So you’ve decided to roll up your sleeves, get your hands dirty, and start a backyard vegetable garden this summer. That’s great! While you work, try to incorporate some organic gardening methods. Not only will you be kind to the environment, but you’ll be able to enjoy the produce of your garden without worrying about pesticides and other chemicals.
In gardening, mulch protects the soil, controls weeds, retains ground moisture, and feeds nutrients to the soil. Avoid store-bought mulch which can be filled with man-made fertilizers and pesticides. Use fallen leaves, grass trimmings, hay, straw, manure, or compost. Over time these materials will decompose, returning their nutrients to the soil and helping improve the quality of the earth in your garden. And unlike chemical pesticides or fertilizers, mulch won’t wash away in the rain!
Don’t rely on chemicals to keep your plants free from pesky bugs, use natural remedies. Aphids hate both garlic and cayenne pepper, so sprinkle some around to deter them. If you spot some lurking, spray your plant with a solution of dish soap and water. It’ll kill the bugs without affecting the plant or the soil, and all you’ll need to do before eating is give it a rinse (which you’d do anyway, right?). Crushed up eggshells deter slugs, plus add nutrients to the soil as they decompose. You can also trick pests by planting multiple species together. Companion planting, or polyculture, confuses pests who do better in monoculture. Without one big patch of the plant they prefer, insects can be deterred from entering your garden at all.
One problem for new gardeners is figuring out how much and when to water. You don’t want to deprive your plants, but you don’t want to drown them either. First, always water in the morning, before your garden is in full sun; the plants will be able to absorb more water at that time of day. Also, water droplets can act like a magnifying glass for sunshine, so water early and save your leaves. When you do water, water deeply. You want to pour out enough water that it penetrates deeply into the soil. This encourages your plants roots to go deep as well, where they will be able to access more water, more nutrition, and more stability.
The internet is full of organic gardening tips. I particularly like You Grow Girl which has plenty of advice and forums full of friendly gardeners ready to help a beginner out. If you have advice or experience in organic gardening, please share in the comments!