Table of Contents
What is Organic Gardening?
Organic gardening involves gardening without the use of any chemicals including:
Fertilizers that include chemicals.
Weed killers that include chemicals.
Pesticides that include chemicals.
What is Wrong with Chemicals?
Fertilizers are often crammed with chemicals that are supposed to treat the soil while pesticides are sprayed around the plants to kill insects. None of these are too healthy for humans yet many see them as a great choice (see dangers and risks of fertilizers here). For example, many who see a weed sprout in their garden will take the “easy” option and use weed killer. This same process is true for insects. The problem is that you don’t know what kinds of dangerous chemicals you are exposing your garden to.
Some are wise enough to check the ingredients on products before using them while others just look for the cheapest product on the shelf. If you only buy based on price, you are risking exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals. Even though you wash vegetables before consuming them, how can you possibly know that an unknown chemical has been completely washed away?
Here are two common pesticides that are used in gardening with their known side-effects:
Malathion: Abdominal pain, stomach cramps, anxiety, unsteadiness, confusion, depression, diarrhea, labored breathing, dizziness, sweating, loss of bowel or bladder control, eyelid, face, and neck twitching, unusual weakness, and slow heartbeat.
Skoot: Headache, dizziness, loss of memory, kidney pain, insomnia, nausea, and vomiting.
These are just two out of hundreds of pesticides that contain potentially harmful chemicals. Commercial fertilizers and weed killers are no different either. They can also contain chemicals that potentially lead to side effects.
Benefits of Organic Gardening
By growing your own vegetables, you are in full control of what your plants are exposed to. You don’t have to wonder what your food has been exposed to. You will know! It’s comforting to know that your food has not been exposed to chemicals.
If you feel that your garden needs any of these things, then there are natural alternatives to using commercial products. These will be explained in detail later in this guide.
(READ OUR OTHER GUIDE ON GROWING ORGANIC VEGETABLES AND BERRIES.)
Along with the obvious benefit of healthier vegetables, organic gardening will save you money. Many do not realize just how much money they can save by growing their own vegetables.
Look at the costs associated with standard gardening:
Cost of pesticides.
Cost of fertilizers.
Cost of weed killers.
Cost of gas to driving to the store to buy these products.
Add up the costs of these items the next time you are in the store. Once you do, you will completely eliminate your skepticism. There is also the added cost of gas. Imagine if you get home, start tending your garden, and then realize that your garden has weeds. Then you would have to drive all the way back to the store to get weed killer. With an organic garden, you will never have to worry about this.
We all know that gardening is a money saver so just imagine how much more money you will save by removing these products.
If saving money is not your primary concern, then consider the health benefits that you will be bestowing upon yourself and your family. If you have ever read any healthy eating books, you will notice that most follow a standard theme – they recommend consuming organic foods. So having a good supply of organic vegetables will help you to naturally lead a healthier lifestyle.
If you combine organic foods with a healthy detox regiment, you will notice wondrous improvements in your overall health. In fact, those who replace 60% or more of their normal diet with organic foods see an increase in energy as a result. That’s because they are getting more vitamins into their diet. Furthermore, those same individuals also tend to have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and are more active as a result. It’s easier to lose weight when one is more active.
Finally, organic vegetables just taste better! Chemicals really dampen the taste of non-organic veggies. Homegrown veggies have a much more pronounced taste and their flavor is enhanced. Individuals are often surprised by this difference. Most people start their own garden for health reason and continue because of the taste!
Considerations of Organic Gardening
Now that you understand the benefits of organic gardening, it’s time we look at how it’s done. I feel compelled to express just how easy this process is to get started. It’s also much less costly since you don’t have to worry about stocking up on expensive fertilizers and other chemical agents. In fact, most of the stuff you need is probably already in your house.
First of all, you will need to plan carefully. Don’t just grab a handful of seeds and start digging around your yard. This is one of the biggest mistakes made by beginners. If you want to have a successful garden, then you will have to take the time to plan things out. Let’s look at some of the things that you need to consider.
Naturally, the primary concern is where to plant your garden. This decision will be based on your living situation. If you live in a location without a suitable yard (i.e. apartment or townhouse) then you are going to need to use pots. It’s possible to grow vegetables in pots and they come in a variety of sizes. So don’t let your living situation stop you.
Chances are that you don’t just have pots lying around so let’s take a look at ordering them. Before you start searching the internet or local stores, there might be some suitable containers lying around your home. Look for those before spending your money. You will be surprised at what you might find.
If you are fortunate enough to have a large yard then you have many more options at your disposal. You can find an area that you feel is suitable for your garden. Find a location that gets a good amount of sunlight throughout the day.
You will have to carefully observe your yard for a few days to find the best location. This will be time well spent since it will help you start your organic garden on the right track.
The size of your garden is completely up to you. This decision is based on available space and time that you can devote to it. You should probably start out small and gradually work your way up until you reach your overall goal. You are just starting out so use whatever resources you have available.
Good soil is the next thing on our list for our organic garden. In fact, it’s the most important thing of all. You must choose soil that is rich and fertile if you want your vegetables to grow strong. If the soil you are stuck with seems too thin or unsuitable, don’t give up. There are some ways to make thin soil more fertile. Just remember to never use chemical fertilizer to do this or else you are defeating the purpose of growing an organic garden.
This is the first point when the temptation to use chemicals hits new gardeners. It seems like an easy fix to just go out and buy a bag of soil that is loaded with fertilizers. This would be a huge step in the wrong direction. There are ways to make sure that your soil is rich without using chemicals.
If you are planning to grow your plants in pots then you can try to obtain soil from willing neighbors and family members who have their own yard. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
If that’s not an option, then consider purchasing organic soil from any garden supply shop. You must read the bag to ensure that it contains no chemical fertilizers. This is an expense but this cost will be offset by the savings in produce later down the road.
Once you have your soil, you will be able to fill your pots and containers. Then you can start planting the seeds of a healthier lifestyle. There are benefits to using pots to grow your plants – foremost is that you are in control of the soil’s temperature.
Compost is necessary if you want your garden to thrive and if your soil is not as fertile as you had hoped. Compost can enrich the soil by providing it with the minerals necessary to help your garden thrive during the growing seasons. It’s easy to make your own compost by using stuff that’s around the house.
The first method of creating your own compost is for those who have their own yard. Start off by digging a pit in your yard. Once you have a pit, start adding the following refuse to it:
Peelings (Fruit and Vegetable).
Used Coffee Grinds.
Add those things to your pit instead of the trash bin. When you rake your yard, throw those stray leaves into the pit as well. You can also ask neighbors for their refuse but that’s probably not necessary. This might be necessary if you are single and don’t accumulate trash quickly. You can convince neighbors by offering to give them some of the fresh harvest once it’s available.
You must start this compost pit long before you plant your first seeds. The longer the compost ages, the better it will be. So start a pit as soon as possible. The general rule of thumb is to start a compost pit three weeks before the first seeds are planted. You should start your compost pit as soon as winter passes and the ground becomes soft enough to easily dig. That will ensure that your compost is ready when you need it.
If you are limited to space and forced to use pots, then don’t panic! You can purchase organic compost from a gardening supply store. This will be much easier than creating your own compost when you have limited space. Be sure to read the entire label when buying compost. Make absolutely sure that it contains no added chemicals.
4. Organic Mulch & Newspaper
These are a must for anyone growing an organic garden. You can use a great number of things around your property to create mulch. Leaves, flowers, twigs, and pine needles will make excellent mulch. Don’t be afraid to collect these things and use them to help you plants prosper.
It’s a common misconception that mulch is just for visual appeal. It has a much greater purpose. While mulch does offer a certain aesthetic appeal, it also provides beneficial nutrients to your garden. For starters, organic mulch tends to prevent weeds from sprouting.
Mulch also improves the overall quality of the soil. Organic mulch decomposes over time and will become a new layer of rich topsoil. This provides your vegetables with essential nutrients.
Another added benefit of mulch is that it helps prevent water from evaporating too fast. Therefore, the water has the chance to do its job. It will also keep the temperature of the soil cool during hot days and warm during cool nights. This is a really powerful trait for those attempting to grow vegetables year-round.
Now let’s move on to old newspapers. They perform another function that helps your garden thrive. Newspaper should be laid on the soil before placing the mulch. This will serve as a natural way of protecting your plants from insects.
Some other things to consider when choosing your mulch are:
Avoid using hay because it often contains weed seeds that will quickly spread havoc to your garden.
Never add too much mulch. It should be layered no more than three inches.
Make sure the mulch is not matted together in a manner that prevents water from reaching the soil.
Watch for slimy mulch that can occur just before it starts decomposing. If it becomes slimy, remove it and replace with fresh mulch.
5. Gardening Tools
Finally, you will need to get your hands on some good old fashioned gardening tools in order to start your organic garden. If you don’t already know, these tools include:
A Shovel (size depends on whether you are growing outdoors or indoors).
A Garden Hoe (if you are growing outside).
Gloves (to protect your hands).
Click here to choose the best gardening tools.
6. Making Organic Pesticide
One of the common temptations to use a chemical product on your garden will come when you find that insects are trying to take control of your garden. Pest control is important. Pests will not only eat your plants, but can spread diseases that will quickly consume your entire garden. Here are some types of organic pesticides that you can make from inexpensive items found lying around the house.
This is great for those sap-sucking insects that would try and . It’s made by mixing 1 tablespoon of dish soap with 1 cup of cooking oil.
This concentrated liquid should then be mixed with water using the following ratio:
4 teaspoons of mixture for every 1 pint of water.
You can then store the remainder of the concentrated oil mixture in a dry location.
Once you have your oil spray, mist your vegetables with it about once every 7 days. This will help control pests.
Baby Shampoo Spray
Since baby shampoo doesn’t contain any chemicals (since it must be gentle) then you can use it to create a spray that can control common garden pests. Combine 2 tablespoons of baby shampoo with one gallon of water. Then fill a spray bottle with this mixture.
Don’t use this spray while the sun is directly beaming light onto the plants. You should also never use it on plants with hairy leaves or a waxy coat.
Garlic is a natural insect repellant because of its scent. Combine about 10 garlic cloves with one quart of water and blend it. Then let the mixture set for 24 hours. Once the water has soaked up the garlic scent, strain it using cheesecloth. Add 1 cup of cooking oil to the mix. You can even add a tablespoon of cayenne pepper for a more powerful repellant. This mixture is the concentrate used to make the spray. Simply mix this concentrate with1 gallon of water.
Red Pepper Spray
Red pepper powder can be used to create an organic pesticide. Simply combine the following:
1 Tablespoon of Red Pepper Powder.
6 Drops of Dish Soap.
1 Gallon of Water.
Pour this liquid into a sprayer and use it on your organic garden. Spray your garden once a week.
How to Make Organic Weed Killer
Chemical weed killers are risky for plants and none too healthy for people. There is a safe alternative that you can make with products from your house. However, keep in mind that weed killer does not discriminate. So you should not use this near any plants that you are growing. If you notice weeds in your garden during the middle of the growing season (when crops are present), then you will need to pull them the old fashioned way.
1. Measure out 2 cups of white vinegar. Vinegar contains natural acids that kill weeds.
2. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to the vinegar.
3. Add 1 ounce of rubbing alcohol.
4. Add 2 teaspoons of dish soap. Soap weakens the protective layer of plants, making it more vulnerable to other agents.
5. Dilute with water. It should be about a 50/50 ratio.
6. Use a spray bottle to spray the weeds directly. If you do choose to use this spray near any plants you are growing, then be careful not to let it contact your plants.
(READ OUR POST ON natural pest control methods.)
Deciding What to Grow
You have gathered all of the essentials needed to start and maintain your organic garden so now you need to decide what to plant. This is the fun part! Consider what vegetables are your favorites. Imagine them sprouting. Imagine them being harvested. Then imagine yourself enjoying the fruits of your labor.
There are many different types of vegetable seeds that can be found and purchased at online retailers or from local gardening stores. There are so many choices here that some people find themselves overwhelmed with this decision.
If this is your first time growing vegetables then you should stick with ones that are easy to grow. Even if the vegetable is one that you don’t usually eat, you may be surprised at how much different it tastes when grown at home. There are many who have found vegetables that they hated from the can but absolutely adore when grown at home. Here are some easy vegetables that are perfect for beginners.
Tomatoes can grow well in all climates so they are a popular choice for home gardening. There are a lot of different types of tomatoes. There are even some that don’t require stakes or fences to grow on. Cherry tomatoes are a prime example and tend to make an excellent choice for home gardening. One, they are easy to grow. Two, they are usually expensive when bought in stores. Three, they are perfect for salads.
It’s important that you allow tomato plants to get enough sunlight and water. For the best results, you will also want to pick tomatoes as they ripen. This will also allow each plant to yield a greater harvest.
Chilies & Peppers
Another great choice of organic vegetables to grow is peppers – especially if you are growing your garden in pots and/or containers. Peppers grow well all throughout the year so long as the conditions are right. An added bonus of peppers is that they do not have to be harvested as soon as they appear ripe. You can wait until you need to use them and then pick your peppers.
When you decide to harvest them, you’ll be pleased to know that it’s extremely easy. They can be dried quite easily. Just place them in a dark, dry area with lots of air. You can even store them in a glass jar if you don’t have anywhere else to store them.
This is another great choice for beginners due to how easy zucchini is to grow. They are easy to plant, maintenance, and zucchini grows quickly. You will be able to see results without a long wait.
Like tomatoes, it’s important to pick Zucchini as soon as they are ready. It will help encourage new blooms to grow and bear even more squash. The end result will be a large harvest.
Children love peas so growing organic peas is a wonderful idea if you’re planning to grow for a family. Furthermore, they grow in large quantities so your harvest will always be plentiful. Peas can be grown through the spring and summer, well into the winter. So they are a great choice for beginners.
It’s important to give support to these plants. You can purchase stakes at any supply store or nursery. Peas require more water than tomatoes or peppers and you will need to keep a close eye out for weeds. They can quickly ruin your pea plants so be sure to remove them immediately.
This is another great choice for beginners since they are extremely easy to grow. They also provide plentiful harvests since both the leaves and turnips can be eaten. Like peas, turnips require a lot of water. That’s really your only concern.
If you are growing outdoors then corn makes a great choice for beginners. Corn has a number of wonderful purposes. You can grill it, roast it, and even boil or steam it. Plus, corn plants are absolutely beautiful. Its fun to watch them grow. However, this vegetable is a bit trickier to grow than the veggies we have discussed thus far.
When growing corn, be sure that you plant the seeds at least 15 inches apart. You will also need to make sure that your crops are well fertilized with organic compost immediately after being planted. Then fertilize them again after two weeks.
Beets are best grown in a well fertilized area. This is one of the vegetables that many people tend to hate out of a can yet absolutely love when grown at home. There is a big difference in taste. The most important thing to remember when growing beets is to keep the soil covered in mulch so that it stays cool in the summer. Harvest your beets before the first frost, otherwise the crop will be ruined.
Seed potatoes are very easy to plant and even easier to grow. Just remember to hoe often and keep weeds pulled as they will hinder the growth of your potatoes. Plant them with other crops to discourage insects.
Carrots must be planted in the early spring. They can be harvested early enough in the season that you can plant another crop. So long as the soil is loose and deep enough, you will have no trouble growing carrots. Like beets, organic grown carrots taste much better than those found in the store.
Green beans are a money saving crop since they are often a family favorite. Canned green beans are costly – maybe not on an individual basis but the long-term costs do add up. You can grow them all through spring and summer.
Lettuce is a perfect choice for those late night salad snacks! There are a number of different types of lettuce to be sure to choose your favorite. The key to growing lettuce is to plant it in the early spring before the weather gets too hot.
Radish is another salad friendly vegetable and should be one of the first that you attempt to grow. They are very easy and can be grown all through the summer, well into the fall.
Spring onions need a lot of water to grow but other than that, they are an easy crop. They also serve as a great deterrent to insects so plant then around the border of your garden if it’s outside.
Starting Your Organic Garden
Now that you have decided what to buy and have all of your gardening supplies, it’s time to start growing your organic vegetables. However, you might want to plan out your garden before you start digging or filling containers with soil. Otherwise, you will find the process extremely confusing and much more difficult than it needs to be.
The best way to get started is to get out a notebook and start sketching your garden. Decide its location and be sure that area receives a lot of direct sunlight. Make sure that there is a water source close enough so that watering your garden is not a hassle. After all, you don’t want to plant your garden only to discover that you have to bucket water to it.
There are some other factors to consider such as:
Avoid areas that have recently undergone repairs.
Avoid areas near metal fences.
Avoid areas that retain a lot of water after heavy rain.
Debris left from repairs or from metal fences can contain harmful chemicals, which would defeat the purpose of growing an organic garden. Also, while water is important to crops, if you plant them in an area that gets flooded then your crops could be ruined.
Once you have chosen your area, be sure to stop using any chemical agents in the area.
The goal is to plan your garden for efficiency, not aesthetic appeal. For example, if you are planning to plant peas and corn, then you can grow your peas in a row in front of the corn. Since the peas can use corn stalks to grow up and around, there will be no need for stakes.
Also, if you have onions planned for your garden, then plant them along the border surrounding the edge of your garden. This will naturally prevent insects from becoming a hindrance.
Once you have got everything planned out, remove all rocks, plants, or other debris that is already in that area. Then you will need to plow the area. Plowing is a farming term that means digging up and soil to loosen it. This makes it easier for plants to grow. This needs to be done at least eight inches deep. Start out small and work your way toward a larger garden.
When the area has been plowed, you should cover the entire area with organic mulch. This can consist of leaves, pine needles, or twins/bark that is found through the yard. Just don’t use hay, since it’s a haven for weed seeds. Make sure that the mulch you are using has never been exposed to chemicals.
Next, spread your organic compost thinly around the area. You are creating rich nutrients that your plants will absolutely love. Mix rich soil with this compost until you have several inches of a soil/compost mixture all around your garden.
The soil should be damp (but not soggy) when you plant your seeds. Avoid stepping on it since that will compact the soil, making it harder for seedlings to break through. Read the instructions on the seed package and follow them.
If this is your first time planting a garden, then consider creating furrows by moving a layer of soil aside. Then make your own seed tape from toilet paper. Just roll out the toilet paper on a table and moisten it with a spray bottle, then place the seeds out according to the directions. Cover the seeds with another strip of toilet paper and then fold the edges. Spray it once more to ensure that the seeds do not move and then place the seed tape into your furrows. Cover with a thin layer of soil. This will help you correctly place the seeds apart, making the process that much easier.
Another method that you can use to start your garden is to purchase seeds that have already been started. Some suppliers sell seeds that have already been started. They are generally grown in biodegradable containers so it’s extremely easy to transfer them. Simply plant the container in your garden and then use old newspaper to line the sprouts. Cover the newspaper with mulch.
If you like this method but would like to save money, you can use your own biodegradable containers to start your seeds indoors. Once they sprout, simply add them to your garden in the same manner discussed above. This will help to avoid damaging your plants.
If you decide to start your seeds in your garden, then seed tape is your best bet. The most difficult part comes when placing the newspaper around your garden since you will not want to cover your seeds. So be sure to mark the location of each seedling or wait until the seeds sprout before laying the mulch.
It’s highly recommended that you mark the seeds so that you can lay mulch as soon as possible. The quicker you get the mulch down, the less the chance of weeds and insects infesting your garden.
Making Your Garden Thrive
Once your seeds have been sown, it might see like a fabulous time to take a break and just relax as your vegetables grow. Many believe that once the seeds have been planted, then all that’s required is to water them everyday. It might be tempting to relax now, but there is still work that must be done to ensure that your garden thrives.
First and foremost, remember to water your garden on a daily basis. This can be shared as a family chore if you have a family. During beautiful weather, you will enjoy the excuse to go outside and enjoy the weather. On rainy days, there is no need to water your garden. Nature will be doing it for you. However, just don’t let small breaks in your routine cause you to forget your responsibilities once the rain has subsided.
It’s best to water your garden early in the morning (before 10am). Waiting too late will cause the water to evaporate before it properly soaks into the ground. Also, make sure that your mulch is not matting. If your mulch mats too much, it will absorb too much of the water that you are using to care for your garden.
One thing that you must never do is water your garden too much. This is a mistake that many beginners make for several reason – not limited to a household mixing up their schedule and two or more people watering the garden on the same day. Make sure you have a schedule set up. Always check the ground before watering your garden to make sure that it isn’t already soggy.
Watering plants too much can actually drown them and is just as detrimental as not watering them enough. After large rainstorms, you may need to wait a day or two before returning to your normal watering routine. Again, check the soil and use your own judgment.
Set up a schedule and stick to it. Consistently water your garden. Regulate how much water it receives. Using the same amount of water each day will actually improve the quality of your plants.
Weeding is also important to a successful organic garden. Many first time gardeners overlook this. Weeds are quick to grow and can overrun a garden in only a few days. Since you are not using weed killers, you will need to be vigilant. Pull weeds on a daily basis. If you check your garden on a daily basis then this is not a difficult task. However, if you let it get out of hand then it can be quite the chore. Weed pulling is another great task to delegate among an active family.
Insects and Pests
Insects are another concern for gardeners like us. Pests are useful for helping a garden grow but tend to eat your vegetables before you have the chance to harvest them. Mulch and newspaper will help prevent them, as will planting onions or garlic around the border of your garden. However, sometimes they still wreck havoc on our garden.
Let’s look at some common pests that can be a pain:
These pests can be avoided before they become a problem by simply working the soil during spring. Expose the pupae to the elements and nature should take care of them. If some do happen to get into your crops then use a soapy spray or other non-chemical homemade insecticide to get rid of them.
Spread wheat bran and molasses through your garden a week before planting your first crops to avoid these pests. You can also add nematodes to the soil to destroy the cutworms. Another solution is to pick the caterpillars off every evening before sunset. Nighttime is often the best time to catch them.
If you are fortunate enough to catch these caterpillars when they are still small, you can simply spray them with homemade pesticide. They can also be removed by hand.
Spray these with homemade pesticide while they are still young. You should be able to remove pupae by tilling the soil. You can easily manage these out of hand.
Slugs & Snails
As an organic grower, these will be the bane of your existence! Many invest in raised plant beds to completely avoid them. However, there are more cost friendly alternatives. Edging your garden with copper tape is the first. Furthermore, growing clover will attract predators that will remove slugs and snails without messing with your garden. Finally, you can use shallow pans of beer to trap them. Simply place them in and around your garden and dispose of those slugs and snails daily.
These insects are normally repelled by using soapy water. If they have infested one of your plants heavily, then quickly remove the affected leaves and dispose of them.
You can add certain types of nematodes to the soil to help prevent these pests. You can even use row covers to protect plants wherever possible. However, the easiest way to avoid them altogether is to plant your crops later in spring. This will ensure that the largest population of beetles have moved on.
Nematodes will take down this pesky insect, as well as flea beetles. Once you can see these pests in your garden, pick them off of your plants or spray them with homemade insecticide. Also, be sure to clean your garden between every harvest so that you can avoid them during the next crop.
These bugs love to hide on the underside of leaves so be sure to check vigilantly for them. They can be safely picked off by hand. If you notice a lot of them, then use homemade pesticide.
If your garden is being overrun by these pests, there are some different ways to get rid of them. One way is to create your own pesticide. You can do this by mixing two teaspoon of dish soap with one cup of vegetable oil. Then add a couple of teaspoons of this new mixture to a spray bottle of water and you have a wonderfully effective (and organic) pesticide.
Consider placing naturally repelling plants around the border of your garden when spraying isn’t enough. You can even place these plants between rows of crops if there is enough space. In fact, this method is much more reliable than spray. Onions and garlic serve as the two best insect repelling plants. Herbs like basil also help. You can purchase these types of plants from a local gardening store. They will already be half-grown in small pots and are easily transplanted into your garden.
Fungus and Other Diseases
Funguses and other plant diseases can cause just as many issues as pests. So pay close attention for any early signs of plant disease.
You should be on the look out for any of the following:
It’s much easier to prevent these diseases than it is to cure them. So the sooner you diagnose and treat then, the less of a hindrance they will be. Take good care of your garden. Rotate crops every year. Keep the area clean between crops. Make sure your organic garden is well watered and fertilized (using organic fertilizer). If you are buying seedlings that are already sprouted, then be sure to check them for signs of disease before purchasing them.
Here are some common diseases and how you can treat them:
Bacterial Leaf Spot
This is probably the most common plant disease for organic gardeners. Leaves of affected plants will have small, black or brown water-soaked spots. These spots will eventually dry up and begin to crack, dropping off prematurely.
The most common crops to see this disease are peppers, cabbages, and tomatoes. Symptoms are often the most noticeable during rainy weather. You can keep it from spreading by quickly removing infected leaves. It’s hard to keep up with this disease but it is very possible.
Late blight is common to tomatoes and potatoes late in the growing season. It begins as wet spots with a slight hint of gray/green spots on the leaves. If left untreated, these spots will transform into white fungal growth on the bottom side of the leaves.
Some types of tomatoes and potatoes are quite resilient to this affliction so it’s best to select these types of plants. They are more expensive but that cost is made up through more plentiful harvests.
You can also avoid this disease by removing infected areas of the plant. Preventative measures include watering plants earlier in the mornings so that the water evaporates before fungus has a chance to grow.
Rust can affect the following vegetables:
You must keep a vigilant watch on rust. A powdery, reddish brown spots appear on the plant. Although the rust can be wiped off quite easily, you should completely remove the infected leaves. That will reduce the chances of the infection spreading. Plants that are too seriously infected should be completely removed.
Ensuring that your plants are getting a good circulation of air is the best way to avoid rust. So avoid planting your seeds too close together. Weed your garden often to help maintain great air circulation.
This disease is most common to growers in the United States since it occurs in warm, wet climates. It can affect stems, leaves, and even the fruits of full grown plants. So you can see that it can be detrimental to your harvest.
Anthranose is most commonly found in:
Early symptoms include small spots on infected areas. If untreated, pink spores will start to appear in these spots. Water with a hint of lime juice sprayed directly on these spots will help prevent this disease. If Anthracnose goes too long untreated, you will be forced to completely remove the plant.
This is one of the few plant diseases that are viral so be absolutely sure to treat it as soon as you notice any symptoms. You can purchase seeds that are more resilient to it. Mosaic Virus will stunt a plant’s growth, causing its leaves to curl for no reason. You will have to destroy any plants infected with this – and do it quickly. Mosaic Virus will spread rapidly!
This is yet another disease that can spread to your entire garden. It’s identified by the wilting of lower leaves. This wilting is followed by yellow blotches. Beetles are known carriers of this disease so if you want to prevent it, then keep those pests away!
This disease shows up on stems, leaves, flowers, and fruits of your plants. It appears just as its name implies – a powdery mildew. Prevent this disease by encouraging air circulation and removing all fallen leaves from your garden. A baking soap/water mixture can prevent and cure this disease.
Cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli are afflicted by this disease. It affects their roots. Plants with this disorder will have swollen roots and will start to wilt under the full sunlight. Avoid clubroot by purchasing resistant seeds. Also, be sure to rotate crops each year.
Conquering weeds, insects, and diseases is an important step to making sure your harvests are plentiful. However, it doesn’t stop here. You need to be sure that your plants are getting the right amount of nutrients and water. Don’t be afraid to spread more compost through your garden.
Some plants will need new compost on a bi-weekly basis. If your homemade compost doesn’t seem to be doing the job, then you can purchase organic manure fertilizer from local nurseries. It might sound gross, but this can mean the difference between a thriving garden and a struggling one.
Some Tips about Your Organic Vegetable Garden
You have your garden planted, have been watering it everyday, and done everything else right. However, your plants refuse to grow. Don’t give up. Here are some troubleshooting tips that you can try.
Have you been pulling weeds on a daily basis? It might not seem like weed pulling would have to be done every day, especially when only one or two weeds are seen. However, it can make a huge difference. You should be visiting your garden every day and checking for weeds – not just looking out the window to make sure it’s growing.
Many beginners casually check their organic garden only to discover that sprouts that they believed were their plants were actually weeds. So don’t repeat this same mistake. Closely inspect your garden on a daily basis. Also, throw these weeds away. Do not add them to your compost pit.
If you are weeding your garden and your plants are still having trouble, add more compost. Sometimes, plants are just missing the proper nutrients. This one step can make a big difference.
If you are still seeing no results, then you will need to invest in some aged manure. You can pick it up at any local gardening supply store. If the thought of manure grosses you out, you can try organic compost first. However, if you really want what’s best for your garden then manure can do the trick.
Finally, don’t be afraid to increase the water you are providing your garden. Just be careful to not overdo it. If the soil looks to still be dry after watering it, then you should increase the amount.
Finally, spray your garden with homemade pesticide and soapy water. This is to ensure that insects are not causing your plants to suffer. If you can see any insects, increase the amount of spray you are using.
It’s Harvest Time!
Now comes the time when we can finally reap the rewards of our hard work. Harvesting is a fun time. The whole family can take part in this wondrous pastime. The time it will take to harvest your organic garden will depend on several factors and may have to be spread out all through the season.
Some vegetables require you to harvest them as soon as they ripen rather than let them stay out in the sunlight. They will become too mushy and lose flavor if they are not harvested soon enough.
On the other hand, there are some crops that can be left out once they have ripened or even harvested before they ripen. Let’s look at some of the common vegetables that can be grown in organic gardens and see how each one should be harvested. Even if you have a large garden, you will still need to continue checking your garden regularly since many crops can yield multiple harvests.
Beets should be harvested when they are between 1-2 inches in diameter and the leaves are at least 4 inches long. It’s worth noting that beet tops can also be eaten.
These are harvested when the pods are firm enough to snap easily and the seeds are underdeveloped.
Once carrots are crisp and at least a half-inch in diameter, they are ready to be harvested. Younger carrots might be more tender but older carrots often taste sweeter. Therefore, you can leave carrots until the first front if you want. However, if you like younger carrots then you will need to pick them as soon as they are ready.
Corn can be harvested once the silk starts to turn dark and shrivel. This happens about 3 weeks after the first strands of silk appear. However, it can happen sooner so it’s essential that you keep an eye on them.
Cucumbers should be harvested once they are between 2 and 8 inches long. This depends on your personal preference. They are best eaten once they turn a dark green color. Also, once you remove a cucumber from its plant another will grow back in its place. SO keep your eyes peeled!
Once eggplant reaches 6-8 inches long and are also glossy, you can harvest them. Use a knife to cut them from the plant.
Garlic is harvested once the tops of the bulbs try out and turn yellow. They must be dried out once harvested. Furthermore, trim the roots close to the bulbs.
Harvest these in the fall by loosening the soil, uprooting, and then cutting away the roots.
Lettuce is harvested about 50 days after being planted. This is a personal choice. You can harvest them while small (50 days) or once they reach their full size (60 days).
Never let okra pods reach longer that 3 inches long. Harvest them while still immature and tender. More will grow in the place of harvested okra so you will need to keep an eye on your plants.
Onions are harvested once the tops have fallen down. Let them air dry for at least two days before you store them.
Peas are harvested once the pod is still tender and green. Pea pods are normally able to be harvested about a week after you plant them.
There is a lot of leeway with harvesting peppers. You can either harvest them as soon as they are ripe or allow them to mature. The longer you wait to harvest peppers, the stronger they will taste.
Large potatoes can be harvested once you have dried the vine using a spading fork. Since potatoes are at least 4 inches underground, you must handle them gently to avoid spoiling them.
You should harvest pumpkins once they have fully ripens. Be sure to pick them before the first front to avoid ruining them.
Radishes are best when picked once they reach about the same size as a large marble. Be sure not to let them grow larger than 1 inch in diameter.
Squash should be harvested once it reaches about 6 inches in diameter. You will find your first squash ready to harvest at around 4-8 weeks after planting it.
You can harvest both the tops and roots of turnips. The roots should be around 2-3 inches in diameter while the tops are at least 4 inches long.
These instructions on harvesting might seem a bit silly but if you do not harvest your crops effectively then you will be unable to use them. Don’t let all of your hard work go to waste. Pay attention to your garden and give harvesting the same attention that you have devoted to growing your garden.
For vegetables that require constant harvesting, make sure that the family member performing their daily tasks are sure to check for any crops that are ready. Sometimes one day can mean the difference between a good and spoiled vegetables. If you want to avoid getting overworked, you can try growing only vegetables that will continue to ripe after being picked. This includes peas and squash.
If you feel that harvesting in different intervals will be too confusing, then you can plant vegetables that require only one harvest. This includes peppers, onions, and turnips.
If you live in a cold area, then you should consider growing vegetables that can withstand a hard frost. Turnips are a prime example.