Growing your own healthy, nutritious organic produce has never been easier, but it can be intimidating to get started. Introductions to organic gardening begin with long discussions of soil composition, compost piles, seed starting and pest management. These are all components of successful, long-term organic gardening practices. But for the novice gardener, a few basic principles will get you started.
Organic gardening is simply growing plants without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Achieving this goal requires knowledge as well as products. Instead of reaching first for a chemical to solve problems, organic gardeners employ solutions that are kind to the environment and produce the best edibles possible.
Organic gardening features three main components: soil, plants and problem-solvers. There are other important steps, of course, like making sure the site gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sun each day and is close to a water source. If you’re new to vegetable gardening, review the basics of site selection and planting vegetables.
3 Principles of Organic Gardening:
1. Soil. Ideal garden soil is rich in humus and has a texture described as loamy. But what does that mean? Humus is a five-dollar word for organic matter, the foundation for feeding plant roots.
Loam is composed of sand, silt and clay. With the correct proportions, these ingredients provide the right kind of drainage for your garden. Too much clay and the water has nowhere to go; too much sand and it drains away too quickly. A friable, loamy soil holds water long enough for the plants to drink without waterlogging them.
You can achieve this type of soil through years of testing, composting and amending. Or you can start with organic gardening soil like Nature’s Care Organic Garden Soil. Nature’s Care soil products are made with sphagnum peat moss and coconut coir for drainage, poultry litter and compost for nutrition, and bark fines and perlite to make pathways for oxygen to reach plant roots. And if you’re shopping local, know that Nature’s Care soil products are regionally sourced and shipped, so chances are, the soil you buy was manufactured nearby.
Tip: For gardening success in small spaces, pick up potting mix specially formulated for containers. These products have larger amounts of peat and other ingredients that hold onto water in quick-draining containers.
2. Seeds and seedlings. As exciting as soil is, the real fun begins when you select plants to grow in your edible garden. Organic gardeners used to rely on seeds, seed saving and heirloom seeds from fellow gardeners. Bonnie Plants organic seedlings, however, are now available throughout the country in the Garden Center.
Look for these organic Bonnie Plants vegetables and herbs and more in your local Garden Center:
- Better Boy, Braveheart and Better Bush tomatoes
- Bonnie Green Bell peppers
- Jalapeno peppers
- Sweet Banana peppers
- Sweet Basil
- Flat Parsley
Look for Bonnie organics in the green trays in the Garden Center. Select Bonnie edibles can be ordered from homedepot.com and will ship directly from the growing station to your home.
Tip: Be sure and get your seedlings in the ground as soon after purchase as possible, even if the weather is still chilly. Use row covers or other frost protection if you live in an area with late-season frosts.
You don’t have to plant seedlings alone. Many gardeners have a mix of seeds and seedlings to start their gardens. There’s a large selection of organic seeds in the Garden Center and all seeds sold at The Home Depot are non-GMO. Get started with seed sowing.
3. Solutions. The third key component of organic gardening is problem-solving. There are effective organic treatments for garden pests, diseases and weeds.
Weeds. They compete with your crops for sunlight, food and water. Weeds provide homes for insects and diseases that can spread to your crops. The earlier in the season you get a handle on weeds, the easier it will be come high summer.
To get a handle on weeds, the gardener’s best defense is a good offense. That is, build up healthy garden beds, cultivate good gardening habits, and weeds will become less of a problem over time. A 3-inch layer of organic mulch such as straw or composted leaves will keep down weeds, retain moisture and allow oxygen to reach the roots of your plants so they can grow strong.
Pests. One of the best ways to deter unwanted pests is to invite beneficial insects. Ladybugs, lacewings, butterflies, bees and dragonflies are vital to an organic garden. Learn more about beneficial insects like ladybugs and dragonflies.
Bad bugs like aphids, spider mites, caterpillars, slugs and snails are unwelcome. Organic controls like Bt, Neem oil and insecticidal soap are effective. A good shot of water from the hose can knock bad bugs off of your prized plants. Read our post to pick up more organic pest management tips.
As your garden grows and you increase your knowledge of organic gardening, you’ll find that a journal of your experiences, whether digital or handwritten, will help you learn from your garden. Recording garden designs, planting dates, weather, pests and how you managed them and events like harvest dates will aid you as you plan your next organic garden.