Beginners Guide to Organic Gardening

This is your beginners guide to organic gardening. I wrote it just for you so that you can begin with confidence,  without worry of making a costly mistake

Are you excited by the whole idea of starting your very own organic garden but do not have a clear idea what to do first?

If that sounds familiar then you are on the right page!

Are you an experienced gardener ready to begin the transition to organics? Then is for you as well.

I remember back when I first contracted "organic fever."

I was so excited!  I was reading every magazine I could find on the subject. (That was before home computers) I visited the university library twice a month to get access to the latest news in research projects.

I read a lot of information.  Some was very technical and other articles were entertaining but gave little practical information.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Nothing beats the taste of fresh organic tomatoes!


A lot of magazine articles seemed to focus on one particular product as being the miraculous answer to all my gardening problems.  Now we have a internet articles doing the same thing.


What I needed was a beginners guide to organic gardening that would help me get started

not another page of ad copy for the latest product release.

The problem was that I could not find one.


My desire is that this will help you to avoid some of the mistakes I have made over the last 20 years.

While this is by no means exhaustive, I hope you agree it is a great start and bookmark it for handy reference.


Beginners Guide Tip One: There Is NO Magic Bullet.

Organic gardening is a combination of

  • Fertile soil
  • Seeds that have not been genetically modified (GMO's)
  • A fresh supply of clean water
  • Ample sunshine.

If there is even one thing out of balance you have a problem.

Remember, there is no single product or method that is a cure all.

Beginners Guide Tip Two: Go Slow, Start Small

I always recommend to anyone who is a beginning an organic garden to start on a small scale.

This raised bed is only two feet by four feet. It is a perfect way to get your feet wet with a couple heirloom tomato plants. I planted some basil around the edges in mine.

Raised beds are a perfect way to start. Starting small and learning as you go will fend off discouragement if you have a minor set back.

raised bed tomatoes

There is no pressure but what you choose to put on yourself, so 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 overlooked, but you won't make this mistake.

So before you decide on what you are going to buy give careful consideration as to what climate zone you live in and consult the plant hardiness zone map.  It is also recommended that you only plant native species to your area.

Don't waste a dime on a plant that is not recommended for your growing zone.

By 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 they need. Better than repurchasing 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 against the use of synthetic chemicals. When chemicals are added to the soil to induce artificial growth or color, they destroy the very ferility needed for your plants to grow.

Besides, if you think you can ingest chemicals without any adverse effects, you’ve been woefully misled!

yellow butterfly


Are you ready to begin your organic garden?

Great! Let's start by doing some housecleaning.

Yes, housecleaning.

Find a bag or box and starting under your sink, bag all the chemicals for killing bugs or weeds and all the synthetic fertilizers. Then, progressing to your basement, garage, or utility shed, collect them all 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 stuff in hand, and you’re walking out to your garbage can… Suddenly you wonder if it is safe to dispose this stuff!

That is your light bulb moment.


Don't make excuses. Lawn and garden chemicals are some of the most toxic substances on the market.

I ask that you consider your HEALTH. Then consider the health of your family, your pets and the environment.

There is so much compelling research of health risks.

Some states have outlawed the use of chemicals on school property. If you doubt this, carefully read the warnings that are printed on the bags!

At a time when many of community's budgets are in the red, think of all the money we could save by eliminating the expense of chemicals?

We claim to be going green yet we are still buying millions of tons of chemicals every year.

Okay! You have done your research and you know the plants the are right for your growing zone, now it's time to go shopping!

If you were to ask my wife, she would tell you that I would sooner be tortured than have to endure the weekly shopping trip.

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. Most will be happy to order what you are looking for if they do not have them in stock.

While you have them on the phone, inquire about soil and soil amendments for your containers or raised beds.

Explain that you are growing organically and that you want to buy a composted matter from plants (such as cotton burr compost) or animal (cow, chicken or horse manure.)

The keyword is composted.
Good compost is rich and dark, and has an earthy smell. 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.

organic squash

organic squash in well composted garden soil

You can also leave most brands of commercial potting soil there too. There is no life in these potting soils. It’s totally dead.

They actually irradiate the product to kill off disease pathogens and weed seeds. If also kills off aol the friendly micro flora your plants desperately need!

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.

If this is all you can find - you will need to make your own compost to add the nutrients that your plants need. You may want to consider starting a Bokashi Bucket.

Bokashi is 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 watered and it won't take a year like composting can. Two weeks in sealed in a bucket and your bokashi is ready to put into the soil.


Beginners Guide Tip Seven: Support Local Small Businesses.

When I can not find something in my neighborhood, I logon to localharvest.org to find what I am looking for.

Local Harvest is a nationwide network of organic family farms, farmers markets and other sources of organic grown produce in your area. They have most every type of produce you can imagine plus items like honey and even grass fed meats. You maybe pleasantly surprised to find what is within driving distance to you.

Congratulations! You’ve made it home and now you are ready to transplant. 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 is 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 plants, your new container or raised bed built, your composted soil mixture and a water source. 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 made the mistake of placing my plants too low in the new container and burying the root ball under a layer of soil.

Don’t make this mistake or you might kill your plants!

The top of your root ball - where the dirt starts- needs to be ABOVE the soil in your container.

organic mint

A good rule of thumb is to place just 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, fill the container being careful to stop about a quarter inch from the top of the root ball.


Another important point worth mentioning is that you are using a container make sure that is big enough to allow the roots to grow sufficiently as your plant matures. Having proper drainage goes without saying.

You may want to consider a container made out of a geo-textile that will self prune the roots and prevent binding.

Well done! You are well on your way.


Beginners Guide Tip Nine: Take Notes and Pictures!

You may find it advantageous to start a gardening journal. There is nothing quite as aggravating as trying to remember what the name of a plant is or you did last season. You will enjoy your plant’s blooms or fruit again and again when you supplement your journal with photos.


Organic Soybeans

So now then, let's get to the heart of it as we learn how to make absolutely spectacular garden soil.



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