Organic gardening. What IS it? Organic has different meanings to different gardeners…and even has varying interpretations depending upon the actual product, the processing, the country of origin and more.
So how DO you know you’re really organic gardening?
Our top tip: Make it yourself.
Now, we use “make” as an umbrella term. (You’re not actually making your seeds, for example, unless you’re one of these guys.)
But if you really want to know you’re doing your utmost to ensure your garden is chemical-free and grown naturally, take as much of the process as possible into your own hands.
1. Stop Buying Your Soil
Are you still purchasing gardening soil/peat/mulch? Why? Make it yourself! Composting is a surprisingly simple process that yields fertile and even better, natural, no-chemicals-added earth. Trust us. Your plants will thank you.
To get started with composting, see whether your city/county offers incentive programs where they will deliver a compost bin to you at a reduced cost (or free). If not, create your own bin easily and inexpensively by repurposing an old outdoor garbage can: drill holes in the bottom for drainage, make sure you have a cover for it (or simply use a tarp) and there you have it: your first-ever compost bin.
Here's a quick tutorial on what to put into your bin and how to manage the in-process materials until they’re usable compost.
2. Collect and Re-Use Your Seeds
We started many of our best future crop seeds from organic produce. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t (not all seeds stand the test of time, for example, even if they’ve only been sitting in bins for a short while). But overall, my family found tremendous success with this method.
Use seeds from the best produce or flowers you can find. At the end of each season, or as you cut/use your yields, collect the seeds and store for the next season. Then do the same for the next season…and so on.
You’ll never have to purchase seeds again (or wonder where they came from, what pesticides were used on the plants they came from or what cross-contamination of fields/crops was involved).
3. Discover Alternative Methods of Pest Control
Perhaps this sounds like overkill, but I discovered a few years ago that the collect-aphids-with-tape method pushed homemade sprays into second (or lower) place for natural pest control. There are so many ways to control pests entirely naturally – in other words, without using any concoctions at all. And then again, there are mixes and items that you won’t hesitate to use and still call your garden natural/organic.
Either way, guess what you’re doing? That’s right – you’re “making” your own organic garden and methods! Don’t, I repeat, do not use “organic” commercially made preparations. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are so many ways to slip around processes, origin of materials and more to claim an item as organic. You won’t really know for sure unless your pest control is DIY.
Here are a few ideas (we’re not affiliated, by the way) to get you started. Do your homework and get your own home-“grown” pest control methods going.
4. Weed By Hand
Yes, I know, it’s a pain. (For some people, it’s literally a pain; if you have back or hip issues, arthritis, or experience dizziness, or if your doctor has recommended against bending/squatting for long periods, no one will think the less of you if you decide to skip this step.)
But barring physical issues, the very best method of controlling weeds remains pulling them up, by hand.
This will be less of a chore if you make it a regular thing; in other words, don’t wait until the weeds are choking the life out of your garden before taking things in hand.
In addition, putting down wood chips can help in the control of weeds by blocking the sunlight coming into the areas surrounding your garden plants.
And there you have it – easy steps you can take on the cheap (or even for free) to move toward a garden you know, and can truly call, organic. Happy gardening!
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