Oh, Organics!

By Cindy Cafferty

February 20, 2009 5 min read

OH, ORGANICS!

Transform your garden into a wholesome place

Cindy Cafferty

Creators News Service

You are what you eat. Home is where the heart is. Less is more. Everyone's used an adage or two to drive a point home, but did you know that combining colloquialisms reaps huge rewards and can help harvest a healthier homestead?

Creating an organic garden cultivates proverbial sage advice, transforming tired truisms into tasty treats and terrific eye candy -- and saving you bushels of cash on produce to boot. And you don't need to be Johnny Appleseed to do it.

According to Laura Klein, founder and publisher of organicauthority.com, organic gardening needn't be complicated. The key for beginners is to "start small and make it easy set yourself up for success."

An herb garden is an easy way to begin. Herbs grow equally well in containers as they do outside -- good news for those without a yard or outdoor space. If your roots lie in the great outdoors though, don't worry, "You can grow anything in the right climate," she said.

The plot for making your garden a blooming success is simple. Follow the experts' direction and look to your plants for cues.

GETTING STARTED

"Match the plant to where you can grow it, to your environment and your lifestyle, then organics come along naturally," said writer Amy Jeanroy of About.com's Guide to Herb Gardens (herbgardens.about.com).

Choosing the cast of characters that make up your plot starts with the following:

* Research your climate. Find out what grows easily or is indigenous or native to your environment.

* Start small. Pick a few easy plants you'd like to try. For produce or herbs, Klein suggested items you consume regularly.

* Once you've narrowed your picks by environment and preference, it's important to know a lot about the plant you're growing. What type of sun does it need? What type of soil does it like? Is your pick suitable for container growing or does it need a little more room to thrive?

* Once you've researched your pick, take a trip to a local nursery or look up a master gardener online (preferably one with a local outlet) for guidance and purchase of your seedlings or plant. Local nurseries can also prove invaluable later as you tend to your garden.

SETTING THE STAGE

Every plot has its antagonists and protagonists. The key to organic gardening is keeping the villains at bay without antagonizing your precious plants or Mother Nature. Our experts offered four top tips to making your garden organic:

* Add compost to improve soil quality. According to Klein, compost can be done on the fly: Add scraps from your kitchen, leaves, twigs, grass clippings, old potting soil, hedge clippings and dead insects to your soil for marked improvement in plant growth. Jeanroy and Klein stick solely to compost for enrichment, but select manufacturers offer organic, enriched soils. Check with your local nursery to see if they are available.

* Give your plants a stress-free environment and pay attention to what your plants are "saying." This includes eliminating weeds and ensuring timely watering. Most garden snafus come from under- or over-watering plants. Wilting plants and discolored leaves alert you to potential plant problems.

* Less is more: According to Jeanroy, the less you do to plants, the better it is for them. Check your herbs and/or plants regularly -- 10 minutes a day is all it takes -- but until there's a problem, leave it alone and stick to simple maintenance. If you suspect a problem, Klein suggests taking a leaf off the plant to a local nursery for diagnosis and advice.

* Rotate plants each year or season and use natural remedies to address plant problems. Rotating your plants is the number one way to keep insects at bay and encourages soil enrichment. For problems that arise prior to crop rotation, some natural remedies include simply picking bugs off of plants, using vinegar against aggressive weeds, eliminating ants with a borax/sugar solution and introducing healthy creatures, like ladybugs, to eliminate more nefarious pests.

So whether you're a self-proclaimed "black thumb" or a natural "green thumb," have ample acreage, a cramped space or something in between, put a little heart into your home garden. Spend less for more produce and revel in an organic oasis -- a plot of your own making.

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