Grow vegetables in your own chemical-free organic garden (here’s how)
‘Tis the season for growing vegetables and cooking hearty soup to enjoy with fresh warm bread rolls and creamy indulgent butter.
The tastiest vegetables are all winter growers, if you have been following our posts lately, you’ll already know this. If you’re still trying to scrape together the motivation to get your hands dirty when it’s so cold outside, we’ve come with inspiration. We challenge you to join us in starting an organic garden (with a little help from Pokon’s fantastic organic fertilisers).
The beauty of an organic garden
If you’ve ever walked through someone else’s gorgeous organic garden of fresh vegetables you’ll know all about that ‘green with envy’ feeling. It seems as though they’re harvesting more than they’re planting and the maintenance? Is the garden just taking care of itself? It’s super frustrating when you can’t seem to achieve the same success at home.
So, what does it take to grow an organic garden that yields abundantly and (mostly) self-maintains?
It turns out, there is an actual recipe for success. We draw from a few organic gardening principles to cover our bases:
Soil health is paramount in an organic garden
Why does soil health matter? Soil sustains your plants. The soil is a complex medium, you could call it an organ.
It’s full of microbes, tiny little life forms that convert organic waste to absorbable plant nutrients. Much like the microbes (better known as probiotics) in the human gut help us to break down our food during the digestive process so that we can absorb the nutrients. Without those microbes, we get gut issues.
For plants to thrive, they need the right balance of microbes in the soil. How can you encourage healthy soil microbes? Feed the microbes! This is what they eat:
- Compost - Compost is what you’re left with once the soil’s microbes have broken down organic matter, like food scraps and manure. You can buy compost and add it to your beds but it’s a great idea to make your own.
Instead of simply supplying nutrients to your plants, you want the soil to become vastly fertile. The microbes need to have created that compost in order for them to have eaten (and thrived). Once you establish a good microbial balance in the soil, you won’t need to keep adding compost so often. That said, whenever you are planting new crops or plants, add some organic fertiliser to get them started - it’s a much-needed headstart for them. Read on to learn how to create fertile soil.
- Mulch - We all know mulch. The combination of dry leaves and hay we place around our plants’ roots serves a bigger purpose than simply regulating water evaporation. Hay is a fantastic food for soil microbes. It prevents weeds from popping up and over time, it breaks down and feeds the microbes in the soil.
You can assist this process by cutting your hay into smaller pieces and strewing it over the soil beneath the larger chunkier mulch material. Mulch can also provide shelter to smaller seedlings, keeping them safe from winds and maintaining good soil temperature.
Organic pest control remedies
This is where most people deviate from organic gardening, understandably. When you’re treating flowers and flower bulbs, pesticides are more effective and faster. But when it comes to crops you wish to harvest and eat, you can consider alternative methods to deter pests.
Chrysanthemum flower tea is a powerful insecticide (thanks to a compound called pyrethrum), which affects the nervous system of insects, rendering them immobile. Simply boil 100 grams of flowers in a litre of water. Leave it to steep and cool before spraying it on your vegetables.
Alternatively, there is also a tobacco mixture to control pests. Mix one cup of raw tobacco with 3 litres of water and allow it to soak overnight. In the morning, the mixture can be sprayed on your crops.
*Note: The tobacco tea is not suitable for tomatoes, brinjals, peppers or any members of the solanaceous family.
How to plan your organic garden layout
Let’s talk about the best way to layout your beds. You want to consider both the most-effective layout for water distribution, while you simplify the way in which you can identify what you’re growing and how you will harvest your produce. Drawing from the principles laid out by Bill Mollison, the founder of the permaculture movement, you should plan your organic garden around the natural contours of the property.
Instead of the cute little vegetable patch we all pictured, Bill suggests we find an incline and build our beds in a necklace shape around the hill. This will help to build a water table under the hill, ensuring there is a steady supply of water throughout the year. Naturally, we don’t all have inclines in our gardens, so it’s really an individual choice at the end of the day.
In terms of harvesting, a double-reach bed will ensure you can pick your vegetables without an uncomfortable stretch or stepping into your garden bed.
Planting companions for healthier soil
Companion planting is a method that allows plants to reach their maximum potential by planting them near other species that complement their growth.
For example, crops like potatoes and tomatoes are heavy feeders - they pull lots of nitrogen from the soil. You could simply replenish the nitrogen, but it’s easier to plant crops near your heavy feeders which naturally replenish nitrogen levels - like legumes.
Crops like beans, peas, soy, and peanuts deposit a wealth of absorbable nitrogen into the soil. A popular concept is the three sisters; beans, pumpkins, and corn planted together. Each crop replaces what the other has pulled from the soil. Thus, your soil remains fertile year after year. In fact, your soil improves over time. This requires no work and no budget from you, all you have to do is turn up and harvest your crops.
Pokon’s newest range of fertilisers offer an organic solution if you need to get plants into the ground and thriving instantly. Pokon is one of the most reputable manufacturers on the market, so these products come highly recommended. We suggest you explore all their options, here.