Are you interested in organic vegetable gardening? You should be. It’s the right approach for good health and a good healthy environment. Do you think organic gardening is difficult? It isn’t. It has to be one of the easiest and most natural ways to garden. The whole idea is that you do things naturally. This means you work with nature, not against it.
Anytime you’re working with something instead of fighting it, you’re better off. And, you do things less expensively because they’re natural. You don’t have to buy anything out of a bottle, bag, jar or box. In fact, much of what you use can be created or obtained at little cost on your own.
A lot of us talk about organic this or that, but do we really know that it means? For a little help, right from the start, let’s look at what Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary has to say about the term organic:
…of, related to, or derived from living organisms: being, composed of, or containing matter of plant or animal origins……relating to, produced with, or based on the use of organics as fertilizers without employment of chemically formulated fertilizers or pesticides…
So, if it used to be animal or plant, we call it organic. Let’s look at some examples:
And, if it doesn’t employ chemically formulated fertilizers, for example:
And, if it doesn’t employ chemically formulated pesticides, for example:
That should make it clearer. If you do it yourself and use only organic resources, then you’ll know for certain that the product of your efforts will be organic.
The benefits of an organic vegetable garden are many and varied. First of all, the food is much healthier. It’s not covered with pesticides, herbicides or chemically engineered fertilizer. That means, you know what’s in and on your food is naturally healthy.
Second, using compost and bugs and extracts from various plants is much safer for the gardener. Would you rather be breathing in a little flour dust or some Sevin dust? Would you rather have a little onion juice drip on you, or a little Malathion?
Also, isn’t it just a bit easier to go along with nature instead of fighting against it? If you look around at the beauty of nature, it’s hard to imagine that we can do better somehow with artificial influences.
Lastly, many of the chemicals we use aren’t kind to the micro-environment that we would hope to cultivate. Pesticides often kill everything they encounter. There are billions of organisms at work in our soil and these are adversely affected by fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Compost and worm castings don’t harm the micro-organisms in our soil – they add to them and promote their activity.
I like to think of organic vegetable gardening as doing a big favor for the soil, the general garden environment, the plants and me. The more time you spend in the garden, the more you’ll appreciate keeping it natural. In turn, the garden will return the favor by providing you with fresh and nutritious food that supports good health. Best of all, you’ll know exactly what’s in and on your food.
Organic gardening isn’t as easy as spraying things with a chemical, but it’s much more satisfying, and infinitely healthier, so it’s worth the little bit of extra work. Many of the methods involve recycling of some sort and we need to do that anyway. Something must be done with yard waste and kitchen waste, so we might as well get a compost pile put together to turn the waste into valuable fertilizer for the garden.
In the kitchen, we kept a pail under the sink and put many of the kitchen scraps in there – egg shells, coffee grinds, peelings and unwanted parts of vegetables. No meat or bones, but just about everything else. It isn’t difficult, simply empty the pail every couple of days to help feed the compost pile which would later feed the vegetables and then they would feed us. As you can see, part of organic vegetable gardening is really a type of recycling.
We used to turn leaves under each fall to help add organic matter to the soil and enrich it. Grass clippings were used as mulch in the flower beds and in the vegetable garden. After we cleaned our fish, the entrails were buried in the soil to help provide a range of nutrients for future harvests. Kitchen waste such as egg shells, coffee grinds and food scraps were placed on the compost pile too.
A roto-tiller also helps turn vegetative matter into the soil. It pulverizes it and mixes it with the soil. This is almost necessary if you’re working with poor soil that needs lots of help in the area of nutrients and organic matter. Other methods like shovels, broad forks or letting nature take its course are either too work intensive or they take too long for a larger plot of ground. A rototiller is a good tool to make short and easy work out of a larger garden plot that needs to have organic material introduced into the soil.
Let’s look at some common questions about organic vegetable gardening so we can address the basics right from the start.
The best place is right in your home and around your neighborhood because most of what you need can be found in the natural environment. There are also many quality organic fertilizers & supplies sold in stores, catalogs and online. When it comes to organic vegetable gardening, you can either purchase ready made organic products or if you don’t want to purchase a bottle, can or bag of supplies; you simply use common tools and natural ingredients. There are of course some exceptions.
There are many. You can use natural oils, friendly bugs and concoctions derived from plants and common household materials that will be organic (or very nearly so), and won’t pose a danger to your or your gardening environment. It’s one of the fun parts of organic vegetable gardening. You get to mix up a concoction from vegetable juices and pepper and spray it on your plants to kill bugs. In other cases, cinnamon and flour can also be used to kill unwanted insects and help keep them at bay.
If you’re using organic methods, you’re green gardening as far as I am concerned. The best way to get started is to swear off on one or two non-organic methods each season and replace them with something of an organic nature. If you’re not swearing off something, then add an organic method. Keep doing this, and over a couple of seasons, you’ll be green gardening.
At a fundamental level, organic gardening around the home will encompass building your soil, maintaining healthy soil, managing pests and diseases, weed control and companion planting. It’s not much more difficult than that. It’s easy to learn the basics and doing things naturally will become an easy habit once you start to appreciate the benefits.
Yes, there are a few products that have worked well for me. I’m a “hands on” type of person so mostly I create my own, but some commercial products are necessary to “strong arm” a problem or two. And, sometimes you need to kick-start certain aspects of your organic vegetable gardening.
Absolutely, and it’s important that you consider one. You and your plants are essentially trapped inside the greenhouse, so it better be a nice environment free of hazardous chemicals.
There certainly are a range of courses that you can explore from county and university extension offices and local garden clubs. Most of these organizations will have an organic gardening course with emphasis on organic vegetable gardening and if they don’t offer one can probably refer you to an organization that does offer one.
Clair Schwan is an avid vegetable gardener who considers his gardens to be important assets. To him, vegetables in the garden are a bit like money in the bank. It’s all part of his self-reliant lifestyle. See his adventures in gardening at Frugal-Living-Freedom.com.