Organic Vegetable Gardening – What is it, and how do I do it?
Growing organically is really good old fashioned gardening, as practised before synthetic chemicals were invented but with the addition of modern scientific research, such as, the introduction of beneficial insects.
It’s also all the good old fashioned methods, only available to a few in the know, in a small area. Such as seaweed, which only those gardeners close to the coast would have used. Nowadays, of course we can all go down to the garden centre and buy it in a liquid form. We can use it, diluted, on our tomatoes as feed, or to dip our seedlings in, before transplanting, to reduce stress. Now to get down to the “Nitty Gritty” of how to go about it! Firstly, before you rush out, rip up your lawn and go crazy with the rotovator take a little time to ponder on the following, and be realistic!
1. How much time do you (and your family) really want to spend on your plot?
2. What kind of veg do you want to grow?For instance, do you really want to be totally self sufficient and, never cross the threshold of your supermarket ever again? This is a big commitment and takes a lot of time! Or more realistically, would you rather grow a few early potatoes, year round salads, some garlic, and a few pumpkins for the kids? This way, you can get used to the idea of growing your own organic veg, involve all the family, and what’s more enjoy it too!
I know, from my own experience, how easy it is to get carried away, grow tons of stuff all at once, be totally worn out, frustrated, and who the heck’s going to eat all this stuff anyway!! If you don’t want to spend much time on your plot, you may want to think about a low maintenance garden. This involves using mulches such as bark and / or landscape fabric on your paths and growing crops, such as potatoes, under black plastic. (See picture, above.)
The alternative, being the more traditional method of ridging up, necessary for preventing your spuds going green.(see picture above) The black plastic version may not look as pretty, but needing no weeding or hilling, takes very little time. This method is also especially good for getting your early spuds, even earlier. Yum!!
Now back to the Nitty Gritty! All organic gardening needs to be a balance of soil fertility, companion planting and the encouragement of wildlife.
The Soil Fertility Bit.
What you need, if you have the room, is a compost heap, or ideally two. Once you’ve made your heap, dig this gold dust into your veg plot. Preferably in the Autumn when preparing for the next growing season.
The Companion Planting Bit
This involves planting simple flowers, such as Tagetes Marigolds, and planning how you are actually going to plant your crops. The marigolds will attract Hover Flies and Lady Birds, whose larvae eat lots of aphids. How you actually plant your crops also has a big influence on deterring pests.
You can either plant your Marigolds around the entire plot, or just around susceptible crops. Now how do I plant my crops? If you plant rows of onions between rows of carrots, you will deter Carrot Fly. To avoid diseases you should not plant the same crop in the same place for at least three years. So make a plan of what you’ve planted where, because believe me you won’t be able to remember especially if you’ve planted loads of veggies!
Now to the Attracting Wildlife Bit
This is really helpful in an organic garden, not only to enhance your immediate environment, but also to reduce the unwanted bugs in your garden. You’ll be amazed at how many aphids Blue Tits will eat when they are feeding their babies. And at how many slugs and snails toads and hedgehogs can eat. I have several toads in my greenhouse alone!
Put up as many nest boxes as you can for lots of different birds, such as Tits and Flycatchers not forgetting bat boxes and hedgehog houses.
You should also put up lots of bird feeders throughout the winter and early spring. And don’t forget the Hedge Pigs! My mother- in- law weighs hers before winter sets in, and if they’re not heavy enough to make it through the winter, she feeds them up with cat food!
She also feeds them throughout the winter, which encourages them to stay in her small garden. You may find that initially, by growing completely organically, it may seem that every bug in the world has made a “beeline” for your garden. Don’t panic! It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong, it’s just that populations of the good guys, the critters and birds, need to build up. This can sometimes take as long as three years. So be patient, and stick with it. Believe me it will really be worth it in the end I promise!
A Further Little Word
Critics say that growing your veggies organically cannot be scientifically proven to be better for you. That it’s just the fact that as you’ve grown the stuff yourself, picked and eaten it almost immediately, and it is the vitamins from such fresh produce is what’s doing the good. This may be so – I am not a scientist. But it has got to be better than blasting your veggies with all kinds of chemicals that have labels saying that they are extremely nasty if drunk accidentally. As you may have gathered I do not regard growing organically as a religion, I just think that it’s common sense.