In recent years, "organic" has become less of a buzzword and more of a mainstream term. The same goes for organic gardening, which is easier today than ever. With a bit of planning and some minor extra considerations, you'll have a productive organic garden full of edible produce to supply you and your family all season long, plus decorative plants to enjoy while running around with your family outdoors.
Growing food organically means you can reap the nutritional benefits—and tasty flavor—of your fresh veggies, fruits, and herbs without the worry of your food soaking up chemicals. Plus, it's beneficial to the environment—chemicals can harm some of the critters you want in your garden, like pollinators and other insects that keep away harmful pests.
What You Should Plant Organically
You can grow anything organically, but if you have to be selective about what you plant due to space, focus on fruits and veggies with thin skins. These are best grown organically as they soak up whatever they're covered in—and since you're not using pesticides or synthetic fertilizers in your garden, there's no chance of letting chemicals seep into your food. Consider growing the following in your organic garden:
- Salad greens
Start with Healthy Soil
Work compost, manure, or peat moss into your soil to supply the nutrients that your plants need to grow strong. You can purchase this organic matter at our store in Bettendorf (we have curbside pickup available), or you can even start your own compost pile in your yard to use in the future. We recommend Bioflora compost made from composted vegetable scraps and its OMRI listed for organic gardening. To help reduce weed growth in your garden, spread a few inches of mulch on top of the soil.
Feed Your Plants Organically
Skip chemical fertilizers and instead opt for organic fertilizers made from biodegradable and environmentally-friendly materials. Using organic fertilizers not only helps your plants grow this season, but it also promotes healthy soil for years to come. We recommend compost from your own bin or organic fertilizers like Tomato Tone from Espoma.
Control Pests and Diseases the Natural Way
Though turning to pesticides and chemicals may seem like the easy way to keep harmful pests and diseases at bay, it's not the safest way, since it can affect the health of the soil and hurt some of the helpful insects you want in your yard. Plus, using chemicals isn't even necessarily the easiest way to target pest and disease problems in your garden! Use copper wire tape, traps, and fabric row covers to keep pests out, and pick off any bugs by hand (wear gloves if it makes you feel more comfortable), then dispose of them far away from your garden. Often, insects spread disease as they move from plant to plant, so be sure to check your garden for weeds every day.
Regularly Rotate Crops
Closely-related plants have a better chance of being affected by the same diseases. To reduce the risk of infection, rotate crops to different areas of your garden. This also avoids depleting the soil of nutrients. Every year or two, change where you grow specific crops and crops within the same family—for example, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes are in the same family, while squash, pumpkin, and cucumber are in another, so avoid planting tomatoes where you had potatoes the year before. Going organic doesn't have to be complicated.
With just a few simple tactics, you can grow a healthy, beautiful, and chemical-free garden! Your body, your bank account, and Mother Nature will thank you for it.