This is a beginners guide to organic gardening. Beginners are typically very excited by the whole concept of organic gardening but often don’t even know where to start. If this sounds like you then you are on the right page. If you are an experienced gardener this will be a great refresher and you may be reminded of some things you have forgotten.
I remember when I first contracted organic fever, I was so excited that I was reading everything I could find on the subject. Some articles were very entertaining but gave little practical information. Other articles seemed to focus on a particular product as being the miraculous answer to all gardening problems. What I needed was a beginners guide to help me get started, but I did not have one. My hope is that this helps you to avoid some of the mistakes I made. While it is not a comprehensive, all inclusive beginners guide it is an ideal place to start!
Beginners Guide Tip One: There Is NO Magic Bullet.
Organic gardening is a combination of fertile soil, microorganisms, non GMO seeds, organic fertilizer, plenty of clean water and ample sunshine. There is no single product or method that is a cure all.
Early on in my learning curve, I was reading an extremely interesting and compelling article about liquid organic fertilizer. It made a lot of sense and I was sold on the product, ready to run out and buy it. Problem was, I hadn’t even planted anything yet!
Beginners Guide Tip Two: Go Slow, Start Small
I always recommend to anyone who is a beginner to organic gardening to start on a small scale. Containers and raised beds are a perfect options to start. Start small and learn as you go and you will not be so apt to be discouraged if you have a minor set back. There is no pressure but what you choose to put on yourself, so learn to enjoy the process.
Beginners Guide Tip Three: Different Plants Have Different Growing Requirements:
It is imperative to know in advance of planting what conditions are required by your plants to thrive. This is the most basic principle but often the most overlooked. So before you decide on what you are going to buy, give careful consideration as to what climate you live in and consult the plant hardiness zone map. Don't waste a dime on a plant that is not recommended for your growing zone. You can find this link on the homepage.
By reading and doing some basic research you will avoid a lot of potential problems and you will save yourself time, money, and aggravation. It’s much easier to grow fat, nutritious, organic tomatoes after you have learned what soil requirements tomatoes need, than to repurchase and replant seedlings because you skipped this important step.
Beginners Guide Tip Four: You Can't Cheat, There Are No Shortcuts.
You might be tempted to think you can add a synthetic chemical fertilizer to make your plants grow faster or taller. Read that sentence again. Do you see that word “chemical”... Sounds Like Chemi - Kill
The use of chemicals is the opposite of organic. It is not natural and has no place in your garden. I want to assist you in growing healthy plants and nutritious vegetables. I do not promote or support the use of synthetic chemicals. When chemicals are added to the soil to induce artificial growth or color, they destroy the very micro-organisms needed to grow and damage soil fertility. The very essence of Organics is: No Chemicals. Ever!
Besides, if you think you can ingest chemicals without any adverse effects, you’ve been woefully misled.
Beginners Guide Tip Five: You Can't Create Life
When you get right to the heart of the matter, you can’t create a tomato. All you can do is plant a little tiny seed and give it what it needs to grow. In my ignorance I used to repeat that tired old cliche, “Life begins in the soil.” Well, that’s only half true. While the seed contains the energy to germinate after planting, it’s the life in the soil that enables it to flourish. Micro-organisms convert organic fertilizer into energy for your plants to grow.
Are you ready to begin your organic garden? Then let's start by doing some housecleaning. Yes, I said housecleaning.
I suggest finding a good bio-degradable bag and starting under your sink, bag up all the chemicals to kill bugs and weeds. Then, progressing to your basement, garage, or utility shed, collect all chemicals and get rid of them!
If you are ready and willing to commit to growing healthy and nutritious food, then you need to get rid of all the poisons out of you home and garden.
Okay, so you have a bag of toxic substances in hand, and you’re walking out to your garbage can… Suddenly you realize that there might possibly be a safety issue concerning the disposal of this stuff! The light bulb comes on.
If you have to consider how to safely dispose of a product, why would you want it in your home to begin with?
Stop with the excuses. Lawn and garden chemicals are some of the most toxic substances on the market. There is so much compelling research and evidence of potential health risks, that some states have outlawed the use of chemicals on school property.
At a time when so many of our communities’ budgets are in the red, why not start saving money by eliminating the expense of chemicals that only serve to pollute our water, endanger our children and pets, and destroy our environment? People claim to be going “green,” but they’re still buying millions of tons of lawn chemicals every year.
You have done your research. You know the plants you want to grow and what they need. It's time to go shopping!
Ask my wife and she will tell you that I would sooner be tortured than have to endure the weekly shopping trip with our four year old and six year old daughters. However, I need very little persuasion to go to a garden center for a new plant or garden accessory. I love everything about being outdoors and gardening and before I realize it, I've been walking around for two hours looking at all the new inventory
Beginners Guide Tip Six: Let Your Fingers Do The Driving
Once you’ve reviewed what plants you want, CALL your local garden center or nursery and see what they have available. It will save having to drive around to find everything on your list. Speaking from personal experience, it will save you a LOT of aggravation as well.
While you have them on the phone, inquire about soil for your containers or raised beds. Explain that you are growing organically and that you want to buy a composted plant (such as cotton burr) or animal (cow, chicken or horse manure) material. The keyword is composted.
Good compost is rich and dark, and smells earthy. If you pick up a bag of compost and it stinks (and I realize that’s a personal opinion) then you don’t want it. Compost should never smell foul or rancid. If it reeks, leave it there.
You can also leave most brands of commercial potting soil there too. There is no life in these potting soils. It’s totally dead. If you look closely at the ingredients of a typical bag you will see that a majority of the product is made of ground up tree bark, and contains large chips of wood. The second most common ingredient is sphagnum peat moss which is more effective at adding bulk to the bag than contributing anything beneficial to your plant’s nutrition. All these ingredients are then sterilized by radiation to kill off all the nasty bugs, larva, bad bacteria, and stray weed seeds. This also kills off beneficial micro-organisms that your plant needs to convert organic fertilizer into energy for growth. (That’s why they have to juice it up with synthetic chemicals to produce growth.)
If this is all you can find you will need to find some compost to add the microorganisms that your plants need. It is also a good time to begin thinking about starting a Bokashi Bucket. Bokashi is a a method of fermenting ALL your kitchen waste and turning it into a valuable soil amendment for your organic garden. You don't need a pile in the backyard that needs to be turned and it won't take a year like composting can. Two weeks in sealed in a bucket and it's ready. Visit our friends at
to learn more
Beginners Guide Tip Seven: Support Local Organic Businesses
When I can not find something in my neighborhood, I log on to
To find what I am looking for. Local Harvest is a nationwide network of family farms, farmers markets and other sources of sustainably grown produce in your area. They have most every type of produce you can imagine, grass fed meats and the list goes on. You maybe pleasantly surprised to find what is within driving distance to you.
You’ve made it home and now you are ready to do the actual transplanting. A good rule of thumb is "don’t buy any plant unless you are committed to planting it within six hours of buying it". It’s best to plan so you can come home and do it right away. Your new plant has gone through a lot of stress and needs to get settled in as soon as possible. Alright, you’ve got your plant(s), your new container, your composted soil mixture, some organic fertilizer, some water, Now, you are ready to plant!
Beginners Guide Tip Eight: Don't Put A Twenty Dollar Plant In A Fifty Cent Hole.
When planting in the ground, the rule of thumb is to dig the hole deep enough so that top of the root ball is just above the surrounding soil. Make the hole twice as large in circumference as the root ball. This will allow the roots to spread out as it grows.
Years ago when I first started, I used to make the mistake of placing my plants too low in the new container. Don’t make this mistake or you might kill your plants; a good rule of thumb is to place enough soil in the bottom of your new container so that when you set in the plant the top of it doesn’t extend above the ridge of the container. When it is set in properly, add some dry fertilizer around the roots. I like to use cottonseed meal. Fill the container being careful to stop about an inch below the top of the root ball. It may look strange, but let it settle for a day or so and then fill a little more if needed. Another important point to mention is that you will need a container that is big enough to allow the roots to grow sufficiently as your plant(s) mature. Well done! You are well on your way.
Beginners Guide Tip Nine: Take Lots Of Pictures
Continue to enjoy reading and researching your favorite plants. You may find it advantageous to start a gardening journal. There’s nothing quite as aggravating as trying to remember what you did last time. You can enjoy your plant’s blooms or fruit more than once by supplementing your journals with digital photos.
After achieving success with containers you can move to a raised bed garden and expand your horizons to other types of plants. The sky is the limit!