Making the switch to an organic vegetable garden is easy. And while growing this way does have more challenges involved, it’s healthier for your family.
If you haven’t grown veg before, start with our introduction to growing vegetables or with your own DIY herb garden. Either will help you learn the basics and enable you to start reducing your food miles.
Here’s how to get your organic vegetable garden started.
Choosing a plot
At it’s most simplistic growing vegetable require a lot of sunlight and water.
Regardless of how much space you have, it’s best to try to use the sunniest part of your garden. While some vegetables don’t require much sunlight, most need at least 6 hours each day to grow.
You’ll want to make sure it’s easy to get water to it. If you don’t have a hose or it doesn’t reach, then you’ll want it to be easy to walk with buckets.
Another element to consider when it comes to water is drainage. In order to grow any vegetables, you need excess water to naturally runoff.
As you’re trying to maximise the sunlight, if your plot is on a slope then you’ll want to orient your patch’s layout to take advantage.
Also if there’s a depression where water collects, then you’ll want to fill this in with soil. By adding soil, you reduce the likelihood of the ground staying soggy. Having damp ground can lead to roots rotting.
If your garden is in a windy area, consider adding a hedge, wall or a trellis to dampen the impact of wind.
Finally, as we’re trying to grow vegetable organically, you need to think protection. You will be disappointed if animals and birds feast on your crops.
You can use chicken wire or deer or bird netting to protect your veg. Building a tunnel which covers your crops is also a good solution but does involve DIY!
As we’re trying to be organic, instead of sprays or chemicals, we recommend using electronic repellents, which sound a high pitch noise when motion is detected.
With an area picked, it’s time to build some beds. You have two options, in-ground and above-ground. There’s no advantage as each requires a different amount of work.
In-ground beds can be marked out using string and pegs or wood battens. You can easily rake them over and change the layout each year.
Whereas above ground beds range from DIY solutions to pre-built wooden and metal containers from a local gardening store. Both of which require filling with soil. As these beds are moveable, if next year you plan to grow flowers then you can move the bed into a more suitable position.
Prepare the ground
Having settled on the type of beds you’ll be using, now is the time to get your hands dirty. For above ground beds, you will want to fill them with soil and then use a hand tiller to loosen the dirt and break apart clumps.
For in-ground beds, you’ll want to mark and dig them out. It’s worth doing a DIY soil test as this will reveal which nutrients are deficient in your soil and the type of soil you have. The results will also provide suggestions for how to improve your soil.
For both types of beds, make sure you turn the soil. This adds air and break apart clumps. Also you’ll want to remove weeds.
As we’re going organic, if you’re adding or topping up soil, then it’s worth using organic garden soil.
Depending on what vegetables you plan to grow, you’ll need to research the recommended planting depth to determine how deep to dig.
If you have space and time, then you can create your own compost. If not you’ll need to visit your local garden centre. Adding compost will ensure your veg get enough nutrients and water while allowing space for roots to grow and develop.
Planting Organic Veg
Finding organic seedlings or organic seeds can be difficult as many nurseries use a ton of fertilizers and pesticides. Just the things we’re trying to avoid! You’ll need to ask the garden centre’s staff.
If you struggle locally, you’ll probably have better luck online. We use Unwins and Premier Seeds Direct, both offer a fantastic range of seeds. It’s best to start with something easy like beetroot, or try growing onions or garlic.
Using a hand spade, start digging holes for seedlings or seeds, measure the distance between them. When it comes to distances, it’s best to follow the instructions as each type of vegetable requires it’s own space. If you get the distance wrong, your plants may not grow fully.
Once planted, cover with soil. You’ll want to add a protective layer of mulch, or grass clippings to keep in moisture and keep weeds down. Finish by watering your plants immediately after planting.
As your plants grow, you will want to inspect them for signs of disease or insect damage. It’s worth checking that your plants are healthy and watered every few days. As they say, prevention is the best cure!
Mark your veg
You’ll want to label the vegetables in your garden so you will remember what they are as they begin to grow. This also is important you’re planning to grow perennial vegetables as they will live for another growing season.
Use small wooden stakes to label your organic garden plants. Copper, brass, stoneware and other types of plant labels are also available from online gardening stores.
After researching and preparing, start small. Keep nurturing your vegetables with nutrients and water over the growing season.
Watch out for pest and diseases, if you find one make sure you catch and destroy early. It will take ongoing effort for you to produce good crops but it will worth it!