With a few tips and tricks, it’s possible to grow fresh, organic produce all year-round. For gardeners living in warm climates with mild winters, it’s easy to harvest fresh food throughout the winter. In colder climates, gardeners can build a hoop house or bring the garden indoors for a winter harvest. It’s important to know how to grow food in a sustainable organic garden so you can always have a fresh supply of healthy food at your fingertips. Here are some pointers on growing an organic vegetable garden all year round.
The soil feeds the plants, so it must be rich in organic matter to be able to support plant life. Start a sustainable garden by preparing the soil to be nutrient-rich, well-draining, and loose.
Turn the soil to 12-inches deep, then add 3-inches of compost on top and lightly turn it in. Repeat this process each time before re-planting garden seeds. Earthworms can be added into the soil to keep it aerated with their constant tunneling activity.
Garden plants are either cool-season or warm-season, and will only grow during the right season. These (and many others) grow best when the weather is cool and can be grown in spring, fall, and winter. Plan to grow root vegetables that provide both green tops and bulbs for eating, like radishes.
Grow cool-season vegetables in containers and move them to sheltered locations before the temperature dips below freezing. A hoop house can easily be built over cool-season veggies planted in-ground in late fall so they will continue to grow and produce all winter.
These vegetables are also ideal for growing in a tray indoors for use as healthy micro-greens. Just sprinkle the seeds in a tray of potting soil and harvest small leaves for salad.
Cool-season vegetables include:
Tomatoes, corn, and cucumbers are warm-season vegetables and thrive during the hot summer months. Plant warm-season veggies every 2 weeks starting in early spring (succession planting) to extend the harvest well into fall. A short list of warm-season vegetables includes:
Besides the warm or cool season vegetable classifications, there is the perennial classification as well. Perennials simply mean non woody plants that live longer than 2 years. While most perennials happen to be fruits or flowering plants, there are also perennial vegetables that can provide years of harvesting without needing to be replanted. Some examples of perennial vegetables (which may have been mentioned earlier) are eggplants, tomatoes, okra, onions, leeks, and kale.
Succession Planting and Crop Rotation
What is succession planting? Succession planting is the process of growing new crops at intervals of between 7 to 21 days so as to maintain a constant supply of crops all the time. After harvesting the earlier crop, a new crop is planted in its place. Succession planting can involve the same crop types or different crop types (crop rotation).
Studies also find that crop rotation significantly reduces negative environmental impacts while maintaining the crop output. Crop rotation is credited with using less fossil fuels and generating less greenhouse gases.
A sustainable garden must have a sustainable food source and compost is ideal and easy to make. Start a compost heap and toss in organic waste from the garden, landscape, and kitchen so it will decompose and create nutrient-rich plant food for your garden. If you want a clean and easy solution, just get a cheap compost bin and generate your compost heap inside of it.
Organic Pest Control
Tying it all together is dealing with pests using natural, organic methods. The usual pests will always arrive to attack your crops, so preparedness is essential. Slugs, snails, aphids, squash bugs, cutworms, hornworms, cucumber beetles, tomato hornworms, and grasshoppers are just some of the pests you need to deal with.
Consider adding a few backyard chickens (or even ducks) to your homestead for organic pest control and garden fertilizer. Plus their organic egg and meat production will pair well with fresh vegetables from your organic garden.
Another reliable natural pest control is certain types of wasps and hoverflies. There are some wasps that are not very aggressive, which will prey on many of the common pests found in your organic vegetable garden. To attract hoverflies, plant flowers like asters, knapweed, and sweet alyssum.
Other effective pest control agents include the usual friendly toads, and ladybugs. And last but not least, you can always make use of some of these home-brewed DIY pest control formulations to quickly resolve any untoward pest infestations.
Mulching is essential for any organic garden. It is the best form of weed control, by forming a barrier over the soil and stabilizing its temperature and moisture. You can use any type of organic mulch for your organic garden, but some types of mulch are better. This includes dry leaves, straw, hay, wood chips, and cardboard. Cardboard is much preferable over newspapers, as they don’t have ink residue and last a lot longer than ordinary paper.
If you only have a small plot of land, fret not. Grow fast-growing crops that can be harvested quickly (as in succession planting described above), or that are able to grow vertically (on trellises). Fast growing crop examples include bok choy (Chinese cabbage), lettuce, kale, radish, spinach, and turnips. Vertical growing crop examples are cucumbers, green beans, peas, and squash. These vertical growing crops enable you to get more out of the limited space you have by simply adding some trellises for them to climb up.
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