The Ultimate Guide to Organic Gardening for Beginners
Organic gardening can feel intimidating for newbies. There are so many parts; you don’t know where to start! Luckily, we created an easy guide to organic gardening for beginners that covers all of the basic topics you should know.
This guide is a great place to start your learning process! From here, start diving into the topics that interest you most. You might be ready to buy your first seeds, or you might want to start your very first compost bin. Remember that organic gardening is a learning process for all even experienced gardeners. There is no need to wait to start because you feel inexperienced. Dive right in!
What is Organic Gardening
Before you can start organic gardening, you have to understand what it is. The short answer would be that organic gardening involves no synthetic products. Gardeners won’t use pesticides, fertilizers or anything chemical on their plants. You would use natural items to help replenish nutrients in the soil and control pests.
That answer doesn’t encompass all that organic gardening is. When you embark on this journey, you are working to embrace nature, working together to aid the natural system. You will learn to understand your soil and use what you have with you to create organic matter for your garden.
Interested? Let’s dive into the details of organic gardening for beginners.
Why You Should Use Heirloom Seeds
Before you can start gardening, you need plants. Yes, you can purchase seedlings from nurseries, but that can get pricey fast. We start all of our plants from heirloom seeds. Heirloom is the way to go for organic gardeners.
The plants and seeds you might purchase at large stores, such as Wal-Mart, are hybrid and typically contain GMOs. Heirloom seeds come from real plants, some dating over a century back! There are several benefits to using heirloom seeds.
They taste so much better. The flavor you will find in heirloom plants exceeds that of hybrid plants every single time.
You can save your seeds. Gardening is like an addiction, and you will want to keep growing more and more each year. You can save the seeds from your heirloom plants, saving you money each year. The results you will have from saving hybrid seeds will be sad.
The plants tend to resist pests and diseases. These plants come from the strongest plants from the following years. It is a way to encourage the best traits, including pest and disease resistance.
You are preserving heritage. Many of these seeds come with stories that allow you to become part of a legacy. It is a beautiful cycle of life.
Basic Tools You Might Need
You need tools! There is no way to garden just with bare hands, even though those will get a work out as well. Organic gardening doesn’t require any different tools than traditional gardening.
Simple Tips for Starting Seeds at Home
If you want to save some money, starting seeds at home is the way to go. A newbie can feel intimidated by seed starting. There can be a high failure rate for certain plants. I was afraid my first year starting seeds, but I didn’t stay afraid for long! Learn some basic tips to increase your success rate.
Mulching is great for all plants, but organic mulching means that you don’t rely on thing such as black plastic to suppress weeds.
Organic mulch differs because it will slowly decompose, putting more nutrients into your soil. Most of the time, you can get mulch for free from your property! Mulch helps to retain moisture, suppress weeds, regulate soil temperature, and add nutrients to your soil.
Chances are you have great choices on your property! Grass clippings are free and provide high levels of nitrogen into your soil. Shredded leaves may not be beautiful, but they are free and add nutrients. Pine straw may not decompose quickly, but they can add acid to your soil and kill all the weeds. Other popular options include newspaper, old hay, straw, and compost.
Avoiding Pests and Diseases Naturally
When you don’t turn to chemical pesticides, your plants may not look HGTV worthy. However, it doesn’t mean that your plants have to succumb to the torture of pests and diseases. There are going to be pests; that is just a fact of nature. Avoiding pests naturally involves your diligence and vigilance. Here are some basic things to keep in mind.
Learn the Basic Requirements of Your Soil
One of the main requirements of organic gardening is learning how to feed the soil so that the soil can feed. Plants need the correct amount of nutrients in the soil. You want to eat the plants, but first, the plants have to “eat” The soil. Chemical fertilizers can seep into your food, as well as cause damage to helpful bacteria and microbes in the soil.
All plants need six things to grow properly. The first three – carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen – are received from air and water. The next three come from the soil – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Each nutrient plays a vital role.
Nitrogen helps plants make proteins, ensuring the plants grow properly. However, an abundance of nitrogen can cause too much foliage without any fruits or flowers. Phosphorous stimulates root growth and helps the plants set buds and fruits. Potassium helps the overall vigor of the plant and helps the plant make carbohydrates.
Clearly, there are more than three nutrients in the soil. Other important ones are calcium, magnesium, and sulfur. All of these nutrients can only be absorbed in the soil pH level is too high or too low. Most plants prefer a pH level between 6.0 to 7.0. You can purchase a test online to determine your levels and adjust from there!
Natural Fertilizers You Have Available On Hand
Some of the best fertilizers you can use are in your house already. Many of them you add to your compost, but you can also add them directly to your garden to increase nutrients. Making your own fertilizers helps to save costs and replenishes the nutrients in the soil as they are used throughout the year.
This list is far from exhaustive. There are dozens of things around your house that can be added to your garden! Don’t spend money on store-bought fertilizer when everything you need is around you.
All gardens benefit from compost, and you can create it on your property. There is no need to pay astronomical prices! Compost, in general, is free to create. You add things to the bin that you readily have on your property such as grass clippings, shredded leaves, vegetable and fruit scraps, cardboard, wood chips, and more.
- Composting comes with several benefits for gardeners. Trust me; you want to compost!
- Compost increases the amount of moisture that the soil retains, allowing you to water less frequent.
- Compost adds nutrients back into the depleted soil, preparing it for the next round of plants.
- It can repair soil damaged by pesticide use or other types of chemical use.
- Compost improves the structure of your soil, from helping sandy soil retain moisture to breaking up clay soil.
- Best of all, compost is the best, free, organic fertilizer you can create for your garden! It is natural and slow-releasing.
You can use compost in several ways. You can mix it in with potting soil or your garden soil before planting your seedlings. Another choice is to add inches of compost on top of your soil, acting as a form of organic mulch. You could also sprinkle compost around the base of your plants and work it in with your hands as a fertilizer.
Once you’ve mastered all of the above parts of organic gardening, it is time to embrace cover crops. Cover crops are hard-working plants that help to suppress weeds and replenish your soil. They also work to help control destructive pests and diseases. Best of all, you just need to plant them and allow them to grow without major maintenance required!
There are even more benefits to using cover crops, even for small-scale growers. Some people tend to think they are just for farmers or those with large-scale gardens, but they would be wrong!
There are several choices for the home gardener when it comes to cover crops. When you plant the cover crops will vary as well, from late summer to late fall. If you plant a cover crop in the spring or summer, they are called warm season cover crops, so pay attention when selecting. Here are some good choices!
It is planted as a winter cover crop that germinates quickly, ideal for controlling weeds and trapping nutrients in the soil.
Known as a smother crop for those who want to control weeds. It is sensitive to cold, so ideal for summer planting, planted between late May and late August.
A legume plant that adds nitrogen and biomass to your garden soil. It can be planted anytime from spring to early fall.
It is ideal for overwintering because it is hardy and resilient. It grows fast and will continue to grow in the spring.
A legume plant that is very winter hardy. It will contribute nitrogen and fertility to the soil.
Getting Started Organic Gardening
Now is the time for you to dive in! Don’t wait because you are worried that you don’t know what you are doing. The best way to learn is to gain experience by doing. Pests may seem scary, but you learn how to handle them over time. You might kill half of your seedlings, but you will learn how to decrease the failure rate.
Organic gardening for beginners is learning how to make nature and the world around you work together to create a successful garden. We hope that this guide is helpful for you. What part of organic gardening do you think is most complicated? Let us know in the comments!