Go Organic and Dig Deep!

Go Organic and Dig Deep!


Most people wonder why organic food at local stores is so expensive. Some of you also may wonder what exactly organic gardening is. Organic gardening is the type of gardening where gardeners don’t use any synthetic  fertilizers or pesticides on the plants. Just because you don’t use any of these products, it doesn’t mean that you can just leave your plants to fend for themselves. There are plenty of other tools to boost plant health and ward off any pests. Because of organic food being a little more expensive than your standard genetically-modified food, we always almost end up buying the latter. So, instead of buying expensive organic vegetables in stores, you can simply make your own organic garden.
Organic gardening requires adding organic matter to the soil at regular intervals, usually using locally-grown resources. Most of us are typically oblivious to the raw ingredients that make up organic matter. Decaying grass clippings, fall leaves in your garden and vegetable scraps found in your kitchen are the building blocks of compost which is the basic organic matter for your garden soil. By adding compost to your soil, you’re well on your way to creating a beautifully-grown organic garden. An important factor here is to choose your plants wisely, plants that are best suited to your site. Plants that are better suited to the climate in which they’re being grown require little attention. Plants that are not right for the site will require a lot of attention in order for their natural defenses to be working properly.


In this day and age, organic gardening in not a very complex phenomenon. Most of us, at some point in our lives, have planted a seed or two in a cup of dirt, watered it enthusiastically and watched it grow into something truly awe-inspiring. Creating a garden that is home to fresh vegetables and flowers can be difficult for someone who has never had a chance at gardening.


As for me, ever since I was a little girl, I was surrounded by a big beautiful garden. My parents have always been gardening enthusiasts, and I grew up watching them grow a big, beautiful green garden in the front yard. One of my fondest memories is excitedly joining my mother in picking tomatoes ripe enough to be used in cooking or fresh mint leaves for hot and cold drinks such as green tea or lemonades. I’m going to discuss with you some basics of organic gardening that I have learned over the years.



So roll up your sleeves, put on a pair of your finest gardening shorts and let’s go green.



Preparing your Soil:


In order for your organic garden to succeed, you’re going to have to make sure that the soul is perfectly conditioned. We are what we eat, and in order for us to be healthy, we have to have our daily dose of nutrition. Similarly, plants need fresh nutrients in the form of soil. Chemical soil does not only seep into our food, but it also harms the good (beneficial) bacteria and microbes and worms in the soil.


Your soil needs plenty of humus, which is an organic component. Not to be confused with hummus (which couldn’t possibly go well), which is a popular and delicious Middle-eastern appetizer, humus is a long-lasting remnant of decaying organic material that improves soil structure and increases water retention. Humus can be mixed in compost, leaves and grass clippings/manure.


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Making Compost:


As discussed, your organic garden could benefit greatly from compost. Compost will feed your plants and help you conserve water by cutting down on weeds. Think of it as a conditioner to your soil. The great thing about compost is that you can make your own, for free!


You can chop fallen leaves and shred them by running the lawn mower over them. The key here is, the smaller, the better. From fall leaves to veggie scraps in your kitchen, just chop the materials as finely as possible right before mixing them into the pile of compost. Ingredients such as hay and leaves, which are carbon-rich and vegetable scraps and glass clippings, which are nitrogen-rich, make for excellent compost. The most important thing to do here is to make sure the pile of compost is evenly moist, but not dripping-wet. More like a damp sponge that needs water every now and then. Since we live in dry conditions, it’s best to keep adding water as and when required. Just make sure it’s not too moist or too dry.


Choosing the Right Plants:


It is imperative that you pick out plants that will be well-exposed to proper light, drainage, moisture and soil quality. Look for plants that have been raised without any chemical pesticides. You can either use the mother plant or simply use the seed. Most things are best grown from seed like sunflowers, coriander, mint, sweet peas and cucumbers.


When you’re harvesting vegetables, plants should be properly grouped together tightly in beds that can’t be walked on. Grouping reduces water waste and weeding while helping you get compost and nutrients. Path maintenance results in healthy soil while enough space between the rows helps promote air circulation in the repelling fungal attacks.


Watering your Plants:


Now this was always a bit of a riddle. I often wondered to myself exactly what it was with my mom and her morning-watering-the-plants-sessions. So I decided to ask her, and her answers were more than satisfactory. Mornings are mostly cool with no hint of strong winds, she says, especially in this part of the world and water is not reduced due to evaporation. Watering plants in the evening makes them stay damp over night, which would make them more prone to damage by fungal diseases.


Your aim should be to water the roots, or simply water the bases of your plants by hand. The feeling is wonderful.



Avoiding Weeds:


This is a true dilemma of gardening. Weeds will grow inevitably, whether we like it or not. The best way, and the hardest, is to pull weeds by hand. Weeds often grow back, and in random locations because sometimes they are not effectively removed. You need to remove them with their roots, and weeds with shallow roots can be held by the stem and pulled on gently. That way, the weed pulls out along with its roots. A small garden hoe can be used to dig in the soil around the stem to loosen the soil around weeds with deeper roots. After digging around the soil with your hoe, grab the stem of the weed and with a very firm grasp, pull. It may take several attempts before you are able to pull out the entire root successfully, just keep digging deeper.
Sounds a lot like hard work and exercise, and it is! However, a little exercise never hurt anyone. So you’re getting a good work-out and making your organic garden stay beautiful at once.



Protecting the Plants Without Toxic Products:


First of all, you need to make that your plants are getting enough moisture and plenty of light. There are plenty of insects that can be beneficial to your garden, such as lady bugs. Lady bugs, frogs, lizards, earthworms and toads are all natural predators that are capable of fending off any kind of pests and insects, by sticking their tongues out, obviously. Leaving a source of water out in a cup to attract friendly predators is a very good idea. Row covers or nets are also good to safeguard your garden from insects. Growing plants with blossoms such as sweet alyssum can attract predatory insects and help you keep those pests away from your garden. Hot pepper sprays are probably not such a bad idea, either.

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Harvesting the Fruits of your Hard-earned Labor:


Check your garden everyday for herbs and only pick them right before you need them. The most flavor they have, especially if you plan on drying and storing them, is when they’re just about to flower. When you harvest leafy greens, it’s best to pick from the entire crop periodically. Little of each as you go. It is best to cut-produce off with a sharp tool, or scissors, as opposed to ripping them with your fingers which typically results in damage to the plant tissue.

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Fresh Mint from my Organic Garden


Organic gardening has been found to be extremely nutritious, as organically-grown food has more minerals than synthetic-pesticides-sprayed food, not to forget, these are cancer-causing pesticides we’re talking about. I mean, there is a perfectly good explanation as to why most chefs around the world are now using organic foods in their recipes. Growing your own food will finally help you cut down on the cost of your skyrocketing grocery bills. Not only are you keeping your health in check, but also beautifying the community by growing beautiful, fresh organic gardens.



By:      Sydra Malik