Organic Gardening

How-To Basics of getting started with Organic Gardening.
No matter whether you are an experienced organic gardener or you have simply decided that you would like to become more self-reliant by growing some of your own food, planting a garden requires planning. A properly planned and planted organic garden will naturally resist disease, deter pests, and be healthy and productive. With the spring planting season fast approaching, winter is the ideal time to get started.

Set Goals
What do you want to do with your plot of earth this season? Begin planning by setting goals. Grab your garden map, a pencil, your gardening guide, catalogs, and your thinking cap. List the areas of your yard and garden separately (i.e. lawn, vegetable patch, flower garden), and, keeping in mind the size and conditions of your site, brainstorm! Are you planning a garden for the first time? Do you want to expand your existing garden? Did you have pest or disease problems last year that you’re hoping to prevent this year? What map? To create a map of your yard or garden, measure the dimensions of your site as a whole, and then the individual dimensions of your vegetable patch, flowerbeds, and lawn. It’s easiest to draw your map to scale on a sheet of graph paper. These measurements will be necessary later, when you are determining how much of a plant or seeds to buy. Once the map is drawn, write in any information you know about soil characteristics, drainage, environmental conditions (sunny, shady, windy), and the names of trees and perennial plants that already exist. Your map will let you know exactly what you have to work with, and will give you a realistic idea of problems that need attention or features you’d like to change or add.

Gardening 101
It is important to understand the magnitude of your project before you begin. Getting the background information necessary to fulfill your goals may take an hour or a week, depending upon your level of experience and how involved you plan to get. Consulting your garden guidebook is a great way to begin – I suggest Warren Schultz’s The Organic Suburbanite, The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman, Rodale’s Chemical-Free Yard & Garden, or The Handy Garden Answer Book by Karen Troshynski-Thomas. You can also go to your local library and investigate their resources or contact your local garden club for their suggestions. As you research, write down how long each project will take, what tools you will need, and the approximate cost of everything you will need. This information will be invaluable when you make up your shopping list and schedule of activities. Scheduling and Organization. A schedule of activities lists what you hope to accomplish in what time frame. It will help keep you on track. It is important to be realistic about what you are capable of.

Tool Tutorial
You have a plan! You have knowledge! Do you have tools? Chances are you may be able to obtain most tools at your local lawn and garden store. Bring the list that you assembled in Gardening 101, and, if you are a seasoned gardener, assume that the same pests and plagues will be back that you dealt with last year and buy your supplies now. If you are new to the gardening scene, buy the basic tools that you will need, and then nose around the neighborhood and perhaps your local gardening club to see what is recommended for what you are planting and where you live.

Garden Design
Switching to chemical-free gardening will not only mean changing your gardening practices, but also your gardening design. Gardening in beds, as opposed to rows, provides for better weed, disease and pest management. Beds are also more attractive and easier to maintain. In a garden bed, everything is planted within arm’s reach. The leaves of adjacent plants shade the soil, reducing weed growth. Diversity in a garden bed also has many advantages. A variety of plants in a mixed bed provide some natural pest protection by making it difficult for pests to find and eat their target plants, or helping to attract insects that are beneficial to your garden and prey on pest insects. It also reduces the chances that pests and disease organisms will build to epidemic levels, as they won’t be able to hop from tasty host to tasty host, as they would if you had planted in rows