Many gardeners prefer organic gardening techniques as a way of growing tasty, edible crops without the use of man-made chemicals and fertilisers. Organic growing techniques are also beneficial to wildlife, as too much of chemicals can create an imbalance in the natural food chain of your garden.
Organically-grown food looks good and also guarantees you the peace of mind of knowing exactly what has gone into producing it. It’s not difficult to change your style of gardening and while it might initially feel daunting, you’ll reap the benefits in the long-term.
Ten ways to get started
Improve your soil. Good soil promotes healthy plant growth. Leaf mould, composted bark and garden compost can be dug into the soil or spread across the surface, where weather and worms will work them in. Their bulk will improve the drainage of heavy soils and allow dry soil to hold onto moisture and nutrients.
- Make your own compost.Prunings, peelings, tea bags, old flower heads and even bits of newspaper can be turned into nutrient-rich compost. Fill a compost bin with a good mixture of green and brown materials, not just lots of green stuff such as grass clippings, which will produce a smelly sludge. Go for the largest compost bin you can fit in your garden. If it’s tiny, try a neat and compact worm bin.
- Choose the right plants. Strong plants are less likely to succumb to diseases or pests, so always grow a plant that suits your site and soil. Choose naturally disease resistant varieties whenever you can.
- Control weeds naturally. Prevent weeds by spreading a carpet of bark mulch, leaf mould or composted straw across soil. If weeds appear, pull them up or hoe them before they set seed. Compost weed seedlings, but discard tough weeds with long roots as they could reproduce in the compost heap.
- Control insects naturally. If you have pest problems, you can use biological controls bought from online suppliers. There are many available in the market now.
- Make wildlife work for you. Don’t reach for a chemical spray when your plants come under attack. Instead make your garden a haven for animals, birds and insects and they’ll do the work for you. Hedgehogs and toads will devour slugs and snails, while lacewings and ladybirds have a voracious appetite for greenfly. Install bug boxes and habitats for creatures to hibernate.
- Control diseases naturally. Rotate your crops by changing the position of your vegetable crops each year to prevent the built up of diseases in the soil and don’t let plants dry out – they’ll become stressed and vulnerable to disease.
- Try companion planting. Grow strongly scented plants alongside crops so they either confuse pests or attract them away from the vegetables. For instance, plant French marigolds near tomatoes to deter whitefly.
- Patrol your garden. Prevent major problems by regularly inspecting plants. A few greenflies can be squished before they become an infestation and any diseased parts of plants can be pruned out before they have a chance to spread.
- Learn to live with imperfection. Learn to accept the odd nibbled leaf, and be prepared to sacrifice a few seedlings or fruits, and you’ll learn to garden without fertilisers and pesticides.