Organic Gardening Made Simple

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Eating food you've grown in your own garden is a good feeling. It feels even better when you know the produce is organic.

Just as you start any type of garden, organic gardening requires planning.

Organic Gardening Starts with Goals

You'll want to start your organic gardening adventure with realistic goals. What and how much do you want to grow? It's recommended you start small. You can always add to your garden once you've gotten a feel for how much effort is required on your part to start and maintain it.

Figure how much room you'll need by sketching the plots. Research if some plants do better near others. Sketching the plots is much easier than trying to rearrange them once they're in the ground.

Organic Gardening Needs the Right Spot

Once you've created your garden blueprint and know how much space you need, analyze your yard. Find a spot that gets at least six hours of full sun per day and will be easy to water. Also make sure the area drains well. If you typically find it retaining water in the spring and summer, choose another location. Should you discover your available space is not large enough to accommodate your garden blueprint, you'll need to reduce the number of plots in your garden plan.

Test your Soil

Now that you've found the perfect spot, check your soil. pH test are available at your local lawn and garden store. Ideally, you want a pH level between six and seven. Any number lower or higher means your plants won't grow as well as they should.

You can also send a soil sample to your local cooperative extension service to get tested. They can provide detailed information on any mineral deficiencies and the steps you need to correct them. However, typically this measure is not necessary unless you are having trouble growing plants.

Prepare the Ground

Now you're ready to prepare the soil. Start by clearing the area of all weeds. Mow, pull, and dig them out. After you've weeded, till the area and rake out the debris. The last step is waiting until the area sprouts again. Pull them out and you'll prevent weed problems in the future.

Once cleared, add compost, bone meal or rock phosphate and greensand to enrich the soil with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. If the soil test showed the need to adjust the pH levels, add lime or sulfur as directed.

Next, till or dig in organic fertilizers and two kinds of organic matter. If your soil is clay, add an inch covering of sharp sand, then rake your soil into beds or rows. Let your garden rest for at least one month to allow the fertilizers and pH levels to stabilize.

You'll want to choose an organic mulch to layer on your garden. The mulch should decompose over a season or two, and as it does, you should dig it in. Ground bark, hay, chopped leaves or grass clippings are all good choices.

To feed your garden, start a compost pile of leaves, glass clippings, eggshells, coffee grounds and kitchen waste. Be sure not to add any meat. Once the compost is broken down into a dark brown material, it's ready to use.

Organic Gardening Starts with Organic Plants

Choose plants that have been organically grown or seeds that are certified organic. Many plants grown conventionally and sold at nurseries will have been started with chemicals. These chemicals can get into your garden. And since the plants are accustomed to these chemicals, once they are transplanted into your organic garden, they will start to fail without them.

Closely inspect any plant before you add it to your garden. You'll want to look for signs of insects or disease, both of which can very quickly infect the entire garden. Ideally, the plant should be healthy and robust, not weak and straggly. If you find a root-bound plant, be sure to slice the root ball before planting to ensure the roots grow out.

Before you plant them, water them, even if you are planting immediately. This will help the plants transition into your garden.

Now it's time to dig! For each plant, dig a hole that is at least twice as wide as the root ball. Gently place the plant in the hole, add the soil you dug out back into the hole and around the plant, tap it, and finish by watering it.

After all your plants are in the ground, add a three-inch layer of the organic mulch. This will prevent future weed growth while retaining moisture in the soil. Now that you've got a garden, be sure to label your plants.

Organic Pest Control is Essential to Successful Organic Gardening

To maintain the health of your organic garden, you need organic insect killer. Have the organic pest control on hand, since any pest problem should be addressed as quickly as possible.

Choose a product that is Organic Materials Review Institute-listed® and USDA-approved National Organic Program compliant for use in organic gardening. You'll want to find an organic pest control spray that kills a wide range of insects and at all stages of development. The product should be safe to use up the day of harvest. Protect your plants from insect problems, which can rapidly destroy your hard work.

Walk through your garden every day and inspect the plants. Pull weeds and water as needed. Most importantly, enjoy your new organic garden!

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