How To Start An Organic Garden
We are in the season of spring and it’s a perfect time to pick up gardening as a new hobby, especially with everyone at home practicing social distancing.
full disclosure: I know next to nothing about gardening. but, my hubby, dean knows almost everything! so I’ve picked his brain to bring you some easy, applicable tips.
First things first. SOIL. Let’s talk about how to get healthy soil because healthy crops grow in fertile soils. Kinda like humans, I am right? You can find organic soil at your local nursery or online like this smaller bag from Dr. Earth or this larger 12-quart bag from Fox Farm.
Raised bed dimensions
If you’re just starting a garden for the first time my hubby recommends starting small! A small garden box will be easier to manage so you’re less likely to get overwhelmed and give up, and there is less chance of injuring yourself by leaning over a huge box! A garden box that is somewhere around two feet by four feet and about a foot high is a great starting point; it seems small but it can still be a lot to manage. You can even start in garden pots if you have a small yard. I’m obsessed with these super cute geometric ceramic pots.
What are the best veggies to grow?
Grow things that you eat often so you’re motivated to get out there and enjoy the fruit of your labor! Right now (springtime) is a great time to grow things that “fruit” like peppers, eggplant tomato, zucchini! Your local garden shop or nursery will have organic seeds that are in season.
How to improve garden soil quality
Ok back to the soil, it’s a good idea to give your soil some shelter with mulch. We often use leaves, sticks, grass clippings, and any green “waste” that might otherwise go in the trash to gently spread over the top layer of our soil. It gives the soil some nice cover while still allowing for air to flow through under it. Make sure you use things that won’t take root and become weeds that can compete with your fruit or veg. Having a mulch cover is important so the soil doesn’t dry out and kill the good bacteria that are needed for soil health.
Don’t disturb your soil by churning it up too much. It’s ok to aerate it a bit on top but digging it up too much can dry out the lower layer that might be nutrient-dense, it can stir up dormant weed seeds and kill off worms and other bugs that are contributing to the soil health.
If you really want to work long-term, legume crops like fava beans, red clover, and field peas will give back by providing the soil with a ton of nitrogen that’s essential for plant growth via photosynthesis. These are best planted in the spring so if you’re starting a garden now you can start with these then rotate crops this fall to give back to your soil. They are also really effective at keeping weeds at bay. One year we planted a ton of fava beans, and while they are a little labor-intensive to cook them they made some killer hummus!
Most importantly, avoid chemicals. Even if you spray your grass lawn with herbicides or pesticides it can mix with your garden when you water or when it rains so avoid using them if you can. If you can’t avoid it (perhaps you live in a communal area with shared outdoor space like a condo or apartment and you are not able to change those factors) then try to plant your garden in an area with the most distance from where the chemicals are sprayed.
Happy gardening! For more gardening and instatips and tricks follow us on Instagram @cafeoflifesd