Nowadays, green usually refers to environmentally friendly. When referring to a garden, though, it can have a double meaning. Can you think of a better place to go green than in your garden? Not only is it one of America’s favorite (and healthiest) hobbies, but growing a garden for family use is also a great opportunity for becoming ecofriendly and organic, as well. With just a few basics and almost no money, any gardener can turn his or her garden into a green paradise.
Importance of Soil Health and Quality
The foundation for every garden is its soil. If your soil isn’t healthy, neither will your plants be. Luckily, building healthy soil and keeping it that way is not difficult. Compost (aka gardener’s gold) is the secret behind most healthy gardens. We’ll talk more about that below.
If you’re just starting a new garden or garden plot, then you’ll want to assess the soil before you plant anything in it. First, look at what’s growing in that soil now (if anything). A healthy crop of weeds or established plants is a good sign, usually. Look at the overall plant cover and see if any one type (not species, but genus) of plant is predominant. The presence of a lot of taproots (dandelions, for example) likely means the soil is nitrogen deficient. Acidic or alkaline soil can also be (somewhat) determined by the plants present, though this is not as easy.
The best way to really learn about your new soil is to look at it. So use a spade to dig down about a foot or so (12-18 inches) and look at the soil itself. You should see clearly defined layers with the topsoil ending between 3 to 12 inches down and the subsoil continuing from there. Deep topsoil is a sign of health and activity, but the real magic happens in the subsoil, since that determines drainage and nutrient availability.
The color of the subsoil will determine its quality. Optimally, yours should be a midbrown to deep red in color and the consistency of fresh served grits or porridge. It should clump when pressed, but not capable of holding a smooth surface and it should break up easily. This means it can drain well, filter and retain nutrients, etc. If your subsoil is any other color (blue-gray or very dark), it likely needs some work.
Probably the most effective organic pesticide are birds. Encouraging birds to nest near your garden (provide nest boxes higher up, put seeds out for them to eat) will do a lot towards killing the insects and other pests that can ruin your garden. Ground beetles are also effective for this and can be encouraged by leaving mulch near your garden for them to nest under.
Certain plants grown at the perimeter of your garden can keep other pests away, as well. Learn which plants are good for this and grow them around your garden. Onions, for instance, are a deterrent to rabbits.
Chemical pesticides can be organic as well. Pyrethrin is made from chrysanthemum seed oils and is a natural, biodegradable insecticide. You can also make your own insecticide using simple soap mixtures, which can also be purchased. There are many methods for organic pest control.
Organic Weed Control
In a similar way, organic weed control is also all about know how. Most weed control is contained in your hands, pulling the weeds before they can establish themselves. Using well made compost and ground covers or mulches can go a long way towards controlling weeds without chemicals.
Compost is the gardener’s best friend and is easy to make and use. Every organic gardener should be well versed in composting. And, you can reduce a significant portion of your household waste (especially kitchen garbage) by composting it.