7 tips for growing an organic garden
Here are 7 top tips to cultivate you garden organically. From using composting your own food waste to tackling those pesky garden pests.
1. Prepare Soil
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Get off to a good start and test your soil with a kit you can buy online. Ideally you should mix in compost and garden wastes such as hedge and grass clippings to enrich the soil with nutrients. This will get you off to a good start. If you are working with a patio or small yard, a good quality heap of compost and topsoil in a few reusable growbags will work just as well.
2. Start Composting
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Add raw food waste to dry materials like straw and leaves, and turn regularly with a garden fork or by using a rotating compost bin. Once the heap is a substantial size, top it off with half a foot of soil and it should be ready to use within a couple of months’ settling. If you don’t have the room to compost find your nearest community garden and see if there is a compost exchange scheme you can join: old kitchen peels for tasty plant meals...
3. Seeds or seedlings?
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Look at the conditions in your garden over a 24 hour period. Note sunny spots and shady areas and chose your crops based on this - it’s best to work with what you’ve got! A trip to any garden centre will help you select seeds - just check the packets for optimal growth. Germinating from seed is easy with progator trays and a warm windowsill but if you do want to get a jump start you can buy seedling plants from garden centres and farmers markets, just ensure they haven’t be treated with chemicals and that their roots aren’t overcrowded.
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To reduce on waste water and your own waste energy by grouping your plants together. Grow bags and raised beds are good for this, preventing your organic garden becoming part of the garden that gets trampled and played on! Keep your rows thin when planting out seedlings, this prevents some plants overshadowing others and thinning rows over the first weeks keeps the strongest plants developing at a healthy rate.
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Water your plants once or twice a week, in the morning with air temperature water. Morning watering prevents moisture loss as the soil is at its coolest after the dark hours. Air temperature water - collected rainwater if possible - is advised for young plants and it is important to water as close the base of the plant as possible - the leaves will get the goods once the roots have been tended to!
6. Weeding—everyone's favourite!
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It can be a pain and is certainly an obstacle to gardening if you are less able bodied than a landscape gardener, but avoiding the use of chemicals in the garden should be your main priority when organically growing crops and plants. Mulching the garden is the best way to protect the soil from weeds and degradation of nutrients. Mulch can be bought in various forms (some more processed and biodegradable than others) from garden centres and community gardens - and it is possible to make your own from mixed combinations of straw, wood chips and garden waste.
7. Natural Pest Control
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Prevention is better than cure, and humane deaths are better than chemical ones. Potting small sweet blooms near the organic garden will habour helpful insects to prey on greenfly and other little pests. Try dill, coriander or sweet alyssum to bring in ladybirds, wasps and syrphid flies. For slugs, again, water the soil in the morning. Ever woken to complete munched-down failure? That’s because slugs wreak havoc best in the moist dark. And you can also catch them knowing this: a nearby damp board or propped-up flagstone makes for a welcome hidey-hole for slugs and snails in the day time. There are also a number of gardeners tricks for greedy little pests: coffee grounds or seaweed (if available) around the base of plants, caffeine and garlic sprays for plants are also on the market and a good old saucer of beer will attract a greedy slug and send him off with a toast!