Last Updated on July 25, 2020 by Milo Martinovich
Organic gardening is a highly rewarding experience. You, as the grower, become responsible for producing what could amount to a large percentage of the daily diet for you and your family. That’s why starting can seem so daunting. Luckily, I’ve put together 7 organic gardening tips that can help even a complete beginner get their garden off to a strong start!
#1 – Grow For Your Zone
You can’t grow everything everywhere. There are different climates with different temperature ranges, sun exposures, and seasonal fluctuations. That’s why there are separate growing zones. Knowing your growing zone allows the gardener to know exactly what crops will work best for their climate.
You can find out what zone you live in with the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone tool.
Armed with this information you can start to plan out your seasonal schedules for planting various crops. The most important information is when your first and last frosts are in your area. This is imperative to organic gardening because frost tends to be a killer to the majority of plants. You have to get plants in the ground early enough to harvest before the first frosts kill them off. Also, in the Spring you have to get your plants in the ground when the soil is sufficiently warm enough to allow for proper development.
Growing crops intended for a zone that you aren’t currently in is setting yourself up for failure. Tons of crops grow in multiple zones. There is also a multitude of varieties of each crop that can flourish in whichever zone you may live in.
#2 – ABC – Always Be Composting
Out of all the organic gardening tips I could give you, this is the most important. You need to be composting from day one!
It doesn’t matter whether or not you have a fancy compost tumbler, or you just have a pile going on in the corner of your yard. You will need all the high-quality organic matter you can get to maximize your garden production.
Composting isn’t rocket science, although it may seem that way with all the information out there about using the proper carbon to nitrogen ratios. What matters though is that you get started composting. Regardless of your C:N ratio, organic materials will compost. Some materials may decay slower, but they will eventually turn into an awesome, nutrient-rich soil amendment.
This article isn’t big enough to go over all that composting is and has to offer. But, you can check out the information that the EPA has about composting to get a basic idea of why it’s beneficial for your garden and the world as a whole!
#3 – Don’t Forget About Perennials
Yes, tomatoes and melons are great to grow. But these crops are annuals. This means that they have to be replanted every year. Instead of focusing solely on these types of crops, it’s important to get your perennials started as early as possible.
Perennials are a plant-once, produce for years type of crop. Think of fruit trees as the epitome of a perennial garden crop. While it may take a few years for production to ramp up, you will have unlimited harvests for years to come.
Perennials rely on your USDA growing zone even more than annuals, because their entire life cycle depends on frost dates and chill hours. Luckily, most local nurseries only stock items that are suited for growing in the area, so finding a quality source for fruit and nut trees typically isn’t very difficult.
Trees aren’t the only perennials to plant in your garden though. You can also plant things like Asparagus, Jerusalem Artichokes, and Strawberries.
#4 – Build Soil Health
One of the most important organic gardening tips is to always be building a healthy soil profile. While tilling may seem organic enough, it disrupts organic life in the soil itself. This leads to unhealthy soils that don’t produce as much yield in organic gardens.
The soil’s bacteria population must be kept healthy. The earthworm populations must be well nourished and thrive in your garden soil. Pests must be taken care of in the proper way to avoid hurting soil health in the process.
Composting is one of the main ways to ensure that your soil stays healthy. But, others are quite effective as well.
Crop rotation is a great way to boost soil health and fertility. It allows growing sites to rest from demands put on by specific crops, while still allowing a different crop to flourish there.
Another good tactic is to use cover crops when beds are not in use. Nitrogen-fixing crops, like clover, are great to introduce more natural nitrogen to the soil profile, which will feed future crops in the bed.
Last, but not least, is getting your soil tested and finding out what nutrients are missing and if it needs any balancing in terms of its PH level. Adding organic amendments to your natural soil will make it even better, especially when your soil is deficient in something that crops need to thrive.
#5 – Block Weeds With The Right Materials
I’ve seen a lot of organic gardeners put plastic down as a weed block. They think that this material is the better choice over weed killers since plastic doesn’t leach into the soil as weed killers do.
Unfortunately, this is completely false. Plastic readily leaches into the soil and even finds its way into plants and into your fruits and vegetables that are produced (source)!
Microplastics are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, which is why it’s so important to avoid using plastic in your organic garden as much as possible. That means avoiding plastic planters and plastic weed blockers.
Instead, you should go with a natural weed block, like recycled paper. Paper readily breaks down into compost over time, but easily lasts a growing season when used as a traditional weed barrier. Simply get a roll of recycled paper, like packing paper, and roll it the length of your planting bed. Just like a weed barrier, you can pop holes in the paper where you want to place your crops and cover it lightly with soil or compost.
I use this method and will never use another method of blocking weeds. It works and is great for your soil!
#6 – Water Correctly
A lot of diseases and pest pressure can be caused by improper watering conditions. You don’t want your soil to be soaked all the time as it invites the growth of bacteria and mold. You also don’t want your vegetation to be soaked all the time for the same reasons.
That’s why it’s best to water at ground level instead of overhead. While foliar feeding has its place, it shouldn’t be the main way you irrigate your garden. Instead, installing a drip system is simple and effective.
Avoiding watering in the heat of the day. Instead, opt for early morning or early evening.
While it would make life easier, not every plant in your garden will want or need, the same amount of water. Differences in water uptake between crop varieties, soil drainage and texture, and other factors come into play when finding the watering needs of a specific plant.
That’s why it’s best to plant all of the same varieties together in one bed on one drip system. That way, each bed can be watered differently when needed.
#7 – Use High-Quality Organic Nutrients
It’s easy to just utilize compost and think your garden is good to go. But, if you are looking for maximum production, you might need to invest in some organic fertilizers as well. Things like compost tea, manure tea, and pre-made organic fertilizers are great to boost yields and will even feed your soil at the same time.
Of all the organic gardening tips, this one is still skipped over by even the most experienced growers. Fertilizers work well when compost is spent and crops are large. Getting high-quality nutrients to large crops that have been growing for months in the same soil is imperative to a productive season.
There are a ton of different options when it comes to organic fertilizers, so I won’t go into detail about which to pick. However, I will put out an article on the topic in the future.
Want More Organic Gardening Tips?
These 7 tips will take your organic garden a long way. These are the most important things to focus on, and you may not need much more for great production and healthy soil.
But, everyone has a different gardening situation, so other tips may be useful. Do you know of any? Let me know with a comment below. Also, don’t forget to share this with your friends and family so they can reap the benefits of organic gardening as well!