Tips for switching to organic gardening

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Main image: RDNE Stock Project, Pexels

In a world where our lives seem to spin at a dizzying pace, embracing a touch of laziness in your home garden might sound like a dream come true. Could you imagine a garden where you can kick back, relax, and let nature do all the heavy lifting without mixing chemicals and spraying the bugs eating your crops?

But this is much more than just a dream. Switching to organic gardening without chemicals is possible. Anyone can start gardening organically and be kinder to nature, increasing the biodiversity in your garden. This is possible through the presence of natural predators, the unsung heroes of our gardens, and patrolling even when you are not watching.

We might joke about being “lazy” gardeners, but there’s an intricate and delicate balance at play. Spray chemicals to control pests and the natural defence systems leave as there is no work to do (no food to eat), or say goodbye to the chemicals and allow the critters to take on the guardian role in our gardens.

Embrace your inner laziness and start your sustainable gardening journey, allowing nature to take centre stage in your garden. Switching to an organic garden may take time and patience, so we explore some top tips to make your organic gardening journey smoother.

1. Role of soil health in organic gardening

Soil health plays a crucial role in your organic gardening journey. Photo: Lisa Fotios, Pexels

This is a crucial aspect to know when starting your sustainable gardening journey. Soil health is pivotal in organic gardening as it forms the foundation for sustainable and chemical-free cultivation practices. Healthy soil will supply those important nutrients to your plants without having to rely on synthetic fertilisers.

Healthy soil also contains a diverse community of beneficial microorganisms that break down organic matter, improving nutrient availability and enhancing plant growth while reducing susceptibility to pests and diseases. Additionally, robust soil structure supports optimal water retention and drainage, creating a stable and resilient environment in any organic garden.

2. Composting and its role in organic gardening

Want healthy plants and a healthy organic garden? Creating your own compost will go a long way in your sustainable gardening journey. Photo: Greta Hoffman, Pexels.
Want healthy plants and a healthy organic garden? Creating compost will go a long way in your sustainable gardening journey. Photo: Greta Hoffman, Pexels.

The second important aspect when you start your organic gardening journey is compost. Organic matter, such as compost and well-rotted manure, offers numerous benefits to your garden.

Compost enriches soil with nutrients, recycles organic waste, promotes plant health and pest resistance, balances soil pH, improves water retention, reduces environmental impact, and aids in erosion control. Instead of buying compost, you can set up a compost bin.

Collect organic materials like kitchen scraps and yard waste, maintain a green-to-brown balance, turn and water the compost, and use the finished compost to create a thriving organic garden. This sustainable gardening approach enhances soil fertility and reduces the need for chemical fertilisers, aligning with organic gardening principles.

3. Companion planting in organic gardening

Companion planting is a gardening practice that involves planting certain crops near each other to enhance growth, health, or pest control. You can practice companion planting in your organic garden to improve pollination, deter pests, or improve soil quality. For example, planting marigolds with tomatoes can deter nematodes, and pairing beans with corn could enhance soil fertility.

Nasturtiums attract all kinds of pests, including aphids. Sorrel attracts slugs and snails. Companion planting is therefore a valuable technique when switching to organic gardening. It promotes biodiversity and reduces the need for chemical pesticides and fertilisers. It is crucial to note that companion planting alone will not resolve all your problems instantly.

4. Resilient Plants

When switching to sustainable gardening, selecting the right plants is pivotal for creating an environmentally friendly and thriving garden. Opt for indigenous and drought-tolerant species adapted to your local climate, as they require less water and maintenance. Perennials, companion planting, and biodiversity are key considerations, reducing the need for replanting, pesticides, and fertilizers while fostering a balanced ecosystem.

Edible landscaping offers fresh produce and minimises the environmental impact of food transportation. Supporting soil health, avoiding invasive species, attracting wildlife, and sourcing locally are additional strategies to ensure a sustainable garden. Reducing lawn areas and embracing chemical-free gardening practices further reduce resource consumption and promote a healthier outdoor space.

A young vibrant green plant looking healthy.
Resilient, healthy plants do much better against pests and diseases. Photo: Photomix Company, Pexels

5. Crop Rotation

Switching to organic gardening is easier when you avoid planting the same crops in the same spot year after year, especially if you had problems the previous season. It could lead to a buildup of problems, especially if they persist in the soil. Certain pests could overwinter in the soil, so always research and determine whether moving crops would be the best option for your sustainable gardening journey. But you won’t prevent diseases like late blight in potatoes or tomatoes as the disease is airborne and not persistent in the soil.

However, it is not always necessary in your sustainable gardening journey, as long as you look after your soil. Soil health contributes to strong healthy plants able to ward off disease. Planting a cover crop might be a better option during the off periods should you want to plant the same crop in the same area, though this is better for bigger spaces.

6. Pest Removal

Drop the laziness and do that garden patrol. Take the time to inspect your plants up close for signs of pests, get them identified, and manually remove them if they cause harm. This can be a labour-intensive but effective way to control minor infestations without resorting to chemicals. As time goes by, the natural predators will take care of many of the pests for you. Go out at night with a torch and remove the snails that eat your plants. Are worms busy devouring your leaves? Remove them by hand and throw them to the birds.

As an alternative when starting your sustainable gardening journey, implement specific traps and sticky cards to check the pest loads in your garden. You will be able to identify the problems and deal with them before they get out of hand.

7. Friendlier alternatives when you garden organically

Plenty of products are less harmful to beneficial insects and the environment than synthetic products. Change your approach and look at the available options, whether this is homemade organic gardening options like soaking garlic and chilli, mixing some sunlight liquid with water and spraying it on pests.

This will also help increase the biodiversity in your garden by staying away from harsh chemicals, though it will still affect beneficial insects if sprayed on them. You can also buy friendlier alternatives as a more eco-friendly solution. There are plenty of biological product options on the market, including lures and traps. Biogrow is just one of the organic options with products to control pests – look at their range.

8. Maintenance in an organic garden

Pruning and cleaning your garden can help prevent pest infestations, which is what you need when you decide to start gardening without chemicals. Remove and dispose of dead or diseased plant material promptly, as it can lead to the problem spreading to the healthier plants in your garden. Pruning can also help improve air circulation and reduce hiding spots for pests.

9. Sustainable Gardening

Learn about sustainable gardening and it becomes easier as you go along. Mulch, for example, helps retain moisture and suppress weeds, reducing the need for excessive watering, preventing soil compaction and erosion, and breaking down as compost to feed your plants. While it prevents the soil from drying out, it indirectly also protects the beneficial soil organisms that help your plants take up minerals in the soil. Without these soil organisms, your plants are more susceptible to diseases. You can join organic gardening groups to learn from what others do in their eco-friendly gardens.

10. Learn and adapt

Learning about the organic options and new gardening methods and techniques will arm you better against pests and diseases that want to call your organic garden home. Always ask why the pest is there in the first place and what you can do to prevent them from arriving. Attend workshops, read books, research online, and connect with organic gardeners to exchange knowledge and experiences. Social media is a treasure chest of information with many groups dedicated to the subject. We even found a few good organic gardening Facebook groups to join and learn:
Livingseeds Veggie Gardeners
Organic Small Homesteading

11. Patience when switching to organic gardening

One thing is certain when it comes to gardening. Nature teaches us patience and starting your sustainable gardening journey will test it. It is important to understand that transitioning to an organic garden may take time. Initially, you might encounter some pest problems as the natural balance of your garden ecosystem adjusts. Stay patient and persistent.

Do you have any tips for those just starting their organic gardening journey? Leave them in the comments and help others learn and ease their journey!

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