How can I get started with organic gardening?
Real Mom Problem
“I want to have a little organic garden but everyone has discouraged me saying it would take more time than it's worth. Is it really THAT time consuming?”
- 1. Water regularly, and look into composting, or other forms of natural fertilizer
- 2. Try homemade bug and weed killers that use natural ingredients
- 3. Research which pests are harmful to your plants and which can actually help
- 4. Talk to local, organic farmers and gardeners about ways to get soil, fertilizer, and starter plants cheap (or even free)
Real Mom Solutions
Thinking about growing an organic garden but not sure where to start? Let the moms of CafeMom help with these great tips for going green with your greenery!
Our Expert Mom Says...
Organic gardening, means growing without chemicals harmful to us, wildlife, or the earth. Gardening organically is no more difficult than using chemicals, but it does have its differences.
Instead of using a chemical fertilizer, organic gardeners use natural fertilizers like compost, to enrich the soil and provide nutrients. No toxic sprays are used to remove pests. Organic gardeners learn to tolerate some natural bug activity, and even discover that many insects are beneficial, and come to appreciate their presence.
To start an organic garden, think small. Begin by growing something familiar to you, like a pot of salad greens and cooking herbs. Keep them in a convenient location, and check their progress daily. Pick off any insects that seem to be damaging the plants (and don't be surprised if there aren't any - bug damage is often exaggerated). Water regularly, and fertilize with an organic fertilizer, like compost, or fish emulsion. Your organic garden will soon start filling out the pot, and you can begin harvesting.
I keep a small bucket of salad greens growing next to the back door of our home, where my toddler can enjoy a leaf or two of lettuce, as she "helps" me with the plants.
Organic gardeners spend time in their gardens, observing the cycle of the plants. This is a great way to catch any problems early, while they can still be managed organically.
The main thing to remember about gardening organically is that it is actually just gardening. There are no quick fixes, but there usually is no need to worry. Unless you are gardening on a large scale, your problems will be minimal.
Amy Jeanroy is a Master Gardener and community herbalist living in Northern Maine. She grows her own food, flowers, and herbs as much as possible and loves to share her knowledge. Keep up with Amy and her garden adventures at thefarmingwife.com.
The Moms of CafeMom Say...
If there are any organic farms near you, go make friends with them. They will probably give you manure if you ask. They could charge you a small price if you want them to deliver it.
I do not use manure. In the fall, rake up the leaves and other organic debris from the yard. Mix it in your soil. If you need more, you can buy big bags of organic soil; ask your local store what they recommend for your area. There are many types of organic soil and conditioners to add to your soil. There are also organic ways to keep insects off your plants, like soap sprays. It is better to ask someone local, since soils are different depending on where you live.
If you need to sprout seeds indoors, buy organic eggs, and each time you use an egg, crack towards the top, rinse the shell, and let it dry. Then, when you have a full set of egg shells back in the carton, put some of your potting soil into the shell, then plant your seeds and let them sprout. I usually do one carton per sun exposure (full sun, partial sun). Or you can cut the carton in half short ways and then you can still have two sets of sproutlings. When it is time to plant your sprouts, just keep them in the eggshell and plant the shell in the ground, or planter box. Gently crack the bottom a little so the roots can grow out easier. This adds nutrients. For seeds, try checking your area for an organic nursery, or seeing if any nursery has organic seeds.
There are organic weed killers, but a lot of times what organic farmers/gardeners are trying to do is avoid using chemical inputs. A lot of them use mulching, etc. around the base of the plants to keep weeds from growing. I wouldn't actually use organic weed killers on my vegetables. The FDA regulations on what can be labeled organic gets laxer every year, so I don't really think that organic actually means healthier. It just means it's not completely synthetic.
I have been strictly organic my whole gardening life. I love that it is a forever learning experience! I have always had great, healthy garden, although I have found that there is a longer set-up time for my beds than if I went and bought dirt, used chemicals etc. But once I have them going the right way, they are good for life. Advice: COMPOST, COMPOST, COMPOST! And stop tilling; let your soil restructure itself to be hospitable to the many micros that you need to succeed.
Try your local Extension Office; great advice and they know your "area" better than anyone else. They also can tell you where to get "starter" plants and natural fertilizer for free. Good luck and green thumbs!