Organic Vegetable Gardening

There’s more to organic vegetable gardening than simply replacing synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and harmful chemicals with natural alternatives. Organic vegetable gardening acknowledges the complexity of the natural world and tries to work in harmony with it. By using nature and guiding it in productive ways, you can grow many more garden vegetables for less money, and your harvest will be much more nutritious than what you can buy at the store. You will also be minimizing any impact on the environment by vegetable gardening organically.

Organic Vegetable Gardening and Soil Management

Organic vegetable gardening manages the garden soil very differently than what is typically done in conventional gardening. While conventional gardening will certainly use manure, which is of course natural, often synthetic hydrocarbon derived fertilizers will also be used. These usually provide an immediate benefit to garden plants. But in the long run they deplete the soil of nutrients and ultimately strip it of its nutritive value. That’s because the plants growing in it still need trace nutrients and will pull them from the soil, thereby depleting it of these crucial trace elements.

After repeating this cycle for a number of years, you’re actually forced to continue adding fertilizer for the soil to support any kind of plant growth. Organic vegetable gardening avoids this trap because it relies on native organisms and creatures such as earthworms to provide a steady and balanced stream of nutrients that sustain the soil’s ability to support healthy vegetable growth.

To have a robust organic garden, the soil must be loose with excellent air and moisture circulation. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including mechanical tilling in order to turn physically over the soil. Organic vegetable gardening can be labor intensive, but it doesn’t have to be so.

Another method that’s often used in organic vegetable gardening is to simply add enriched soil to your existing poor soil and till them together, and then repeat this for several growing seasons. You need to do this to a depth of about three up to 6 inches or more. When repeating this process for several seasons, you’ll be amazed at how much your soil has been brought back to life. The longer you do it, the easier organic vegetable gardening actually becomes.

By far the simplest way to increase the aeration of the soil with the least physical work, although it will also take several seasons, is to introduce earth worms to your garden bed. They have a tendency to migrate away, so you’ll need to replenish your supply on a regular basis. One centerpiece of organic vegetable gardening techniques is the use of natural means to enhance the soil’s fertility.

Testing Your Soil

If you want to find out what the quality of your soil and whether it’s suitable to begin organic vegetable gardening before you start, just take a sample of your soil to your county agriculture agent or over to a local nursery area. For a small fee, they’ll tell you everything you need to know about your soil, including the levels of phosphates, nitrates’ and it’s pH. Once you know the soil your starting with its easier to know what nutrients are missing and what you will need to add back.

Fertilizing Your Garden Soil Organically

There are slow-release organic garden fertilizers available that can provide a steady supply of nutrients to your garden soil. The preferred and probably the best organic fertilizer is still fish emulsion. This is a liquid fertilizer made from fish byproducts such as fish oil and fish meal that is easily absorbed by the soil. Adding compost and manure will also greatly boost your soil’s organic matter content.

Mulching Your Garden: Adding Nutrients While Controlling Weeds

Organic vegetable gardening relies heavily on mulching. Mulching is critical to maintaining the health of your organic garden. Mulching provides many benefits to the plants and soil in your organic garden. These include controlling and slowing down excessive water evaporation, maintaining the temperature of the soil and keeping it from overheating, and breaking down slowly by bacterial action to add to the organic nutrients within the soil. Natural materials you can use for mulching include lawn clippings, compost, leaves, straw, sawdust, and wood chips.

Once you’ve effectively established a regular program of mulching in your garden, much less watering will be required because mulching helps your plants retain their water. The big payoff will be that your vegetable plants will experience improved growth.

While they are known to help in weed control, mulches don’t directly fight weeds. Mulch simply acts as a filler in areas that are at high risk for weed infestation.

When using organic mulches, the bacteria in them have a tendency to eat up much-needed nitrogen, so you might have to supplement. Test your soil intermittently to make sure it has enough nitrogen. By keeping a plentiful population of earthworms tunneling through your garden, you should be more than able to compensate for any nitrogen loss because the castings they leave behind as they burrow through your garden are five times richer in nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Earthworms also do a fantastic job of aerating the  soil and allowing additional nutrients to percolate up to the roots of your vegetable plants.

Unwanted Dinner Guests: Organic Vegetable Gardening Remedies

Organic vegetable gardening can be challenging since you have to deal with unwanted guests. Some of these include Army worms, crickets, gypsy moth caterpillars, slugs and squash bugs. Conventional gardeners use all sorts of insecticides and chemicals to try to kill them off. Organic vegetable gardeners use natural means of pest control in their gardens. For instance, Ladybugs, also known as Japanese beetles, as well as birds, frogs, and predatory insects such as the preying mantis, keep out pests like aphids, snails, and other insects that want to eat your vegetables before you get the chance to.

Both the preying mantis and the Ladybug are territorial will stay around and eat anything unfortunate enough to wander into their space. Your ultimate weapon is the common toad, which eats just about anything. For caterpillars and spiders in your garden many birds will take care of them. Just make sure that your garden toad is not on the birds’ menu.

Another organic vegetable gardening strategy to keep out garden snails is to use diatomaceous earth. Along with setting up barriers and traps, you can plant disease and pest resistant plant varieties, along with the simple strategy of crop rotation to provide natural and formidable means of pest control. Crop rotation replenishes the soil and also deprives any insect larvae of the intended meal they were expecting from last season.

While most gardeners feel that weeds are intruders in their garden space, practitioners of organic vegetable gardening view them otherwise. While they can compete with other plants in your garden for food and water, they are a valuable source of compost for your garden. Keeping them under control requires some physical work includes hoeing, mulching, or even crowding them out with herbs and other beneficial plants to keep them from setting up shop where they’re unwanted.

Plants can also be used to protect your vegetables. For example rosemary, sage and thyme are effective deterrents against flying insects. Marigolds are effective against nematodes.

Organic vegetable gardening is sustainable and, in the long run, is much less expensive than conventional vegetable gardening. To grow organic vegetables for yourself and your family, inexpensively and with the most nutritional value and without the artificial chemicals and pesticides, organic vegetable gardening is the way you’ll want to go.