Is there anything more exciting when cooking than being able to grab your own vegetables from the backyard? If you always dreamt of your organic garden, here is a beginner’s guide that will get you started!
Setting up, planting, and maintaining a sustainable, organic garden is easier than you think. Doing so will benefit you and your family in many ways, from producing great tasting and healthy veggies to boosting your physical health and mental wellbeing.
Organic gardening, whether you plant flowers or sow crops, is fun, rewarding, and great for reducing your carbon footprint. Just think about all that supermarket fruit and veg, flown thousands of miles, and over-packaged in plastic wrapping. An organic garden is a sustainable garden, all your food waste can be composted and used to nourish lawns and soil. For those without green fingers, getting things going – and growing – in the backyard can seem challenging. But don’t be put off – by preparing well and working step by step even novice gardeners can reap the rewards in no time. Here’s how you can start your first organic garden!
One mistake that first-time gardeners often make is overreaching. Planting high maintenance crops that need lots of time and attention is a commitment you may not be prepared to make. Sure, you love to eat delicious, juicy melons on a summer’s day, but are you prepared to continuously mulch and water the soil, try to contain them when they start to sprawl all over the rest of your garden? Probably not. Low maintenance plants are a good way to build confidence and put fresh produce on the table. Planting too many different things all at once is another no-no – the enthusiasm you have right now will probably wane as the seasons’ change. Start small, know your limits, and commit to what you think you can handle.
Planning your space
The essential ingredients for a successful organic garden are simple: sun, water, and good soil. You will need at least six to eight hours of continuous sun on the plants every day, so place your beds accordingly. Convenient water supply is also required, even more so if you live in a hot, dry area. When planting different crops it’s important to be aware of exactly how much space they need to grow. There are plenty of resources to help you all over the internet, or you can ask for some advice at your local garden centre.
What to plant
The first rule of thumb: if you don’t eat it, don’t plant it. There is no point growing parsnips if you only eat them for Christmas lunch. Choose things you and your family enjoy – remember, growing your own is a great way to get kids excited about vegetables. There are plenty of easy plants to grow for beginners, runner beans, spinach, tomatoes, and herbs to name but a few. Some crops such as kale continue to yield even through cold weather.
Soil and compost
Think of soil not just as dirt, but as a complex, nourishing and active ecosystem for your plants to grow in. Before you start planting anything, it’s important to get the measure of what lies in your beds. Check moisture, pH content, and whether the soil is dense or loose. Different types of soil benefit different plants – again, ask at the garden centre.
If you have rocky, compacted, or clay-filled soil, don’t despair. There are plenty of ways you can enrich it, such as crop rotation or mulching. But effective composting is probably the best way to get your garden growing. Don’t throw away garden clippings, food waste, egg shells or tea bags – get hold of a barrel and let them begin to decompose. This will provide your soil with compost that is rich in nutrients, as well as repurposing waste from your household. Here is a composting guide for beginners that will help you to start your first organic garden.
Water is the lifeblood of any organic garden. But carrying around a watering can is both exhausting and the least effective way of giving your crops the hydration they need. An above-ground sprinkler is a little better, and many now have an advanced timer and automation settings.
Better still is below ground irrigation, either in the form of drip hoses, underground sprinklers, or a fully piped irrigation system. Another idea, one that has its origins in ancient times, is the olla. Essentially a ceramic urn-like vessel; ideally you will bury it in your beds and slowly releases moisture through its porous, unglazed surface. Use different sized ollas depending on your beds – a bigger one will water in a larger radius.
So you’ve planted out your veggie beds and you’ve treated the soil with sustainable compost, generated from household and garden waste. But now, creepy crawlies are wreaking havoc on your crops, and weeds are taking over.
Before you stock up on store-bought pesticides and weed killers it’s worth doing some research to ensure that they don’t contain harmful additives and chemicals that will compromise your organic garden. Better still, make your own products, for example, lemon juice is great for killing weeds, but needs to be applied carefully (not to your other plants). Here are some helpful and eco-friendly ideas for organic pest control.
Planting your first organic garden can be a happy, stress-free experience with a bit of planning. Follow these tips, and search the internet for help and guidance from committed enthusiasts, and you’ll have great tasting organic produce on the dining table before you know it.