5 Organic Gardening Tips for Beginners

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Organic gardening is based on the same principles of organic farming, utilizing natural techniques and methods and strictly limiting the use of any manufactured fertilizers, pesticides, insecticides, weed killers or any other chemicals in the garden. That means you have to be a bit more meticulous and put in more effort to growing and maintaining your garden. No spraying, and no miracle-grow type products.

Here are five tips for beginner gardeners who want to start organic gardening.

1. Make a Raised Bed

A raised bed is a plot of soil that sits above your garden's regular soil. In other words, you're creating a garden on top of your garden. You can either make a contained bed, using wood or stones to create a box or structure for your garden soil. The contained bed can sit nicely on top of your grass or regular soil, and looks more organized and is easier to differentiate. Benefits of a raised bed include:

  • They drain better.
  • Easier to maintain and cultivate your garden soil.
  • Can look more appealing and organized.
  • Warms faster during the spring.
  • They require less maintenance.

Raised beds (see below) are great for organic gardening because they are easier to manage and maintain, which is very helpful for a type of gardening that requires so much effort and a type of soil that requires so much care.

Raised Garden Bed Raised Garden Beds

2. Plant Cover Crops

Cover crops like alfalfa, buckwheat or marigold are great for organic gardens. Cover crops can keep weeds from growing, control pests and most importantly, they help your soil. Maintaining your soil is one of the most important aspects of any type of gardening. Cover crops are green manure, and will help with soil fertility and soil quality. After harvesting your seasonal crops, plant a cover crop in its place until you're ready to re-plant those crops for the next harvest.

3. Attract the Good Bugs

Not all bugs are bad for your garden. Bees are a perfect example of a bug that will help your garden. Bees are pollinators, and are beneficial to the plants around your garden. Consider planting flowers that produce more pollen and nectar to attract more bees to your garden. Other bugs, like ladybirds and lacewings, are good for your garden because they prey on smaller garden pests.

4. Build Your Compost

Compost is one of the essential ingredients for organic gardening. What could be more organic than recycling decomposed organic matter and using it as fertilizer for your organic garden? You can create your own compost pile with common waste from your home like:

  • Used coffee grounds.
  • Egg shells.
  • Fruits, vegetables and their peelings.
  • Fallen leaves.
  • Grass clippings.
  • Dead plants, flowers and weeds.
  • Tea leaves.

Create a compost pile or bin outside of your home to gather these organic materials and let them decay. You want to have a good variety of organic materials in your pile. Keep the pile moist to help it decay, and work it into your garden when it is ready the same way you would use fertilizer. You'll know your compost is ready if it is no longer warm, and is dark brown and crumbly, almost like actual soil (see below).

Finished Compost Pile

Ready to use compost pile

Fresh Compost Pile

Still decomposing compost pile

5. Organic Pest Control

Organic or natural pest control is one of the mainstays of organic gardening. Since you can't use poisons or chemicals to rid yourself of garden pests, you need to resort to the following methods for pest control:

  • Introduce a predatory animal or insect to prey upon your garden pests.
  • Try brewing mint leaves in hot water and spraying the concoction over your plants to keep pests away.
  • Crop covers are good at keeping away pests too! Plant some marigolds all around your other plants or crops to prevent damage from bugs or worms.
  • Stuff from your compost pile work well against pests. Try spreading some egg shells and coffee grounds around your garden and see how those pesky slugs react.
  • Make your own, chemical-free insecticide with water and hot sauce or chili powder. Also try a garlic and water mixture for another homemade insecticide.
  • Use your hands as a last resort. The same way you would avoid weed killers by pulling the weeds yourself, inspect your garden on a daily basis and pick-off or flick-off any unwanted pests.

Benefits of Organic Gardening

If organic gardening doesn't sound like something you would be interested in because of the extra work and effort, here are a few things that might convince you to change your mind:

  • Organic fruits and vegetables have been shown to have more vitamins and essential nutrients.
  • Save money on not having to purchase sprays or other garden chemicals.
  • It's beneficial to the environment.
  • The extra care and effort has been shown to be spiritually uplifting.
  • Putting more time in the garden gets you out in the sun more, and you burn calories with all that extra garden work.
  • Limits the amount of harmful chemicals around your home, which is a great benefit if you have children who can possibly ingest these chemicals.
Last Updated: March 29, 2013
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About Matthew Cenzon Matthew Cenzon has been writing for numerous publications since 2003, covering topics ranging from health and nutrition to the real estate industry. He is one of the contributing writers for IdealHomeGarden.com, and is a college graduate of the University of California, Riverside, with degrees in English and Asian literature. Matthew’s interest in interior design and home improvement stem from his background working in the residential real estate appraisal business for over five years, where he witnessed many of the Do's and Don'ts of home decor.

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