An organic garden is one filled with naturally grown plants or those grown without the use of chemical fertilizers. Many home gardeners prefer this method to using toxic poisons and pesticides, especially since they hope to eat the organic herbs and vegetables that eventually grow from it.
That said, trying to get an garden to flourish is not an easy task. This is even more true when no poisons or “shortcuts” are used. Many people would like to have their own little piece of earth growing healthy and delicious produce, however often they have no idea where to start. For those who find this initial step a bit over their head, hiring a landscape or gardening expert to create the initial garden bed is an idea worth considering. Since you’re here on our blog though we assume you’ve got the initiative and tenacity to take on the job yourself, which is great. Building the garden yourself will eventually prove to me much more fulfilling anyway.
With that in mind, a good starting point towards building a healthy garden at home has to do with getting the soil prepared. Assuming that the area for the organic garden has already been chosen, the next thing to do is to get the soil of the area tested. Obviously, this will involve some expense since a garden testing kit will have to be purchased. Also at a fee, a soil sample can be taken to the nearest local agricultural agency to determine its nutrient levels. Treatment recommendations can also be found there, and additives to the soil may be required if it is lacking in any particular areas.
An alternative to the purchase of soil additives is to mix in some humus, organic matter composed of animal manure, grass clippings, leaves, or compost. In keeping with the goal of building an organic garden, artificial or chemical additives should not be included. Compost can be made easily at home to save money. The most common means of making compost is to combine carbon-rich materials like green leaves with nitrogen-filled items like manure and kitchen scraps.
A pile of soil measuring at least six inches should serve as the topping of the compost preparation. This should be turned each time new layers as well as water are added onto the pile. The addition of water is crucial, not only to keep the prepared compost moist, but to promote microbial action which conditions the soil further. Compost preparation takes time, but if you make it yourself you can be sure that it is 100% organic. If your compost pile or bin starts to smell too strongly, add in more dried leaves, sawdust, and other carbon materials.
To help the compost become nutrient dense soil faster, make more frequent turns of the pile. Some people choose to mix their compost inside a rotating bin for easier and faster turning. Depending on the temperature and microbial action the compost should be ready for use in around 2-3 months. Once it is ready it can be mixed in with the existing soil on the ground or used in pot plants to give seedlings and smaller herb and vegetable plants or trees a boost.
Compost is essential to any sustainable organic garden. It serves as food for trees, plants and shrubs. It also helps to retain moisture in the soil and helps to stop weeds from growing near your plants. Most importantly however, compost is a great way to turn food scraps, garden debris and other organic waste back into something valuable and useful.
Once you have conditioned your soil you should be ready to start planting! Make sure you purchase seedlings from a local farmer or organic seedling store or nursery to ensure they are well suited to the theme of your garden. We use The Herb Store for all of our Australian herb, seedling and plant purchases. Many farmer’s markets are known to offer these types of seedlings as well, and may even have recommendations on the best plant varieties to raise depending on your location.