One of the greatest benefits of having a garden is controlling how your food is grown. Growing organically ensures your food is free of commercial pesticides—pollutants that seep into the ground or atmosphere. Starting an organic garden is the perfect way to ensure you are giving healthful eats to your family, and protecting the earth.
1. Right plant in right place. Don’t fight your site, but rather, embrace your sunlight levels, climate, and soil type, and choose varieties that will naturally thrive in your gardens’ conditions, reducing the need for excess water or amendment.
2. Compost. Reduce landfill waste by composting yard scraps and food waste. These organic products create methane in a landfill environment which, unharnessed, is a pollutant.
3. Water wisely. Conserve water by watering deeply and less frequently, encouraging plants to build deeper, water-mining roots. You can also improve your soil’s ability to hold water by adding organic material. Water in the evening or morning to prevent excessive evaporation. Mulch will insulate and protect soils, further slowing evaporation. Finally, make sure you are watering with just the right amount; under- or over-watering can cause plant stress, which acts like an open invitation to pest and disease.
4. Prevention is key to a healthy garden. Rotate plant families (see inside of packets) annually, so they are not grown in the same space but once every three years, reducing debris build-up and a potential for disease. Clean up the garden at the end of the season and avoid composting any disease or pest-infested material. Invite beneficial insects into the garden by sowing flowering varieties they are attracted to (like borage, alyssum, and dill). This way, when pests arrive, you already have a hungry, resident army waiting in the “wings”. Scout for pests, diseases, and natural predators weekly so you can identify problems early, and decide if action is needed. Use organic pesticide as a last option, to avoid harming bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. If you must spray, do so in the early morning or evening when most bees are less active, and avoid spraying flowers.
5. Sow a cover crop! Cover crop enriches the soil, fights weeds, and breaks up compacted soil naturally. Cover crops can also be used to create an insectory (a dedicated area that provides habitat for beneficial insects).
6. Know your strengths. Submit a soil test for analysis. By understanding your unique garden site you can know exactly what amendments are needed, avoiding pests, diseases, and pollution, which can be caused by over-fertilizing. Improving soil by reaching the ideal, 5–6% organic matter also helps conserve water and prevent run-off.