Once your soil is in good condition and your ready to plant, follow these tips to start, and keep, your organic garden growing.
Prepare & Maintain:
Clean-up your garden area in the fall. Remove all debris and weeds from a vegetable garden. Do not compost weeds – you might transfer seeds to your compost pile. Prep the soil. In spring and summer maintain weeding and mulching. If you don’t have a local seed supplier, check online for a seed catalog and order early.
Right Plant, Right Place, Right Time.
Decide if you will start from seed or young plant. Planting time will vary. Choose plants based on your growing zone, which is shown on the seed packaging or found online. Consider a vegetable plant’s need for light/shade, moisture and the weather patterns typical for your area. Check the yield on the packaging for plants that you intend to grow. Some plants produce rapidly, such as cucumbers and tomatoes.
It makes sense to use plants that are known to successfully grow in your area. Native species, seeds or plants, can be found at local growers and community supported agriculture (CSA) farms. These farmers can also tell you if a native plant has been prone to disease in your area.
Certain varieties of vegetables are the superheroes of disease resistance, and are easy to grow. A partial list: Green beans, snap beans, yellow wax beans, cucumbers, Zucchini elite, black magic eggplant, Lady Bell Pepper; Klondike Yellow Bell; Cubanelle, Italian Sweet, Cherry Sweet. Tomato- Jet Star, Jackpot, Supersteak, Supersweet Cherry, Cherry Presto.
Include, and properly space, a variety of companion plants – herbs and flowers – with your vegetables, according to your growing zone. For example, dill, parsley, and angelica, can be planted near your vegetable garden to attract beneficial insects and enhance biodiversity.
Keep a Garden Journal.
Note weather patterns, combinations of plants and effects on growth and pest control. Record the yield from your plants and their quality (appearance and taste). Take photos throughout the growing season.
What are your secrets to an organic green thumb? Share in the comments below!
Cornell University Cooperative Extension web page: “Organic Gardening” Monograph compiled by Cunningham, S.J. & Mazza, C.P. Accessed on January 6, 2016. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/education/mgprogram/mgmanual/09organic.pdf Covers all facets of organic gardening from soil development, pest management, how to compost, pros and cons of various types of organic matter, natural fertilizer, and in-depth garden planning & practices.
Basics of Gardening.com. Accessed on January 6, 2015. http://www.basicsofgardening.com
The Old Farmers Almanac.com Vegetable Garden Planning for Beginners. Accessed on January 6, 2015. http://www.almanac.com/vegetable-garden-planning-for-beginners
Sideman, E. & English, J. Basics of Organic Vegetable Gardening. Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. Accessed on January 2, 2016. http://www.mofga.org/Portals/2/Fact%20Sheets/TB%201%20Organic%20Gardening%20Basics.pdf
Up from the Ground: A Guide to Basic Organic, Flower, Vegetable, and Herb Gardening. Accessed on January 4, 2016. http://www.eagleheightsgardens.org/tips/garden_manual_v_1.1.pdf
Albrecht, A. Square Foot Gardening. Presented at University of Wisconsin (1999). http://taylor.uwex.edu/files/2010/05/SquareFootGardeningNew2009.pdf
Living with Bugs.com. Botanical Insecticides. http://www.livingwithbugs.com/botanical_insecticide.html
Klass, C. & Eames-Sheavly, M. “Nature’s Botanical Insecticide Arsenal.” Cornell University Department of Agriculture, Gardening webpage. Last updated on October 20, 2015. Accessed on January 6, 2016. http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/factsheets/ecogardening/natbotan.html
Old Farmer’s Almanac Plant Hardiness Zones. http://www.almanac.com/content/plant-hardiness-zones
Native Plant Resources
Ecological Landscape Design. Kim Eierman, Environmental Horticulturist. Personal Correspondence, August 2015. Learn more: www.ecobeneficial.com
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center database is searchable by state and plant characteristics. https://www.wildflower.org
Native Landscapes and Biodiversity Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife With Native Plants, by Dr. Douglas Tallamy, professor, University of Delaware.