Organic Gardening 101
By: Julie Day
Rich soil is the key to organic gardening.
Rule #1: Feed the Soil
If you only take away one idea on organic gardening, it should be: Feed the soil, not the plants. Chemical fertilizers are like having a candy bar for breakfast; it delivers a fast boost but quickly fades to leave you feeling worse than you did before.
Instead, enrich your soil with organic matter, which improves the texture, water retention, nutrient content, and beneficial microbes to create a virtual plant paradise. If you put your energy into enriching your soil instead of feeding your plants, your thumb will turn so green you’ll think you dipped it in paint!
Instead of reaching for fertilizer or chemicals, consider:
- Add Organic Matter: Spread compost, manure, and other organic matter on your garden before tilling it.
- Enrich Your Lawn: Aerate and top-dress your lawn. Mulch your grass when you cut to leave the grass clippings to decompose.
- Dig It Up: Deeply dig a new planting bed and work in a rich helping of organic matter before planting.
- Plant Cover Crops: Green manure cover crops (such as alfalfa or peas) increase nitrogen in the soil during the off-season and can be tilled under for extra compost.
- Add Mulch: Deep mulches around plants break down slowly to improve the soil.
- Avoid Losing Battles: Avoid cultivating areas that have notoriously poor soil or erosion problems.