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This post about organic gardening should be written on recycled hemp paper, and smell of tofu and kombucha. That’s because – like recycled paper, tofu, and kombucha – organic gardening is seen as sustainable, healthy, and very, very trendy. If you’re keen to jump on the bandwagon – fuelled by repurposed coconut oil, of course – here are a few tips to follow.
Good gardening always starts with the soil. Organic gardening is no exception, but it does require a slightly different approach. You want to pack that soil with nutrients, but many synthetic fertilizers and soil enhancers are over-concentrated with nutrients, which do more harm than good if they’re over-applied. On the other hand, organic fertilizers and enhancers contain plant nutrients in lower concentrations, which are a safer way to nourish the soil.
One way to get the right nutrients into your organic garden, particularly at the early stages, is with compost. We’ve written about the benefits of compost before, and we’ll happily sing its praises again. A mix of nitrogen and carbon such as grass cuttings, kitchen scraps, dead leaves and flowers will do wonders for your soil and get your organic garden off to winning start.
Earthworms, like compost, can work miracles in an organic garden. Earthworms burrow through your garden, which aerates the soil. And, as you’d well know, worm castings make for superb fertilizer, jampacked with macro- and micronutrients. Plenty of places sell earthworms, so make a wriggly investment you won’t regret.
This is one of the biggest components of organic gardening because it works as a natural form of pest control, and also delivers a host of other benefits. Common examples of companion planting include:
Marigolds next to vegetables: Many leafy vegetables traditionally attract aphids or greenfly e.g. cabbage or lettuce. But when you plant marigolds next to them, those marigolds will emit a scent that repels aphids. And when they’re blooming, they look great in the garden, too!
Basil next to tomatoes and capsicums: Want more flavoursome tomatoes and capsicums? Simply plant basil next to them, as this herb is reputedly a major flavour enhancer.
Nasturtiums next to lettuces, cabbage and beans: A great way to stop invading hordes of caterpillars, whitefly and aphids is to plant nasturtiums next to your veggies. They often act as decoy plants and will attract pests away from your food plants.
Leeks and carrots: These two plants have a scent that deters the other’s favourite pests!
In a thriving organic garden, healthy plants can develop resistance to pests, and the need for pest control may be minimal, or not even required at all. But, until then, some form of control might be needed.
In true organic style, you can deal with pests in a way that is kinder to the rest of Mother Nature. For example, a tablespoon of vegetable oil and a few drops of mild detergent mixed with one litre of water can be sprayed onto plants. This oily formula coats the bodies of insects like aphids and mites and suffocates them.
If you’re not a fan of concocting your own natural pesticide, many retailers now stock natural pest control products due to the growing popularity of organic gardening. But as the oil and detergent mixture shows, it really is very easy to DIY.
Like companion planting, crop rotation plays a huge role in organic gardening. Different plants take different nutrients from the soil, so by planting the same thing in the same spot every year, the soil will end up not containing the nutrients that a particular plant requires. Not only will your harvest suffer as a result, but the plant won’t be healthy enough to develop the resistance it requires against pests. By planting in different places each year, your soil will stay healthy, and your plants will be better able to fend off the threats of pests and disease.
Organic gardening is based on common sense and doesn’t rely on new age mumbo jumbo, or dancing around naked in the moonlight. This will be a relief to your neighbours.
Organic gardening is about going back to basics, including composting, companion planting and crop rotation. These things have always worked, so for a healthy and bountiful garden, we urge you to go beyond Organic Gardening 101 and learn as much as you can about the topic.