All posts by Steve

Organic Gardening Overview

Organic gardening is nowadays very popular. Let’s first define organic gardening, it simply means gardening using natural biological processes. You can’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. But organic gardening should not just be seen as what you can’t do, you should look at the whole picture, to work in harmony with natural systems so that any resources the garden consumes is naturally replenished.

Like most things in gardening, organic gardening needs a solid foundation, a healthy and fertile soil. Rather than using synthetic fertilizers, you add organic materials. Compost is the main source of organic matter, manure is another popular source that has been used for ages.

A healthy soil is very much alive, containing lots of organisms which decompose organic matter and release nutrients. Soil may not be a very exciting topic but a good soil is essential for successful gardening. Soil is made up of a lot of different materials, the main components are water, oxygen and minerals.

Getting the soil texture right is very important. Soil texture refers to the size of the particles that make up your soil and the relative amounts of these particles. Good soil for most plants is made up of about 40% sand, 40% silt and 20% clay. Clay particles are the smallest of these and sand particles are the largest. Too much clay and the soil contains less oxygen and becomes very hard when it is dry. Sandy soils are not very fertile and water drains quickly.

The term soil structure refers to how the soil particles clump together. A loose structure allows water and air to penetrate the soil easily. Clay particles clump together, making it difficult for water and oxygen to pass through. You can’t do much about the texture of your soil but you can improve the soil structure. The most common ways of improving soil structure and maintaining a good structure is to add organic matter and tilling.

Since you can’t use synthetic fertilizers it is very important to select plants that suits your local conditions. This also means that you have to pay attention to things such as sunshine, shady places, climate and soil structure. You want to create a balanced ecosystem in your garden. In order to achieve this you need a diversity of plants.

By cleaning up debris you make it more difficult for unhealthy organisms to stay in your garden. Additionally, frequent inspections of your plants will help you to quickly take action if you detect a problem. Note that some pesticides can be used also in organic gardening.

For the gardener, the good insects outnumber the bad insects, many insects help gardeners by pollinating flowers and predatory insects eat pest insects. So be careful with the insects, they are more important than most people think.

How to compost

A compost is a great way of getting rid of organic waste, both garden waste and household waste. Composting is a natural process so it is almost impossible to fail. But of course you will get better results if you know at least the basics about composting.

Composting can be done in various ways, some ways are more efficient than others. But in essence all you need to do is to provide the right ingredients and let nature do the rest. That said, although composting is a natural process, there a quite a lot you can do to help nature.

First you need a place for your compost. You can buy a compost bin or create your own compost heap. A ready-made compost bin has a couple advantages which often is worth paying a little bit extra for. After all, a compost bin typically lasts for a very long time. You can also use worms, vermicomposting, which is a very efficient form of composting. Apart from the bin, you don’t need anything else except for maybe a garden fork for turning the compost.

The temperature in the compost pile is very important. The colder it is, the longer the breakdown process will take. If the temperature inside the compost is close to the freezing point, the breakdown process virtually stops. Once the temperature in the compost is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit the composting process is going fast. Ideal temperature range is between 130 degrees and 150 degrees. If it gets too hot, some beneficial organisms may find it too hot and leave or die.

The moisture is also important. If your compost becomes too dry, the composting process halts. If you think your compost pile is too dry, it is best to sprinkle a little bit of water onto it every now and then.

A pH-neutral compost needs oxygen. The breakdown process works also without oxygen but the compost will be acidic (pH-negative) and it will take longer time and smell more. The level of nitrogen is maybe the most difficult to get right. Too little nitrogen slows down the compost but too much nitrogen and the compost starts to produce ammonia which smells badly.

Only put organic waste into your compost. You need to put in both green stuff, nitrogen rich ingredients, such as vegetables, grass cuttings and tea bags, as well as brown stuff, carbon rich ingredients, such as paper, cardboard and leaves. Nut shells and egg shells are ok to put into the compost but they take a long time to break down. The waste does not need to be chopped into small pieces but small pieces will break down quicker than large pieces. Never put any meat or fish into the compost.