Personal and Literal Growth While We Wait
They say waiting is supposed to help you grow. Apparently, it develops patience. Well… you would think we would have had bucket loads of patience by now. While we wait for septic and building permits to go through before our new home build can actually start I just really needed something to put my energy into! You know what else promotes growth? You guessed it! A garden my friends! Not just any garden, I wanted to learn how to have an organic garden as a beginner.
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I’ve never had a garden, and generally tend to harm the little indoor plants I’ve tried in the past. To put it succinctly, I have a rather… brown thumb. Maybe not quite black. At least ONE of my indoor plants is still clinging to life but it has definitely seen better days. I DEFINITELY have never been in the green thumb club. Until I met with a local vegetable farmer and learned how gardening can be uncomplicated, fun and rewarding… I thought I had no hope for gardening. Trust me, if I can do it anyone can! So read on for practical tips to grow your own organic garden for beginners. Soon you will have delicious nutritious food… even if you have no experience!
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Why I Chose Organic Gardening
- More nutritional density: Did you know that even if you buy organic vegetables from the grocery store it still has likely come from depleted soil that isn’t really living? Most big organic farms focus on one specialty crop… meaning they don’t have other crops to rotate into the soil to replenish the nutrients their crop takes out of the soil while they grow. The soil you own is likely MUCH more nutrient dense than those large farming companies. Just make sure to garden in an area where a lot of chemical lawn care treatments have not been used.
- Better taste: Because each of your little peppers, tomatoes and squash will get your attention, they will have the advantage of staying on the vine until they are at the peak of delicious freshness. Most grocery store produce has to be picked very early to allow for time in transit and then to be stocked by the store. This robs your veggies and fruits of the flavor they could have absorbed while growing for just a few more days in your organic garden.
- Growth: The real reason I chose organic gardening was because waiting for such a long time to start building our house has been truly maddening. I needed something to put my energy into that felt like we were moving towards making this spot our home. Starting an organic garden as a beginner has become a wonderful reason to stop by our land every day. It also feels like we have staked our claim on our property in some fashion. We might not be living there… but our land is still able to provide us nourishment, beauty and therapeutic activity.
- It’s not that hard: If this organic gardening thing turned out to be really complicated, difficult or expensive I would have called it quits! Keep reading to learn the techniques that made gardening seem easy for even one as inexperienced as I!
How To Start an Organic Vegetable Garden for Beginners
Through the mighty power of Facebook, I got connected to a local small farming couple who host activities and plant sales at their home farm. The Odd Sprout Farm duo are so passionate about their work they just couldn’t help but talk us through beginning steps, give us tips on how to make things easy and point out what kind of plants would grow best on our property. They are my gardening gurus! If you live locally, you should really check them out. They can be found on Instagram or Facebook. The Odd Sprout’s certified naturally grown vegetables are used in the amazing upscale dishes served at Hudson & Essex and they can be found at a few farmer’s markets in the area too!
Their gardening is on the next level, for sure… but even they do almost all of their gardening without tilling, using large equipment or any harmful chemicals. Their approach made it seem like something I could try out for fun, instead of taking on a new complicated task that would drain all of my free time.
Identify Your Garden Space
What you choose to grow will depend on how much sun, water and drainage your plant will need. Honestly, if you google it or read the tag on your plant that should provide you guidance on these specifics, but below are some general guidelines to consider.
The soil should ideally be already growing something. That bare patch of dirt might be tempting, since there is no grass to contend with, but if your soil won’t even grow weeds or grass… it is probably not very fertile.
If you are able, choose an area that generally dries well after a hard rain and has no standing water remaining within at least a day. In other words, you are looking for soil with good drainage. With the exception of a few outliers most plants need good drainage.
Another consideration is how close your water source is. We planted this garden on raw land… no hose to be found! Fortunately, our sunniest area is located near a small stream where we can fill up our buckets and easily water our plants.
Unless you are growing lettuce, most vegetable plants need about 6 hours of full sun if they are to produce any edibles worth mentioning. If you are unable to find a sunny spot that also has good drainage and fertile soil that’s the time to consider raised beds.
Prepare Your Soil
Use the No Till Method
Here’s the best part! I thought we needed to till our ground… because isn’t that just what you do? I learned from the gracious people at The Odd Sprout Farm that I SHOULD NOT till my ground. Why, you ask? My soil has been collecting nutrients from the wonderful compost provided by our forest trees for years and years. Tilling will bring up countless weeds that have been lying dormant in the soil below the surface. This would make our lives MUCH more difficult especially for chemical free organic gardening.
Instead of tilling, remove the top layer of grass with a shovel and set aside (maybe lay it face up on the bare patch of dirt you have). Then, with your shovel, create wide mounds with ditch like lower areas of dirt in between each mound. Your mounds should be about the width you could naturally straddle with one foot on either side of the mound. Ditches should be at least the width of both of your feet standing together. This way, you can tend your garden rows either by straddling the row, or comfortably standing in between the rows with both feet.
This method is pretty quick and easy labor. I wound say we were able to do a 4×6 plot in about 45 minutes working at a leisurly pace.
Once your garden is prepared, cover it with a tarp for about two weeks. This is the non chemical way to kill off any weed seeds you just awakened while preparing your organic garden. It will also warm your soil, making any seeds you plant more likely to germinate. Use these two weeks to plan your garden, considering your hardiness zone and the season.
After your soil is ready- get to planting! This is the fun part :). Put on some music or just enjoy the songs of the birds. Nature is just so therapeutic.
I have been referencing the book The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible each time I plant something. I highly recommend this book, but you could probably find out most of what you need to know from the internet as well. What I like about this method is I’m not trying to learn EVERYTHING about gardening all at once. I would never remember all of the that! Instead, I’m carefully taking time to learn about how to harvest, grow and plant, as I am planting each vegetable. This makes it more likely that I’ll do it right the first time. I’ll also be more likely to remember how to take care of my little radishes and peppers in the future.
I hope that this has been helpful! We are not experts… but I have found that using these methods has made gardening so much easier. It’s become fun and accessible- now hopefully, you are inspired to get outside and do a little growing of your own.
Plus… organic gardening is something fun David and I can do that brings us closer together! <3