How to create a lush Organic Garden.

Fix your Soil and you have a Garden, your Neighbors will be Drooling over!

Both farmers and gardeners are striving to get the biggest and lushest crops. Many use chemical fertilizers to achieve that. We are looking for an organic way to get there.

Healthy soil will produce a lush crop.

Healthy soil will produce a lush crop.

So how to do that?

The most important thing in your organic garden is the soil. So let's take a look at what soil really is.

The main ingredient of soil is weathered and ground up rock - about 50%. The particle size of this component determines what kind of soil you have. Large particles form sandy soil. If the particles are medium size, you have loamy soil and with very small particles, it is clay.
These particles are responsible for the texture of the soil. Pick up a hand full of earth from your garden , wet it and rub it between your fingers. If it feels gritty, it is sandy soil. Should it feel smooth, like talcum powder, it is silty or loamy and a sticky almost rubbery feel would indicate clay.
The texture of the soil governs the amount of air and water contained in it. Aeration and moisture in the soil, combined with organic matter allow the fungi, bacteria, microbes and worms to exist, multiply and do their job. They live on organic material and their life function turns this into nutrients available to your plants. Their activity also form loose crumbs in the soil promoting drainage in heavy clay and moisture retention in sandy soils. Good topsoil has a crumb - like texture and lots of life.

Organic material is the key.

King of that is compost. You can produce it yourself in a bin. There are plastic compost bins available in your garden store or you can nail one together out of widely spaced boards. Use alternating layers of kitchen scraps, lawn clippings and any green garden waste followed by brown matter, like leaf litter, straw or horse manure. This needs watering on a fairly regular basis (but don't overdo it), to promote decomposition.

In late fall I add a layer of this compost to the top of my vegetable beds and cover it with a 1 inch layer of top soil. The planting in the spring is done right into this top layer without any digging, in contrast to earlier habits - I use to spade the whole garden about a foot deep every spring - lots of work and the wrong thing to do! Exposure to sunlight kills a lot of the microorganisms in the soil.

Walking on your beds is another thing you don't want to do. It compacts the dirt and you want it nice and loose. Your garden beds should be no more than four feet across. This way you can work them without stepping on them.
There are many other forms of organic material that can be used to enhance your soil.
All animal manures, except for the ones from commercial feed lots where the livestock was fed on GM corn, are great fertilizers. Especially chicken manure, which is very rich in nitrogen and shows better results than any chemical fertilizer .

Fish fertilizer.

Cucumbers and tomatoes helped along by fish fertilizer.

Cucumbers and tomatoes helped along by fish fertilizer.

We have a local soil company that sells a fish compost. I tried this together with a bit of seaweed on my cucumbers and tomatoes. I dug a hole put a small shovel full of fish compost and a hand full of seaweed into it, covered it with soil and planted the seedlings in that. The results were astounding!

Seaweed as fertilizer.

Seaweed is an amazing organic fertilizer. It contain all the macro nutrients for plants – nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, plus a lot of minerals and even a natural plant growth hormone called Cytocini, which promotes growth and longevity of the plants. I use it together with chopped up stinging nettles - nettles are rich on minerals - to produce a compost tea.

Compost tea made with stinging nettles and seaweed.

Compost tea made with stinging nettles and seaweed.

Just put the seaweed and the chopped nettles into a bucket or larger container, add rainwater and let it ferment. You can use the resulting tea after about two days on anything in your garden – it won't burn it. Then you just refill the bucket. At the end of the growing season, use the sludge in the bottom of the bucket as part of your compost layer.

Green manure crops.

Another and very effective way of improving the soil is by planting green manure crops.
The most popular of these are legumes, like peas, vetch, clover and alfalfa. Legumes pick up nitrogen from the air and deposit in the ground, contained in their root nodules.
This can then easily be taken up by the following crop. Winter wheat and rye are also used for this purpose. You plant the crop in the fall and pull out the plants in the spring just before you plant your vegetables. The pulled greens are used for mulch around your plants. This keeps your soil cool and retains moisture in the summer and keeps weeds from taking over. By the end of the season this mulch will be part of the soil.

Soil PH.

Soil PH is another issue to look at. The PH scale runs from 1 – 14 with 7.0 being neutral. Anything lower is acidic and anything higher would be progressively more alkaline. Most garden soils have a PH between 5.5 and 8.0. It should be between 6.5 and 7.0 on the PH scale. Micro organisms perform best in this range and so do your plants with few exceptions, like blueberries or rhododendron, that do better in more acidic conditions. Rather than groping in the dark with no information and adding things randomly to your garden, you can buy a soil test kit for under $50.00 or take a sample of your dirt to a local test lab and have them check it for you and provide you with instructions on how to fix it, if needed.

If the PH is too low, you need to add some dolomite lime, bone meal or hardwood ash. Should it be too high, your garden requires some ground up sulfur, sawdust, decomposed leaf litter or peat moss. Your garden shop should have charts to tell you how much of these to use per square foot, based on the PH of the soil.

Changing the PH in your garden is not an immediate thing. It will take a bit of time – so be patient.

Conclusion.

Following all of these suggestion will produce an amazing garden for you that has your neighborhood green with envy. You are going to be the go-to-guy for garden advice. Your new problem will likely consist of how to figure out, what to do with all this produce! We will deal with that in another article.

Happy gardening.

Happy gardening.

Till then, Happy Gardening!

PS.  There is a movement afoot to save our healthy, organic top soil. If you want to help, click here.

Should you be looking for organic fertilizer, you can find some at the store, here.

 

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