Growing Organic: How Hard Is It, Really?

Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 in Gardening | Comments


There’s no doubt that growing organic is sweeping the nation by storm. With any new venture there’s bound to be plenty of questions. Is organic gardening difficult? How much will it cost me? What do I need to know? Well, question no more, dear folks. You’re about to get a crash course in organic gardening.

Organic Seedling - Growing an Organic Garden on Craftsy.com

The expenses for organic gardening tend to round out to the same as non-organic; you’re just spending money in different places.

Organic gardening requires organic practices from the very beginning, with the soil and the seeds. If you’re growing in containers or a raised bed, organic soil can be a big upfront expense. However, if you’re working the ground the Earth gave you, soil is free, it just needs to be supplemented with compost or other organic materials.

Organic seeds are slightly more expensive than non-organic, but not enough to break the bank. It’s worth investing in great seeds and organic soil. These are the building blocks for your garden, why not start it out right? Besides, there are plenty of savings when it comes to natural insect control for gardens and fertilization.

Non-organic gardening has three distinct characteristics. These consist of the use of chemical fertilizers, inorganic pesticides, and chemical herbicides to grow crops. Organically grown crops have been fertilized and rid of pests using only substances derived from nature with minimal processing.

Taking good care of your garden and keeping it safe from an onslaught of pests can be tricky without the help of chemicals, but it can be done.

Let’s explore the three biggest challenges of organic gardening along with organic solutions.

Squash Flower

Fertilization

There are many natural and organic fertilizers available that work just as well as the chemicals. You can use compost, manure, cover crops and store-bought organic fertilizers, such as fish emulsion, seaweed and blood meal.

Many of these fertilizers can be obtained completely free of charge. Compost can be made in your own kitchen from your food scraps. Manure can be found for very cheap or free at local farms, where they’ll be glad to have it hauled away. If those inexpensive methods aren’t working for you, store-bought organic fertilizers work wonders although they are more expensive than chemical fertilizers.

leaf hopper insect on a leaf

Pest control

Organic pest control is easy and cheap when you employ the use of beneficial insects. Planting plenty of flowers will help bring in a brigade of insect helpers to feast on the bad bugs in your garden. This isn’t the end-all-be-all solution, but it does help.

For small scale gardens, hand picking or spraying insects off plants with a hose will help keep the population down. This tactic only works if you have a small garden or have boatloads of free time. I’ve been known to hand pick a bug here or there and feed them to my hungry chickens, but I don’t make a practice of it.

Speaking of chickens, setting those lovely creatures free on the garden before planting ensures that all of the insect larva and eggs in sight will be consumed and never go on to destroy your plants. This trick obviously only works if you have chickens or know someone who’s willing to loan them to you.

Companion planting can also help to ward off insects. Certain plants are believed to repel bugs, including catnip, garlic, nasturtiums and marigolds. Interspersing these plants amongst your crops will help keep the insect population down.

The single most important factor in keeping away pests is raising healthy plants from good seeds in great soil. A healthy plant is more apt to survive an attack and repel insects than a sick, weak plant would be.

Chives

Weeds

Mulch mulch mulch! Unless you just love pulling weeds so much that you want to spend every day doing it, you really need to lay down some mulch in the garden. Straw, grass, leaves and wood chips cover bare soil and make it difficult for weed seeds to grow. Spreading mulch around the stems of your crops will keep away weeds and it will keep the soil moist between watering. What’s great about these mulches is they not only keep the weeds away, they break down over time and add more organic nutrients to your soil.

Hoeing and hand pulling weeds is another option for weed control. It’s a pain, that’s for sure, but to avoid the use of herbicides, a little hard work must be done. For the stubborn weeds that pop up through your mulch, simply pulling them out before they go to seed is your last line of defense.

Many gardeners and farmers also employ the use of cover crops on beds that are not in use. A cover crop is usually some type of grain or legume that’s fast growing, adds nitrogen to the soil, and covers the soil so it’s not barren. Barren soil is just asking for weeds to take over.

Organic gardening is not difficult and need not be expensive to be effective. With the simple strategies listed above, anyone can grow organically with fantastic results.

You might enjoy our posts on growing roses organically, or our post on how to fertilize tomatoes.

Do you have any organic gardening tips to share?