Nine Tips for a Healthier, More Organic Garden
“Organic gardening can be an enjoyable and rewarding activity,” says Dan Blake, co-founder and CEO of EcoScraps. Here are a few of his few easy tips to save time and effort.
Use winter months to plan your garden. Decide what you want to grow and how you want to organize the garden plot. Seek input from everyone in the family. What does everyone like to eat/cook? Do you plan to can, freeze or otherwise preserve? This input helps you know how much space to devote to any given vegetable. Then design your garden space. Maximize sunlight by planting north-south rows. Plant taller vegetables along the north in a way that doesn’t shade the smaller ones planted along the south.
Smarter, Not Harder
Prepare garden sites by mulching with wood chips in the fall to smother and kill vegetation and mellow the soil by spring. If you missed that opportunity in the fall, you can slice under the soil and invert it in the spring, then mulch with wood chips. During the growing season, mulch around plants and between rows to save on weeding. Use an automatic drip system on a water timer and set it for longer watering times during the hot months.
Save Time With Transplants
In a hurry or did you get a late start to your garden season? Purchase transplants. Some die-hard gardeners may call it cheating, but you may think the added price of transplants over seeding is worth it, especially if starting with older plants might mean the difference between having a garden or not. Most vegetables require at least 90 days from seeding to harvest.
Know the growing season for the vegetables you plant, which can range from 60 to 120 days. Work the concept of succession planting into your garden design. This involves following short-season vegetables like peas, radishes and lettuce with another crop immediately after they are harvested. Succession planting maximizes your available space and lengthens the garden season.
Instead of planting a single row of a particular vegetable, measure out a strip eight to 12 inches wide and scatter the seeds randomly over that area. Wide rows work particularly well in raised beds. Know what your young seedlings are supposed to look like, so you can tell them apart from weeds.
Group plants by water needs so you can fine-tune your drip or sprinkler system to deliver only what is needed. Drip systems allow for more accurate placement of water along the plant row and save the water wasted by an overhead sprinkler that also waters the space between rows. You may also find your weed control gets easier as you direct water to the plants.
Rake wood chips and other mulches over emerging weeds. Once rooted down, weeds are tougher to pull and rob your garden of moisture and fertility that can better be used on your garden vegetables.
Save fruit/vegetable scraps, lawn clippings, sawdust or wood chips and build your own compost pile; or purchase high-quality compost from your local garden center. When it comes to the soil, there is nothing better than adding organic matter before growing season starts, during the season along rows and between rows and after the season ends. Work in the organic matter and your garden will reward you with better, higher-yielding plants. Organic matter in the form of compost improves soil structure, aids in your plants’ water and nutrient uptake and reduces the incidence of disease.
Dan Blake, Co-founder, CEO