Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Organic Gardening 101: What you need to know before you get started!

Having your own garden can be rewarding. There is nothing like picking a tomato straight out of your garden, cutting it up and eating it. And don't get me started on fresh corn on the cob! If you have always wanted to have your own garden but don't really know where to start then you are in the right place!

Now we don't have a farm, even though my ladies are in the picture above, but we do have a good size yard and we are able to have a nice garden. Everything that we have learned has been out of a lot of research and trial and error. The picture above is our second year garden in the house that we are current living in. For your information we were very excited to see how it would turn out last year. You see the first year that we planted here was a huge disappointment. We made some mistakes and we moved on. The best thing to do is learn from them and don't get discouraged.
1. The first thing that you need to look into is your soil. We built our house in a desert. The soil here sucks! When we put our yard in we had to bring in top soil just so our grass would grow. When we planted our garden that year we didn't add anything else but top soil to our garden spot and we had a hard time getting anything to grow. What you need to do is make sure that your soil is healthy and you can usually tell how it is doing by how dark and rich in color it is. If you need help figuring out what to mix into your dirt to amend it you can send a soil sample to your local horticultural professional and they can test it to see what it needs. 

2. Next you need to amend that soil. We added a whole bunch of stuff to our garden area. Some of those things included: 
Humate- Is basically a soil conditioner that helps the plant take in nutrients. 
Compost- We actually have an 8'x8' compost bin right next to the chicken coop that we put all of our left over organic material into. Some things that we add to it are: egg shells, and fruit and vegetable peels and scraps, and all of the chicken coop waist and bedding. It sits in the compost all year long and then in the fall it gets shoveled out and into the garden where it will get rota-tilled into the dirt. and then sit all winter long. 
Goat manure- (if you add manure of any kind, especially horse or cow, add it in the fall so that it has all of winter to cool down. You don't want to burn your plants when you plant them)
Chicken manure- We have backyard chickens that we use for food storage. Each chicken can produce about 2 cubic feet of manure each year. When we clean out our hen house we simply dump all of the droppings and bedding into our compost bin and let it compost with everything else for use in the fall. Chicken manure is high in nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and also rich in organic matter.
Worms- Ya gross I know, but they are so good for your soil. They burrow down and make it easier for oxygen to get to the soil. Their 'poop' is also great for your dirt. It has nitrogen and phosphorus in it which are both things that make healthy happy plants. 
Grass clippings- We use our grass clippings for a couple of different things and one of them is for organic material to add to the garden. Make sure that if you are using clippings for your garden that it hasn't been treated or sprayed for weeds. You don't want that in your garden. We will usually add fresh grass clippings to our compost bin once or twice a year and let it sit there until the fall and add it to the garden with everything else.

3. Make a plan! Decide what you want to plant and where you want to plant it. Find out from neighbors and friends what has worked for them. Some things just have a harder time thriving in certain areas. Also do your research and find out when the safest and best time to plant is. The Old Farmer's Almanac is a great place to start. Click here to see what days are good for your area. Then go to gardening and best planning dates.

Once you have good healthy dirt and a plan you will be ready to go. We usually are working on our garden soil as soon as the ground is unfrozen in March or April. Remember that an amazing garden wont happen overnight and it takes time and patience. If at first you don't succeed then try try again. 

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