Starting from the Ground Up

 

MCG-May2014

Get seeds off to a good start by knowing your soil and how to enrich it organically.

I’m often asked, “What does in mean to grow food organically?”

At its most basic, organic gardening means growing your crops without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. And, not using herbicides in the garden.

Even if you have never tried growing this way before, you can begin this season.

How?

In the garden, everything starts with the soil.

The organic gardener’s goal is to have a soil rich in nutrients and microbes that will nourish strong, healthy plants able to resist pests and disease.  This doesn’t mean there won’t be some issues that arise. What it does mean is your plants will be more robust and able to survive setbacks.

To begin, learn about your soil.  Have it tested for pH. Know the soil’s composition. Is it sandy? Clay? This is your starting point.

Enriching the soil

Organic growing nourishes the entire ecosystem through sustainable gardening practices that start with the soil. There’s a reason gardeners call compost “black gold” for it provides a wealth of benefits throughout the growing season.

Compost can be decomposed plant material, food scraps (no meat, bones, dairy), thoroughly decomposed animal manures and bedding.  You want your compost to be healthy and weed-free so if you make your own, you wouldn’t add diseased plants or weeds with seeds.

Here’s a link: Earth easy on starting a compost pile. It is easy to do and well worth the effort. The key is to balance carbon and nitrogen-based materials. The rule of thumb is two-thirds brown (leaves, egg shells, peat moss) and one-third green (grass clippings, kitchen scraps, manures).

As the weather improves in Spring, add compost to the existing garden beds. This amending of the soil improves it by increasing the moisture capacity, making essential nutrients in the soil available to the plant roots and supporting beneficial soil microbes. Soil microbes are what turn organic matter into food for plants – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.

Next time, I’ll write about organic fertilizers.

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