It’s starting to feel cooler and the leaves are beginning to fall from the trees; so many of us will be thinking about tidying up the garden before the weather takes a turn for the worse. With the focus this month on ‘Organic September’ and looking at how you can make organic food choices which will benefit both the farmers and your overall environment; we thought we would show you how to create your own organic garden and cut down on the amount of pesticides your family consume.
Organic gardening can be great fun for all the family and there is nothing better than the satisfaction of eating your own potatoes and vegetables at dinner-time. However, many people just don’t know where to begin; so, we are helping you to get started with some useful tips so you can be ready for planting in the spring.
- Start small– you don’t want to become overwhelmed so start small and build it up each year. Aim for 100 square feet per person in your household; as you can grow a lot of food if you group plants tightly which helps reduce weeding and water waste. This can be a vegetable patch or alternatively a vegetable trough if you don’t have much room; but you can increase it each year if need be.
- Sunshine– most fruit and vegetables need plenty of light and heat in order to grow and photosynthesize (the process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy to fuel the organisms' activities) so they ideally need at least 8 hours a day, so bear this in mind when choosing where to dig a bed or position your vegetable trough.
- Good Soil – You have to eat, and so do your plants, so make sure they get lots of fresh nutrients as healthy soil helps to grow strong, healthy plants. Chemical treatments can go into your food, and also harm the beneficial bacteria, worms, and other microbes in the soil so the best way to check the soil quality is to get it tested. Autumn is the best time to test soil and it’s easy enough to buy a home testing kit to establish which organic nutrients you need to add before winter. Make sure you add a couple of inches of good compost on top of the garden soil and work it in so its’s all ready for the spring.
- Buy Plants– you will obviously need to wait until the last of the frost is gone in the spring to plant vegetables; but then rather than trying to grow seeds start simply by just buying small plants. Rather than planting 10 tomato plants, plant 1 or 2 and treat them well, staking them up as you can get dozens of tomatoes from 1 plant if it’s a happy plant. The 10 easiest vegetables to grow regardless of your age or skills are carrots, green beans, lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, summer squash and basil.
- Fertilise – it can take many years to build up good soil so it’s beneficial to use a liquid fertiliser to speed things up like sea minerals and fish fertiliser which provide a broad range of nutrients. Make sure you use them once a month throughout the growing season.
- Microbes– a unique tip for organic gardening is to take one of your fertilisers and mix it with a microbial inoculant such as compost tea and a sugar source such as molasses. Microbes are as important in our soil as organic matter and nutrients and the sugar source is important to feed the microbes.
- Water– Without mentioning the obvious, your new plants won’t grow without watering them regularly every 2-3 days; depending on how much it has rained. Towards the end of spring you can water less; often 1-3 times a week but more deeply to encourage roots to go down.
- Compost bin – a great way to improve your soil is to purchase a mini compost bin for your kitchen to throw all your fruit and vegetable peelings into and then transfer this to an outdoor compost bin. By the spring this will have all broken down and you can add it to the soil. You need to alternate the layers of carbon (or brown) material; which is leaves and garden trimmings, with nitrogen (or green) material; which is your kitchen scraps and manure and then have a thin layer of soil in-between. Top it with four to six inches of soil and turn the pile as new layers are added and water it to keep it moist, in order to activate the microbes. You should get good compost in around two months or slightly longer if it's cold.
We hope these tips will inspire you to grow your own organic yummy fruit and vegetables; and we look forward to you sharing the photos with us in the spring 😊