Organic gardening can help ward off water pollution, runoff, and soil contamination without the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. While it requires some work, those first few harvests will be well worth it, and you'd be surprised how much time and effort organic methods can save in the long run.
With a few handy tricks, take hours off digging and weeding, reduce chemical use, and save money in the process — all while aiding our earth.
Your hardiness zone, that is. The USDA assigns hardiness zones to every region in the U.S., identifying distinct climate conditions, soil factors, and frost dates that inform you which plants are best to grow, and when. The more you familiarize yourself with your hardiness zone, the more likely every species in your garden will flourish.
Soil is a key element to healthy growth, and it makes the difference between thriving plants and wilted, fading flowers. By recycling organic matter such as food scraps and leaves, you'll wind up with an affordable, nutrient-rich fertilizer that enriches soil deep down to the roots. This not only improves feeding for every plant in your garden, but it boosts soil quality overall, making it a must-have step in organic gardening.
To make the most of your supply, spread compost during autumn and cover it with winter mulch; this helps it penetrate deeper during the frigid season so it's ready to go come springtime. Regardless of when you compost, an annual layer is all you need for most perennials, while other species require a mid-season touch-up.
While keeping an eye on frost dates is vital, it's also important to look deeper, at the soil itself. Regardless of frost date, if your soil is still wet, plants aren't going to thrive. Wait until soil dries further; it should crumble in your hand and easily accept water without retaining too much moisture. Too dry isn't ideal either, so aim for a happy medium. If you plant before it's ready, you could damage both the crop and the soil structure itself.
Weeds are a gardener's worst nightmare, but contrary to popular belief, they don't require hefty chemicals or hours of digging to remove. Make an all-natural weed killer at home by mixing salt and vinegar together and pouring it over weeds before they sprout. Use mulch to smother the top layer and allow the solution to penetrate deeper into the soil.
Another option? Organic weed killer brands with ingredients like fatty acids and potassium salts. These can work wonders on larger weed populations, often revealing results within just a few hours.
Most plants require at least an inch of water every week. A drip system helps roots grow deeper, resulting in fuller, healthier plants. If you want to conserve water, however, use the extra leftover from cooking, especially from fruits and vegetables. If it's doable, you can even wash your veggies outside. Some gardeners go a step further and dilute their urine as fertilizer, but that's not for everyone.
Keep in mind, however, that underwatering is better than overwatering. You can't dry out soaked roots, but you can revive dry ones. Aim for an early AM watering schedule to reduce moisture loss from the sun.
Want to speed up germination? For eager gardeners, this easy method offers adequate moisture to get the process rolling. Place seeds in the middle of a damp towel, folding over the right third of the towel, then the left. Place each folded layer on top of the other, with the bottom third completing the package. Place the final product in a plastic bag, and watch as seeds slowly start sprouting.
Pruning does a lot for your plants: it boosts growth, improves health, and increases flower production, amping up aesthetics. Snip off dead branches and blooms for shrubs in early spring, but wait until after flowering to trim down perennials. Once flowers start fading, regular trimming is fine, as it actually encourages the production process.
Organic insecticides are a necessity for any garden, but use them cautiously. Properly nurturing the soil, pruning, and spacing out plants can reduce your insecticide usage.
Diatomaceous earth is a white powder that's easy to sprinkle over your garden; this powerful agent damages insects' skin and joints, helping keep them at bay. Neem oil is a natural option that targets both insects and diseases, making it a must-have for any organic gardener.
Eggshells can work magic for your garden. Poke a hole in the bottom of a shell, and use half to start sprouting seedlings. Crushed shells also make an excellent addition to your compost pile, especially for vegetables with low calcium content. Take your last breakfast batch and toss them right in.
Soda bottles might sound like an odd gardening supply, but you'd be surprised at just how much they can do. By cutting the top off a large soda bottle, you can craft an instant mini greenhouse for small plants, effectively shielding them from the elements while improving growing conditions.
Another trick? Poke holes into a soda bottle and plant it around fruit or vegetable crops, leaving the opening above ground. If raindrops are few and far between, pour water into the open top for a convenient, easy-to-use drip feeder.