10 Tips for Growing an Organic Vegetable Garden
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 Growing 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
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
1. Prepare the soil before planting.
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 for your region and conditions.
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 in or near the garden to attract bees and other 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 organic 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 egg shells and coffee grounds.
Seed Savers Exchange is a great resource for anyone looking for heirloom vegetable seeds.
5. Purchase seeds or starter plants 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 when possible.
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.
7. Use companion planting principles in your garden.
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 to extend the growing season.
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.
Marigolds are great companions
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 disease by keeping the plant leaves and vegetables off the ground.
10. Rotate crops from year to year.
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 in your home vegetable, and avoid planting vegetables in the same spots from year to year.