Eating organic vegetables doesn’t have to be expensive! You’ve been trying to eat more organically grown vegetables, both to help the environment and to lessen the amount of pesticides you and your family consumes. But take one look at your grocery receipt and you know that buying organic can cost a lot. Luckily, you have an option – grow your own organic vegetable garden!
Grow an Organic Vegetable Garden
Start with Soil
Before you plant, make sure you are starting off on the right (or organic) foot. In any garden, organic or not, soil is perhaps the most important thing. Soil delivers necessary nutrients that plants need, usually in the form of microorganisms. Choosing a soil rich in organic matter is important because they contain the decayed microorganisms of previous plant life. Look for soil like manure, peat moss, or compost (you can create your own compost or purchase pre-made compost at your local garden center). Another option is soil premixed with these components. A favorite at Patuxent Nursery is Bumper Crop®.
Choose the Right Fertilizer
Fertilizing your plants will help them grow faster and yield a larger, more fruitful crop. Organic fertilizers include manure from plant loving animals like cows, or organic fertilizer purchased online or from your local garden center.
Editor’s Note: Depending on what vegetables you are growing, you can find a specialized fertilizer like Espoma Tomato Tone®.
How to Combat Pests and Disease
If you are conscious about growing an organic vegetable garden, you may also be conscious about using pesticides. While there are organic pesticides you can use, there are also other practices you can implement that can aid in combating pests and disease.
- Mulch your garden – Adding a 1 to 2 inch thick layer of mulch not only reduces weeds, it also prevents fungal disease spores from drifting onto plant leaves. Use an organic material such as weed-free straw. Read more about the benefits of mulch.
- Make sure you weed – Speaking of weeds, you need to make sure you are weeding your vegetable garden. Weeds not only compete with your vegetables for nutrients and water, but they also attract insects. When weeding, it is best to do so after a rain.
- Clean up fallen foliage – Dead, fallen foliage can be a breeding ground for rapidly spreading diseases. After picking up the foliage, it is important that you toss them in the trash and not in the compost bin (it is also good practice to pick off infected or dead leaves from the plant to prevent spreading).
- Crop rotation – Closely related vegetables, like those in the squash family, are affected by the same diseases. Rotating plants to different parts of your vegetable garden helps to limit disease. Try to avoid planting your crops in the same place as the previous year or two.
- Water wisely – One of the easiest ways fungus grows is on wet leaves. Try to avoid leaves when watering your plants, and avoid watering at night. Watering in the morning allows leaves to dry during the day.
- Plant flowers along with your vegetables – Planting certain flowers around your vegetables helps attract helpful insects, like pollinators and others that chow down on harmful pests. Flowers to plant include Cleome, Black Eyed Susan, Daisy, Marigold, Salvia, and Zinnia.
Even if we mulch, weed, and rotate crops, our vegetable gardens are still susceptible to pests. If this happens, there are organic pesticides you can use if necessary (For other tips on getting rid of pests and fungi, see our blog–Gardening Hacks Found in the Kitchen). The organic pesticides ones we recommend are:
- Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Concentrate®
- Bonide Neem Oil®
Growing your own organic vegetable garden is easier than it seems. Let us know if we can help you get started or if you have any questions. Happy planting!