Organic Gardening, Take the Panic from Organic

Eating healthy has finally become cool and organic produce is now the rage, but how do you feed your family organically and not bust the family budget wide open? Growing your own is the simple answer; and you don’t have to be a master gardener to do it. So how difficult is organic gardening?

When you google the phrase “organic gardening” you get 16,400,000 results. That alone is enough to confuse and discourage the average wannabe organic gardener from ever sowing their first seed. If you are one of the lucky ones who survived the shock of your initial google search and decided to continue you might have googled “organic garden soil”. This would have brought another 34,300,000 results. Organic fertilizer? Another 4,200,000. So how do you cut through the clutter and confusion? The following few paragraphs will show you just how simple organic gardening can be.

Traditional in-ground gardening can supply plenty of organic vegetables but it also requires a lot of time, space, and back-breaking labor. I quit traditional gardening over 10 years ago because of this. Today, I grow everything in containers. I call it “labor free gardening” because when done correctly there’s very little labor required between planting and harvesting.

The 4 tenets of organic “labor free” gardening.

  1. Container(s)
  2. Growing Medium (soil, aka planting mix)
  1. Organic Fertilizer
  2. Water

Once you’ve selected your container (I usually use 10 or 15 gallon containers), you’ll need a good growing medium. Do not over think this. There’s no need to add 7 or 8 different components to it; you can experiment with this after you’ve become comfortable with your gardening skills. Your growing medium can be something as simple as a bark compost. Most importantly, make sure the growing medium that you use provides good drainage. I always avoid mixtures that have been prefertilized because I want to know exactly what and how much I’m feeding my plants. I also want to know when its time to add more fertilizer, many prefertilized mixtures fail to provide this information. With the proper planting mix there will be no need for rocks or fillers in the bottom of your containers. I want this space for planting mix. Believe me, your tomato plants will thank you for it.

I’ve gotten fantastic results with both a bark compost planting mix and with a medium comprised of coir, perlite, and compost. It’s affordable, easy to mix, and will give several years of outstanding results. My mixtures usually consist of 40% to 80% CoCo Peat (coir), 10% to 20% Perlite, and the rest is another growing medium such as compost.

Next, use a quality, time released organic fertilizer. There are a lot of them on the market and most will do a pretty good job. Avoid using your buddy Jim Bob’s organic fertilizer that he scooped up straight from his horse’s stall. If you forgo this advice, your plants will have lots of weeds to keep them company during those warm spring evenings. I like to use an organic time released afertilizer that has been processed from chicken manure. I like to keep my labor at a minimum in my garden so I fertilize one time only. As suggested by the manufacturers of Mighty Grow, I mix in 2.7 lbs per 10 gallon container at the beginning of the growing season.

One of the biggest questions that most novice gardeners ask is, “How much do I water?” This will depend on your weather. You may go weeks with Mother Nature providing all of the water or you may need to water twice a day during those hot days we’ve grown accustomed to here in the south. I use a watering system for my containers that hooks up to a water hose and is compatible with a water timer. Using the above planting mix, my containers completely hydrate in about 3 minutes.

As you gain experience in organic gardening, you may get as elaborate as you wish but the novice should keep it simple. It took me years before I swallowed my fear and dove head first into organic gardening. I spent months on the internet only to learn that all I needed to know would one day be in a short blog.

Whether you’re a novice or a pro, please feel free to join in on the conversation by commenting below. I’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have and hopefully, some of you might teach this old dog a new trick or two.





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