Ten Steps to Organic Vegetable Gardening

The organic growing philosophy severely restricts the use of artificial chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Organic vegetable gardening is not just the avoidance of chemicals, in the larger view, it is organic living using nature's laws. Birds, worms, and other signs of a living earth are welcomed into the garden.

Fresh vegetables picked from a garden laid out on the ground

You can actually get from the earth what you will then use for your organic venture. It is like being one with nature.

Organic growers rely on developing a healthy, fertile soil and growing a mixture of crops.

Genetically modified (GM) crops and ingredients are not allowed under organic standards.

In recent times synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides have become the practice most common among commercial agricultural enterprises. These practices have had undesirable results such as the loss or depletion of topsoil, and land becomes less fertile. The excessive use of pesticides has also resulted in pests becoming resistant to the current chemicals, which results in the application of even stronger chemicals.

Our environment is being damaged by toxic chemical spills and chemicals leaching into rivers — contaminating our drinking water. The effect of global warming is becoming a major part of the political agenda.

Research has demonstrated that organically grown vegetables are higher in vitamins and minerals than those grown with inorganic fertilizers. Gardening organically and growing as much of our own food as possible is one of the steps we can take to start healing the earth — and in the process heal ourselves. Several steps are needed to follow to ensure a successful and bountiful planting season.

Step One: Keep Soil Healthy 

The soil is kept healthy by working WITH Nature rather than AGAINST it. Practices include using organic fertilizers to replenish the earth, and all refuse produced by the garden should be recycled back into the garden. Organic gardening uses all of the waste produced in the garden such as grass clippings, fallen leaves and twigs, and leftovers from the kitchen to make compost that feeds the soil and keeps it full of the nutrients necessary to grow crops.

A hand is sifting through a pile of garden soil in a white bag

Step Two: Avoid Synthetic Chemical Fertilizers, Herbicides, and Pesticides

You can easily create compost from garden and kitchen waste. This will provide a cost savings, because you do not need to buy expensive chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

By going organic, you'll be able to help nature replenish its resources. You will get the dried leaves, the sawdust, some vegetable peels and other materials from the ground. This is also your way of cleaning your surroundings. Such materials can be used as elements in compost.

Eliminating the use of chemicals in the garden allows gardeners to not worry about children, pets, and wildlife coming in contact with synthetic weed killers and fertilizers on the lawn and shrubs. The food grown is pesticide-free and additive-free.

Chemical companies tell us that the chemicals we use are safe if used according to direction. But research shows that even tiny amounts of poisons absorbed through the skin can cause such things as cancer, especially in children.

On the average, a child ingests four to five times more cancer-causing pesticides from foods than an adult. This can lead to various diseases later on in the child's life. With organic gardening, these incidents are lessened.

Remember, pesticides contain toxins that have only one purpose — to kill living things.

Fighting pests organically: Be vigilant with your garden and take off every pest that you see. If you can't pick the insects one by one by your bare hands, then you can go to your local grocery store and ask for an organic pesticide that is available commercially. You should only turn to the organic pesticides when it becomes too many and uncontrollable that you can no longer handle.

You can also bring in the animals that feed on those pests. This way, you’ll have some help in picking those pests up. And it is helping the other animals satisfy their hunger. Creatures like other insects, birds, and frogs will help to eliminate your garden pests.

Step Three: Practice Sustainability

Sustainability is the ability of a society or an ecosystem to function indefinitely without squandering the resources on which it relies. Organic gardening does this by ensuring there is no loss of nutrients or topsoil in the garden.

Step Four: Pursue Environmental Stewardship

Gardening organically means that the environment benefits from the reduction in contamination of the water supply and air pollution.

Step Five: Create Wildlife-Friendly Habitats

As you practice organic gardening techniques, you provide a habitat for wildlife, including beneficial insects, birds, and animals.

A hummingbird sucking nectar from a flower in the garden

Informal areas can be created to assist wildlife in their search for a habitat where they can survive, thrive and reproduce. This reduces the destruction of habitat areas that have now endangered many species.

Step Six: Practice Intensive Planting

This is where plants are spaced closely together to conserve water and shield the soil from sunlight. This in turn helps to prevent weed seeds from germinating and growing.

Step Seven: Follow Biodiversity Habits

Biodiversity ensures that when a change in growing conditions occurs, a single crop from a monoculture does not lead to a crop failure. The food supply does not become jeopardized when a diversity of species are planted.

Step Eight: Rotate the Crops

Crop rotation assists in the control against soil-borne pests and diseases. This rotation makes a difference in the productivity of the garden as those diseases that affect the plants are kept in check by the rotation of the crops to other areas of the garden.

Step Nine: Perform Watering and Weeding Chores

Organic gardeners don’t contaminate ponds and groundwater with synthetics, so there is the difference in the effect on local water sources.

A woman watering a large garden with a hose

Rainwater can be saved to water the garden. Soaker hoses, drip irrigation, and watering by hand conserve water. Mulches are invaluable in both water conservation and slowing down weed germination.

Step Ten: Save Seeds

Save some seeds from your best plants when harvesting crops. Many old varieties are being lost at an alarming rate and preserving this biodiversity is important.

Some of these saved seeds have been used to develop new strains after disaster has affected commonly cultivated varieties.

Dill, cucumber, and watermelon seeds laid out on a table

Follow these steps when you try your hand at organic vegetable gardening, and you will be successful. 

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