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Articles about Organic Gardening Basics
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Crop Rotation Benefits Organic Gardening
How Do I Start Organic Gardening?
How to prepare a seed bed
Planning your crops for the year
Tips For Spring Gardening
Weeds - We Need 'Em!
What is the Right Plant and Where Do I Put It?
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How Do I Start Organic Gardening?
by Frann Leach
Starting an organic garden isn't that difficult. If you already grow vegetables, fruit or herbs, or even a few flowers, all you need to do is change some of your methods, so that, for example, instead of blasting a pest with chemicals, you protect the crop so the little beastie can't get to it. Or you might introduce a predator to eat the pest.
I started out with just one item: carrots. This was because contaminated carrots was where I came in, heh. Probably not the best place to start, as carrots are quite challenging. You need to do more to get a decent crop from carrots than with some other vegetables, unless you want to drench them with the pesticides that set me off on this course in the first place.
If you want to get a taste of how much fun an organic garden can be, the best thing to do is just pick one crop from the annual varieties (because that way you start getting results before you get bored, hopefully).
Things to grow in your organic garden
The best idea is to choose something you like to eat, which is hard to get or expensive. Here are a few suggestions:
- Have you ever bought those really thin Kenya beans in the tiny packets? Some people call them needle beans, they are just 'posh' varieties of French beans, and very easy to grow. A packet of less than 250g will cost you a couple of quid in the supermarket. For the same sort of figure, you can buy a packet of seeds that will produce kilos and kilos of beans. You'll have enough for you and your family and you'll still be giving them away to the neighbours or selling them at the gate!
- You don't often see the old fashioned runner bean on sale any more. And when you do, it seems to be overpriced, and a bit disappointing when you get it home. This bean is so tasty, very different in flavour to the French bean. Did you know that runner beans were originally brought to Europe as an ornamental? You can dot these around the flower garden and they won't look out of place, if you keep cutting the beans.
- Almost everyone likes spring onions. You can grow these in a big pot, if you like, but you must keep them well watered and weeded. Other than that, these are very quick and easy.
- Mange tout peas are another luxury vegetable found in tiny packets at ridiculous prices. They are so easy to grow you will soon realise just what a rip-off they are in the shops. Believe me, once the plants are grown, they just crop and crop and crop. Don't grow too many, or you will get sick of them, and so will everybody you know. You can put them in salad, stirfry them or stick them in a curry.
- My kids love New Zealand spinach (which is not a true spinach), a crop you hardly ever see on sale. It's very easy to grow in southern counties, as is plain spinach, which will grow anywhere. Both can be used either as a cooked vegetable or in salad.
- Are you a salad enthusiast? Growing a mixed salading is a very easy start, and you get lots of different flavours to add to your salads. There are lots of different salad mixes available now. The price of a packet of seed will probably be anything from £1 to £3.50, which will produce enough salad to feed an army. Think of the money you will save on pre-packed salads! But don't bother with lettuce, this is too attractive to pests, and cheap enough to buy.
- I really love courgettes (zucchini). They are so versatile. My curries are chockablock with them, they are a basic ingredient of ratatouille, and they make a great vegetable accompaniment. They are also quite expensive in the shops and very easy to grow. Three or four plants will produce more than enough for the average family, and you can grow them in big pots on the patio to save digging.
- Do strawberries grab your fancy? These are a perennial crop, but if you buy a dozen or so plants, you will certainly get some strawberries the first year to whet your appetite. And the crop will be much bigger in the second year, if you look after them well. Strawberries are often expensive in the shops, so they are worth the effort if you like them a lot. Slugs like them, too, but there are ways which may surprise you to deprive them of their share.
- Do you have a weakness for corn on the cob? Not the easiest of crops, but very rewarding. Sweet corn needs warmth and regular heavy watering. Beginners outside Zones 1 and 2 should probably leave this for a year or so. Having said all this, there is nothing to beat corn on the cob cooked within 10 minutes of being picked. Absolutely gorgeous.
- Tomatoes are popular with most people. Home grown toms are much nicer than anything you can find in the shops, but unless you eat an awful lot, they may be a bit too much work for the benefit you get, at least as your first crop. The exception is Gardener's Delight, which will produce lots of tasty small tomatoes you can use as cherry tomatoes. One or two plants in large pots would not be too difficult to look after, although they must be kept watered, fed and trained. Unless you are in Zones 1 or 2, you would probably be best growing these in a greenhouse, but you can buy a tiny plastic one very cheaply now almost anywhere.
- Other greenhouse crops are sweet peppers and chillis. You can grow chillis indoors and move them outside when the weather is good, June, July or August. You still need to keep them watered and fed, though.
I hope this article has given you the encouragement to give organic gardening a try. Why not start your own organic garden this weekend?