardening, where chemical-based pesticides are not used and the emphasis is on recycling the materials that nature provides, is simpler and more fun than you may think.
What’s more, organic gardening can be fun, allow you to get back in touch with nature and can provide you with cheap and tasty produce.
Looking after the soil is the cornerstone of organic gardening. The quality of any soil is much improved by adding compost – maintaining your own compost heap is therefore essential.
Organic gardeners recycle all garden waste and degradable kitchen waste – from tea leaves to fruit, vegetables and eggshells – through the compost heap. Don’t put meat or bones on a compost heap. Mature compost looks and smells like good garden soil, but is high in nutrients and teeming with the micro-organisms your soil needs to keep it in good condition.
Making compost is something you can do all year. You need material that is not too wet or too dry. If you've got a lot of wet stuff, such as kitchen waste or green weeds, mix it with dry material, such as egg boxes and crumpled cardboard. Old envelopes are particularly good for mixing with grass clippings.
You can use a container to store your compost or simply make a heap on the ground. Add to it whenever you like. If you're energetic you can turn the heap around, mixing it all up occasionally – but you'll get equally good compost by letting nature do the work for you. Then it’s a matter of digging it in to your soil, and using it to plant new seedlings in.
Growing Fruits and Vegetables
One of the benefits of having an organic garden is that you can grow your own fruit and vegetables and enjoy the fruits or your labour all year round. What’s more, growing your own is simple and straightforward, requiring minimal effort and little gardening knowledge. Some of the easiest foods you can grow organically in your own garden include:
- Courgette: Sow the seeds for these in May and harvest them in August. These vegetables are easy to grow and a bumper crop is all-but guaranteed.
- Spring Onion: Sow these in sets between February and April and harvest them in August when the leaves have turned brown and crisp.
- Tomato: Tomatoes are among the easiest and most-satisfying foods to grow in the garden, making them ideal for children or beginners. Plant them in March and harvest them in late summer or early autumn.
- Pumpkin: Plant these in March and harvest them in early autumn. If they are well-ripened at the end of the summer, then they should keep for several weeks or even months.
Growing Fruits and Vegetables
The other major concern for organic gardeners is pest control. Slugs are a common problem. Barriers of anything sharp and gritty will stop slugs eating your plants, as can bran – slugs eat it and dehydrate.
Insects and wildlife are your best friends when it comes to controlling pests in your garden. Planting annuals amongst your vegetables, such as Californian poppies and marigolds, will attract a wealth of good insects such as ladybirds and hoverflies which will eat plant-destroying aphids.
Create a garden pond, leave a small pile of logs in the corner of your garden and feed the birds throughout the winter. Doing any or all of these will keep enough wildlife in your garden to eat thousands of pests and their eggs.
Maintaining an Organic Garden
Keep plants growing steadily by never letting them go short of water. Dry roots lead to stressed plants that are more likely to succumb to disease.
Be vigilant and check your plants regularly so that any pests and diseases don't get a chance to take hold.
To control weeds, grow clover in the winter in areas where you have no plant cover. As well as keeping down weeds, it stores nutrients in its roots. These are returned to the soil when it is uprooted and dug in during spring.
Pull up weeds as soon as they appear. All the green waste can be added to the compost heap where any minerals and other nutrients they have absorbed during their short growing time will be recycled for the benefit of your garden plants.
- Learn all about the benefits of going organic with the help of the Soil Association.
- You can find out more about organic food from the Food Standards Agency.