Before running to the nearest gardening shop, keep in mind that every plant has different requirements for it to grow organically. Some thrive if you give it a lot of water, while others can grow well even if you only water them once a day.
There are also plants that require a lot of space to grow, while you can plant the others in small baskets. If you are still new to organic gardening, it is best to choose only those plants that are easy to take care of. To help you with this problem, here is a rundown of the herbs, berries and vegetables that are perfect for beginner-level gardeners.
1. Salad greens
Lettuce is super easy to harvest and maintain because you can simply plant it on a pot or container. Some lettuce varieties can also be planted inside your home. If you want to harvest them, all you need to do is just snip off the top leaves.
Whether you have a large or small garden, you should definitely grow your own tomatoes. Similar to salad greens, you can also grow them in containers and even hanging baskets. All they need are water and adequate sunlight. Once the tomatoes grow bigger, they also need some form of support for their stalks such as a stake.
If your space is small, you can opt to plant patio varieties such as cherry tomatoes or the “Tiny Tim”. They can thrive even if you do not water them a lot.
These vegetables thrive in places with a lot of sunlight and warm temperature. They grow vertically, so they need a support for their stalks. Similar to weeds, cucumbers can really grow fast, so it is best if you do not plant too much if your family is not that big.
No garden will be complete without carrots. You can plant carrot tops on the ground, but you can also use the whole. Take note that they will not grow big if you plant them on rocky soil. It is preferable to grow them on a raised bed with deep soil and good drainage system, nevertheless, they are easy to grow. In fact, even your kids can help out in this activity.
You can also add radishes to your salad to give it a more playful taste. You can even use them for appetizers and side dishes. You do not really need to exert a lot of effort in taking care of them and they can grow to full size in just 20 days.
You can grow these herbs from seeds. Simply place the seeds on a pot with soil, then find a space in your home or garden with ample sunlight.
This perennial plant can thrive in containers across different seasons. Ideally, you need to place them beside a window, which faces the East. Make sure to avoid surrounding your bay leaf with other plants because it needs a lot of space for better air circulation.
You can grow this from seeds. Ideally, you need to plant chervil during late summer. This plant prefers low light, but it thrives in environments with temperatures between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
You need to place these herbs outdoors and plant them before the growing season ends. When winter comes, place the chives indoors so that they will not be destroyed by frost bite.
Add some spice to your menu by growing ginger in your home! This plant usually grows underneath the shady canopies of tall, tropical trees. However, if you cannot find a coconut tree nearby, you can still grow them indoors. Just make sure that you do not leave them in hot and extremely sunny areas. Ginger also thrives better in soil than with compost. As a rule of thumb, place this plant away from direct sunlight. It can grow faster in areas with a temperature of around 70 degrees, which is quite common in apartments.
This herb can start from seeds. However, you can also grow them by planting clumps of parsley before the growing season ends. This herb likes full sunlight.
This is considered as the most productive berry because it can produce a lot, even if you plant it on a small area. Strawberries are usually planted during summer or fall. The latter is the best season to plant because it can develop a sturdy root system during that time. Come spring, your strawberries will surely be vigorous and bushy.
This one is one of the easiest berries to grow. Their perennial roots can send up canes that can thrive for two years. During its first year, the raspberry canes will be very vegetative, which means that they will only produce leaves. The flowers and fruit will only sprout during the cane’s second and final year. Raspberries continually produce vegetative canes, so you won’t run out of supply immediately.
This berry is more common in Europe than in the United States. However, they are still fun to plant, especially if you turn the currants into jelly. A single plant can already produce a lot of fruits. Another good thing about currants is that they are not too picky with the soil and they do not need extensive pruning. If you provide them with compost every spring, they will live long.
To make this plant grow, your soil must have an acidic level of around pH 4.5 to 5.5. You can determine the soil’s acidity using a pH tester. A lot of plants cannot thrive on such an acidic patch of earth. To grow blueberries and other plants on the same surrounding, it is ideal to plant the berries on raised beds so you can easily control the soil’s pH level.
Changing the soil’s acidic level can be a big and long job. A year before planting the berries, you need to plant peat moss or pine needles on the bed first. After achieving the right pH level, you must maintain it by adding acidic mulch on the soil.
Blueberry shrubs can thrive and be more productive if you fertilize the soil using granular organic fertilizer.
Best Practices for Growing Vegetables
Organically growing your own vegetables is a rewarding experience. Thankfully, it is also easy to do, especially if you are resourceful and passionate about this project.
To get started, you need a plant, water, and soil. However, if you want to be a successful vegetable gardener, you need to learn how to maintain the healthy state of your plants.
Here is a basic guide on how to grow your veggies at home organically.
Feed the soil
If you are an organic gardener, this should definitely be your mantra whenever you plant veggies, herbs or berries. It may sound weird, but there is actually a good reason behind this.
In traditional chemical agriculture, the plants are being fed with synthetic fertilizers. If you do this frequently, force feeding crops with chemicals can greatly harm the soil, along with the millions of good microorganisms living on it.
You have to remember that the soil is not just an anchor that will keep the roots of the plants in place. The garden bed is also a good source of nutrition for your plants thanks to the bacteria living there.
To keep your soil healthy, you can add mineral nutrients such as rock phosphate and greensand. However, the most effective substance that you can use is organic matter. This can be in the form of compost, dead leaves, manure, and cover crops.
This type of matter enhances the structure of any type of soil. It also promotes healthy circulation of nitrogen on the plants and garden bed. In addition, organic matter also feeds the microbes.
Use your space wisely
There are many factors to consider when choosing the perfect location of your garden bed. These include the water source, amount of sunlight, and protection against frost.
Many organic gardeners dream of having a vast vegetable patch that is sprawling with various crops like corn, potatoes, carrots, beans, and a whole lot more. If you have a huge working space, then you should definitely go for it.
However, if your lot is not that big or you are only living in an apartment, you need to be crafty with utilizing your space. Usually, veggies like tomatoes or lettuce can be grown in pots and baskets. You can hang the baskets so that you can save more floor space. Also, consider using elevated beds to make it easier to manage your crops.
Remove your rows
To save more space, get rid of the conventional 3-feet wide beds. A single row of crops is efficient when you are farming using large machines. However, in a backyard garden, they eat up too much space.
The ideal alternative is to use compact, raised or open beds. This will help you efficiently rotate your crops from season to season. With the traditional 3-feet wide beds, you can only plant around 2 to 3 crops. However, with this new method, you can plant more types of vegetables and your produce will not go to waste.
This is not about personal maturity. This tip is about using vertical support to use every inch of your garden space effectively. To do this, select climbing varieties of plants such as peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, or pole beans.
You can use vertical supports made from metal and wood, but make sure to put your trellis up.
Keep the crops in rotation
Rotation means planting the same vegetable on the exact same spot once every three years. With this method, you can ensure that the same crops will get adequate amount of nutrients every year. In addition, it also prevents pests or diseases from infecting your plants after harvesting them.
Before harvesting the crops, draw a map on your gardening notebook to keep track of the location of each plant. It should also include the date when you planted them. It can be challenging to remember the exact location of your crops, so it is better if you have map in hand.
Cerate detailed records
As you tend your garden, you will realize that this activity is not just about picking the right soil or creating the most nutritious fertilizer. Sometimes, you also need to keep track of how your plants grow. That is why you need to start making records of your plants’ progress starting ay one.
Taking notes may be the most boring aspect of gardening, but it is still a crucial step to follow. With a detailed record, you will be able to prevent yourself from repeating the same mistakes that you did last season.
Over time, the notes that you gather will teach you more about gardening than any book because it is based on your personal experiences.
Best Practices for Growing Herbs
Herbs are plants that are popular both in the field of medicine and culinary arts. Some herbs can cure colds, while others can help you sleep. However, in most cases, they are used for adding flavor to various dishes.
That is the reason why you should include herbs in your garden. Unlike vegetables, these plants are relatively easier to grow because they can thrive well in different types of soil and are not riddled with pests and diseases.
How to get started
You can grow herbs in both outdoor and indoor gardens. Both methods have their advantages:
Quick access to the herbs.
No more weeding!
Produces more herbs.
Leaves have much better flavor.
More space to grow
No matter where you place them, you have to remember that they need a lot of sunlight. They also thrive in an environment with moderate temperature. You should also water your plants, but don’t do it too much to avoid the soil from being watered down.
Each herb has its own watering needs, so it is ideal to plant them in separate containers.
There are different types of soil. Clay, sand, loam and peat are just some of the varieties. The composition of each soil type varies, but they are mostly composed of organic matter, small rocks, and minerals.
You can combine different soil types in order to ensure that your herbs stay healthy all season, but just like growing any type of plant, it is also important to test the pH level of your bed.
pH levels range from 0 to 14. A lower ph level means that the substance is acidic, while higher levels mean that it is basic. 7 is the neutral level. Ideally, the soil that you will use must have a pH level of around 6.5 to 7 because this is the level where nitrogen, potassium, and trace minerals become abundant.
Planting your herb outdoors
To make it easier for you, grow your herbs using starter plants instead of seeds. The best time to plant them is around spring. However, if you still want to grow your herbs using seeds, that’s totally fine.
To do this, plant the seeds in small containers first. Use a patch of earth that is slight moist. From time to time, water the soil using a mist sprayer. Once the herbs become firmly rooted in the soil, you can transplant them outside.
Planting herbs indoors
Similar to outdoor gardening, the soil that you will use is also a vital factor in the growth of herbs. For this task, you can use a standard potting soil mixed with sand. The sand will ensure your bed is well-drained. Remember that potted herbs rot quickly if you leave their roots submerged in the water for too long. When you water your plants, make sure that you only use a mist sprayer, especially when they are still young.
Put your pot in a south-facing window so the herbs can get enough sunlight. If your apartment or house is surrounded by tall buildings, you can buy a growing lamp.
Place perennial herbs outdoors every once in a while so they can get more sunlight and fresh air. Annual plants, meanwhile, can thrive well if they stay indoors.
Harvesting your herbs
Harvesting your herbs is satisfying and relatively easy. All you have to do is just snip off some of the leaves whenever you need them. The tricky part is identifying when to harvest the herbs. The time of harvest varies from herb to herb.
Basil, mint, and other leafy herbs are best harvested before they start to produce flowers. Harvest the leaves early morning, after the last dew drop dries. Do not wash leaves immediately because the water will strip off their aromatic oils.
For root herbs such as ginseng and goldenseal, you should harvest them during early autumn.
Best Practices for Growing Berries
Aside from their delicious taste, berries also add a sense of beauty to your garden because of their vibrant colors. Strawberries, blueberries, currants; mix them all together and your backyard will definitely look stunning! They are also very easy to maintain, making them the must-have plants for beginner-level organic gardeners.
Below is a short guide for starting your own berry garden at home!
Preparing the Soil
Berries need free-draining soil that is teeming with organic matter. As mentioned in the earlier chapter, blueberries also need an acidic garden bed. You can reduce the pH level of the soil by mixing it with sulfur chips. Add the chips three weeks before you plant the berries.
The pH level of the soil can change as time goes by, so you need to monitor it carefully.
How to properly plant the berries
Berries have different bush sizes depending on their variety. Low bushes should have a two feet gap from each other, while high bushes need a six feet gap. Nourish the soil by adding a bucket of compost. For blueberries, make sure that the compost is made from pine needles to maintain the soil’s acidity.
After planting the bush, evenly coat the top soil with organic mulch to prevent the growth of weeds and aerate the roots.
After the plants have settled in your backyard, water them down. Most berries need two inches of water a week.
Most berries do not need to be pruned until they reach three years old. However, you need to remove the fruit buds during their first two years in order to help the bush adapt to its environment. After its first three years, you need to prune the berry bush yearly during the late stages of winter. This is to remove the old wood and promote the growth of younger and healthier ones.
Pruning berry bushes is also an effective way to remove unproductive stems. Low bushes should be trimmed from the ground every three years. High bush varieties, on the other hand, can stay productive for up to six years, so you do not really need to prune them that often. But if the time comes, you can remove the stems near the ground.
A lot of berries are produced in clusters, but they do not ripen at the same time. This means that you have to visit the same bush during its ripening period. Usually, you can tell if the berries are right for the picking if they already have a deep color. However, if you want the fruits to have a more intense flavor, leave for a few days before picking them. Pick fruits during the ripening period or they will drop on the ground.
Washing and storing berries
Make sure that you only rinse the fruits before you actually eat them and NOT before storing them. If you wash the berries but do not consume them immediately, they will become moldy over time.
In addition, do not soak them in water. Just place the berries in a colander and wash them with running water for a few seconds.
When you pluck the berries from their bushes, they are extremely soft and difficult to wash. So before rinsing the fruits, you can leave in the refrigerator for one hour after picking them. This will make the berries a little bit firm and easy to wash.
After you have washed the fruits, leave them in the colander first. Then, put them in the fridge using a separate container. Do not place them in the crisper.
There are several methods that you can follow. The first one is freezing. Frozen berries are useful for baking cakes and making milkshakes. After rinsing the fruits, store them in the freezer overnight.
The second preservation method is drying. Dried berries are handy for making granola bars and yogurt. For this task, you need a food dehydrator.