With cities and communities being locked down, people are starting to appreciate the importance of organic gardening or planting your own food for greater sustainability. I believe that, if families could go back to the time where everybody plants something on their backyard, in containers, in small spaces, we would be a lot healthier and more thankful of our the earth we live in.
Remember, you can start small, even with just a single plant or two. Don’t worry if things aren’t perfect right away.
What is an organic garden?
Organic gardening is the method of planting where you won’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. If we can go back 100 years in time, this is the method of planting our great-grand parents did. There were no pesticides and commercial fertilizers back then.
Tools to prepare
There are many tools available for you right in your kitchen. In fact, you don’t have to buy them. Knives, ropes or any thing you can tie something with, buckets, plastic containers, used food cannisters, etc. These are some of the things one can easily get for the garage or from a neighbor.
Here is a sample list of what we do to start an organic garden:
soil ph and health tester
The first thing to do is to prepare the soil for your plant. A healthy soil determines the health of your plant. When the soil is not healthy, the plant will get sick with diseases. The one good thing about organic gardening is its focus is on soil health rather than on plant health. Commercial farming on the other hand focuses on plant health. This results in a depleted and poor soil health which in turn requires the farmer to use more commercial fertilizer to maintain the harvest for the next crop. With organic gardening, because the soil stays healthy all throughout the life of the plant, the soil is always ready for the next crop. It saves you cost in the long run.
IMO and Worm Poop
In our garden, we have created an organic input called IMO, it stands for indigenous micro-organisms. It’s like harvesting and culturing micro-organisms in your local soil to ward off diseases and build up soil health. It is common knowledge that the earth/soil has millions of bacteria and microbes in it. Some microbes are bad but many others are good. The aim is to multiply the number of good microbes in the soil to help the young plant fight the bad microbes that are carriers of diseases.
The IMO application is diluting 1 spoon of IMO in 1 liter of water. Use this mixture to water the soil directly 24 hours before planting. Best to do this is in the afternoon to give the microbes time to go down deep into the soil. You can plant your seed or seedling in the afternoon the following day.
If you do not have IMO, you can just buy a healthy soil from your local farm store.
Another thing that we do is we are culturing earthworms to produce vermicompost or worm poop. Worm poop is an excellent organic fertilizer and soil conditioner because it is naturally produced from the castings of the earthworm. A scoop of vermicompost is enough for one plant. Mix the scoop of vermicompost into your soil and plant your seed or seedling.
Old Fashioned Composting
If you don’t have vermicompost or organic inputs such as IMO, just go with the proven old-fashion composting.
Compost feeds plants, helps conserve water, cuts down on weeds, and keeps food and yard waste out of landfills by turning garbage into “black gold.” Spread compost around plants or mix with potting soil — it’s hard to use too much!
The best compost forms from the right ratio of nitrogen- and carbon-rich organic waste, mixed with soil, water, and air. It might sound like complicated chemistry, but don’t worry too much if you don’t have time to make perfect compost. Even a minimally tended pile will still yield decent results.
- To get started, get a trash container about 2 feet wide in diameter, make small holes in the bottom and in the side of the container, or measure out a space at least three feet square. Your compost heap can be a simple pile or contained within a custom pen or bin (some can be rotated, to improve results).
- Add alternating layers of carbon (or brown) material — leaves and garden trimmings — and nitrogen (or green) material — such as kitchen scraps and manure, with a thin layer of soil in between.
- Top off the pile with four to six inches of soil. Turn the pile as new layers are added and water to keep (barely) moist, in order to foster microbe action. You should get good compost in as little as two months or longer if it’s cold.
- A properly maintained compost pile shouldn’t smell. If it does, add more dry carbon material (leaves, straw, or sawdust) and turn it more frequently.
Choosing What Vegetable Plant to raise
When it comes to common crops, here’s an easy rhyme for you to remember,
Tomatoes and potatoes grow in separate row-tatoes. Cucumbers and squash shouldn’t be moshed. When it comes to marriage, plant peas and carrots.courtesy of gardeningchannel.com
Momey saving crops
Do you intend for your organic garden to create a dent in your grocery bill? If so, you should be targeting several types of vegetables. First, if you prefer to eat organic produce, you should consider growing the most costly, since store-bought organics can be quite expensive. Which ones should you choose? The vegetables most susceptible to pesticide toxins: celery, spinach, sweet bell peppers, cucumbers, snap peas, and tomatoes.
Ease of Care
Think about your level of commitment. If this is your first organic garden, you may make some valuable mistakes. In that case, you may want to grow hardy crops that can survive some neglect, lest you destroy your harvest and lose faith in your gardening abilities. Further, you may be able to commit all the time in the world yet have health priorities: an aching back, arthritic fingers, fragile knees, or seasonal allergies.
Taking all into consideration, try these vegetable crops first.
Carrots are easy to pull once their tops breach the soil line. You can’t do lettuce wrong: if you harvest it too early, you can snip tender lettuce greens and just the right amount if you pluck off a leaf or two. Summer squash is a great confidence-booster, as the plant will produce a high yield and is simple to detach.
Watering Plants and Plant Beds
Water is the most important resource in organic gardening next to sunlight and soil. Consider, for example, the water content of these commonly grown vegetables:
Cucumbers and and lettuce: 96 percent
Zucchini, radish and celery: 95 percent
Tomatoes: 94 percent
Green cabbage: 93 percent
Cauliflower, eggplant, red cabbage, peppers and spinach: 92 percent
Broccoli: 91 percent
Carrots: 87 percent
Green peas and white potatoes: 79 percent
Vegetable need the right amount of water to really grow to its maximum health. Here are few tips to help backyard gardeners ensure they are watering their vegetables correctly so all of the effort they put into their gardens doesn’t go to waste. These guidelines apply to winter and fall gardens as well as spring and summer gardens.
Water an inch per week. An inch of rain is 60 gallons per hundred square feet. Calculating how much a plant needs in single week is simpe. Divide 60gallons by 100 square feet, and we get the amount of water in gallons per 1 square feet, the surface area where the roots of the plant is spread. That would bring us to 0.6 gallon per plant per week.
60 gal/100 sq.ft = 0.6 gal/ft or 2.27125 liter per plant per week. Or 0.324 liter a day.
Use a rain gauge. This simple device will let you how much rain your garden is receiving and, therefore, how much you need to water.
Collect rainwater. It’s free and even contains beneficial trace nutrients, Carroll said.
Water deeply. Apply water two to three times a week and water deeply each time as opposed to a brief, shallow watering every day. Watering deeply — moistening the soil to a depth of six inches is ideal — will encourage plants to send roots well into the ground. Deep roots help plants better sustain stresses caused by hot and dry weather.
Water early in the morning. This will give time for the water to sip deep into the soil. When the sun comes up, it will dry up the water on the surface which reduces the chance of fungal and disease problems than if you water late in the day
Water directly to the soil, not to the plant leaves, to avoid fungal and disease spread. This is why drip-irrigation is a recommended technology in my farms.
Water by hand. A slow small stream of water is more efficient than a fast stream because a significant amount of water from a fast stream will run off and be wasted.
Organic Nutrients inputs
Dilute organic and soluble fertilizes such as Fermented plant juice or fermented fish amino acid. You can buy them at your local organic farm store. At our farm, we make our own organic inputs such as FPJ, FAA, and Organic Herbal Nutrients. 1 spoon of these dilute in a gallon of water is enough to sustain the nutrients needed by the plant.
Controlling Pests and Diseases
The first thing to do in organic garden is to make sure plants are getting enough light, nutrients, and moisture. Also remember that a diverse garden helps prevent pests by limiting the amount of one type of plant offered up to enemies.
It’s a good thing to foster natural predators in your organic garden, such as frogs, toads, lizards, birds, and even bats. Beneficial insects can be your best friends, especially ladybugs.
Organic garden weapons include Bacillus thuringiensis, a naturally occurring bacteria that disrupts the digestion of caterpillars and other leaf-eaters. You can also use horticultural oils, insecticidal soaps, garlic, or hot pepper sprays.
We use homemade organic herbal nutrients concocted from cinnamon, onion,ginger, and garlic, hot pepper. A combined 1 spoon of thiese nutrients is enough to keep your plants protected from fungal and diseases.
When to Start Harvesting
Most crops in our organic garden are harvested several times if only the part that is ready is harvested. The quality of vegetables does not improve after harvest so it is important to gather crops at proper maturity. At this point vegetables are at their peak for flavor and nutrition. This is not always when a vegetable is at its largest stage.
The ripe time varies with certain vegetables. Tomatoes may be left on the vine until fully ripened or taken off when partially ripened and placed on a windowsill to mature. Other crops such as winter squash and watermelon are not ready until after they are fully developed.
Handle Plants with Care
In our organic garden, we avoid bruising or damaging vegetables as this causes it to decay early. Stepping on vines or breaking stems also creates openings through which diseases can enter the plant. If ripe vegetables are not easily removed from the plant, cut them off with a knife.
Avoid tramping through wet foliage helps to spread plant diseases. Harvest vegetables when they are dry.
We check our organic garden frequently for ripe produce during harvest time. Vegetables continue to grow and before long they are overgrown.
Here is really in-depth resource on harvest and post harvest handling.