Kathy is an avid gardener who loves to grow perennials and vegetables in her zone 5 Ontario gardens.
Grow Your Own Produce
If you're like many people, you may be increasingly concerned about the safety of the foods you are buying at the grocery store. Health concerns over the use of pesticides and genetically modified produce have lead many people to consider growing their own vegetables.
Benefits of an Organic Vegetable Garden
- Easy access to fresh produce
- Improved taste due to freshness and lack of chemicals
- Save money
- Improved nutrition
- Avoid pesticide residue
- Reduce exposure to harmful chemicals
- Does not harm the water table
- Kinder to the environment
- Improves biodiversity
How to Start an Organic Produce Garden
If the idea of growing your own organic vegetables sounds good to you but you're not sure where to start, please read on for 10 tips for growing your own organic vegetable garden. It may be easier than you think to have nutritious and healthy vegetables, free from concerns of pesticide residue.
10 Tips for Growing an Organic Vegetable Garden
- Prepare the soil before planting.
- Choose the right plants for your region and conditions.
- Plant flowers in or near the garden to attract bees and other pollinators.
- Make your own organic compost and mulch.
- Purchase seeds and starter plants from reputable sources.
- Plant heirloom varieties when possible.
- Using companion planting principles in your garden.
- Use raised beds to extend the growing season.
- Use vertical gardening techniques.
- Rotate crops from year to year.
1. Prepare the Soil
While some vegetable plants might be able to survive in poor soil, all plants will grow better and be more productive with rich garden soil containing lots of organic matter. Do yourself a favour, and take the time to work lots of compost and other organic materials into your garden bed before you plant anything. It will pay off more than just about anything else you can do.
2. Choose the Right Plants
Before you plant anything in your garden, do some research to find out which types of vegetables and which varieties are most likely to do well in your growing conditions. You'll want to take growing zones into consideration, as well as the amount of sunlight and rainfall your garden will receive.
Local farmer's markets, other gardeners and staff at local garden centres can often give you some insight into which specific varieties typically do well in your area.
Strong, sturdy plants that are well-suited for your specific growing conditions will require much less watering and babying over the growing season, so it's well worth spending the time to pick your plants wisely.
3. Plant Flowers to Attract Pollinators
Vegetables rely on mother nature to help them along, and pollination is a key factor in the success of your vegetable gardening endeavours. Encourage bees and other pollinators to visit your vegetable plants by planting flowers either in the garden or close by.
4. Make Your Own Compost and Mulch
One of the best things you can do for your vegetable garden is to supply it with lots of organic matter. Compost helps the soil retain moisture, provides a source of nutrients to the plants and the worms and microbes that help improve the soil.
It's easy to make your own garden compost by piling up a mixture of leaves and garden clippings, grass clippings, and other organic household waste such as eggshells and coffee grounds.
5. Purchase Seeds or Starters From Reputable Sources
Always ensure you are purchasing certified organic seeds or starter plants that were raised without the use of pesticides or chemicals. Many nurseries and seed catalogues do have certified organic selections. Local farmers' markets can also be a great source of organic seeds and starter plants for your vegetable garden.
6. Plant Heirloom Varieties
Heirloom vegetables are the old-fashioned varieties that have been around for much longer than all of the current hybrid varieties that were bred to be more disease-resistant or longer-lasting. They have many advantages over modern hybrid varieties, including exceptional taste, more nutrition and the fact that they are often cheaper. Another benefit is you can save your seeds from this year's crop of heirloom vegetables to grow plants next year, something you cannot do with hybrid varieties.
Tip: The Seed Savers Exchange is a great resource for anyone looking for heirloom vegetable seeds.
7. Use Companion Planting Principles
In nature, certain plant combinations work particularly well together. Planting compatible flowers, herbs or other vegetables with different vegetables can help increase yields, deter insects, minimize disease and even improve the flavour of your vegetables. There are also a few combinations that are best to avoid.
Read this article on companion planting to learn more about how to use this method in your vegetable garden.
8. Use Raised Beds
Building raised beds is a great way to provide your vegetables with rich organic soil to grow and can extend the growing season significantly. The soil in raised beds will warm up earlier in the spring, and will certainly make it easier to weed and harvest than bending down to the ground. Just be careful not to use any chemically treated wood such as pressure-treated wood to build the sides of your raised bed.
9. Use Vertical Gardening Techniques
If you have a small area for your garden, consider using some vertical gardening techniques to maximize your space. By using trellises, cages, string, and other supports to train certain vegetables to grow up, instead of out, you have more room to plant other vegetables.
Another advantage of vertical gardening methods is improved circulation, which can help prevent mildew and other diseases by keeping the plant leaves and vegetables off the ground.
10. Rotate Crops
Crop rotation is a common technique among farmers, as it helps to reduce pest and disease problems and avoids depleting the soil of certain nutrients. It is wise to practice this same principle with your home vegetables, and you should avoid planting vegetables in the same spots from year to year.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Kathy Sima
Levertis Steele from Southern Clime on March 23, 2014:
savingkathy, you advised, "3. Plant flowers in or near the garden to attract bees and other pollinators."
I bought flower seeds to plant near my beds for two reasons: to beautify and to provide companions. I did not think about attracting pollinators. Thanks for a fantastic idea and a very helpful hub!
Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 19, 2013:
You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by!
titi6601 on March 14, 2013:
Thank you for the tips and thanks for sharing.
Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on March 01, 2013:
Thank you Jack and Jill (funny coincidence you both commenting around the same time!) I really appreciate the comments and the pinning.
Jill Spencer from United States on February 28, 2013:
Excellent tips & well written. I've passed it on via Pinterest. Enjoyed it!
Kathy Sima (author) from Ontario, Canada on February 28, 2013:
Thanks Bill! I appreciate that. :)
I'm glad you found them helpful caseymel. My garden is always a work-in-progress - there's so much to learn! Thanks for the visit and comments.
Melanie Casey from Indiana on February 27, 2013:
Great tips! I am always looking for gardening tips! It seems like every year my vegetables grow better because of tips like these!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on February 27, 2013:
Great suggestions, Kathy! I'll link to my recent gardening hub later today.