There is a wealth of information available on Organic Gardening. For the novice organic gardener it can feel a bit overwhelming. We’re going to break it down into some basic ideas, beginning by looking at the soil ecosystem. Hopefully, you can begin to explore these ideas in your garden this season if that’s something you’re looking forward to trying.
And if you need any motivation to start your garden in harmony with nature, take a look at this year’s list of produce with the highest levels of pesticide residue. Strawberries top the list this year. But the strawberries in our garden are already beginning to flower! And we know they’re clean and nutritious. That feels awesome.
For the novice organic gardener, the basics can be summed up into this simple but profound idea: In a nutshell, organic gardening is about working in harmony with nature by getting to know the ecosystem that exists in the soil.
Question: Is organic gardening all about growing without chemical fertilizers or GMO seeds?
Answer: Organic gardening is often defined by what we don’t use. But really, it’s about what we do use to feed, nourish, and care for the soil ecosystem. Just like in 4th grade Science!
Here are 7 Beginner Ideas on the Soil Ecosystem
Idea 1: When we eliminate chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides that’s a great first step, but the fundamental basis of growing organically is about getting to know how the ecosystem of your garden works. And that ecosystem exists largely within the soil.
Idea 2: Consider that it’s not actually about feeding the plants, but about feeding the soil. When we get to know the needs of our soil we can provide for the soil, and out of that our plants will flourish.
Idea 3: Think of soil as its own unique ecosystem: It contains beneficial insects, invertebrates, bacteria and fungi, all of which contribute to the health, longevity, and productivity of your plants.
Idea 4: The chemical fertilizers that conventional gardeners use provide a few specific nutrients in a form that plants take up immediately. They make plants grow quickly but don’t necessarily make them grow strong and healthy, because fast-growing leaves and stems are more vulnerable, and are actually more susceptible to pests!
Idea 5: Organic matter is a hugely important aspect of organic gardening. And it’s not as complicated as it sounds. The best way to add organic matter to your soil is by using compost.
Idea 6: The organic matter (compost) that you add to the soil gives it structure, acting like binding agents that help soil stick together into clumps that help the soil stay moist. It also helps clay soils drain better by sticking tiny particles together to create larger ones creating a more porous soil.
Idea 7: The second really important thing organic matter does for your soil is that it makes it really fertile through the processes of micro-organisms as they interact with your compost. The organic matter is broken down by these micro-organisms, which include beneficial bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and beneficial nematodes. They then excrete nutrients in a form that plants can use! How cool is that? Earthworms, beetles, and other creatures also eat organic matter and tunnel through the soil, creating beneficial air spaces and excreting nutrients. Get to know these little critters as friends to your organic garden!
As you can see, getting to know the ecosystem of the soil and nourishing that ecosystem is a great place to start! And the most amazing part about it is that nature takes care of all of these miraculous processes. You just have to get them going by introducing compost to your garden and spending some time getting to know the ecosystem of your soil so that you can support these natural processes in the best way you can.
Stay tuned for more Organic Gardening “How-Tos” and “Tips” to help you enjoy your organic garden to the fullest.
We’d also love to hear from you! Many of our readers are organic gardeners and may have some helpful tips and thoughts to share, or questions you’d like us to research for you. We’d be happy to! Please share in the comments below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Check out this helpful resource on organic gardening to help you get started.