How to garden organically
Organic gardening is the practice of gardening without the use of chemicals, and relying on manures and natural fertilisers instead. Different methods are used to combat pests, diseases and problem weeds, but by its very nature, organic gardening also encompasses good gardening practices such as composting, maintaining a healthy soil and encouraging beneficial insects into your garden.
If you've never tried it, gardening organically may seem daunting but there is really very little to it, and it is no harder or easier than traditional gardening methods - just different!
If you are wondering how to make an organic garden follow these ten easy tips:
1. Make room for a compost heap or two and you will reap the rewards in just a few months time. Prunings, leaves, grass clippings and vegetable peelings can all be composted and will produce an unbeatable organic material full of nutrients to feed your soil and your plants.
2. Grow the right plant in the right place, rather than forcing plants to struggle. Key to organic gardening, this principle produces healthier, stronger plants that are much more able to withstand attacks from pests and diseases, if not avoid them in the first place.
3. Avoid growing large areas of a single type of plant or closely related ones. Mixing plants up, rather than growing monocultures helps to confuse pests and reduce problems, while bringing in a whole range of plants (such as flowers) to the veg plot will help to encourage beneficial insects such as ladybirds and hoverflies - one of the best organic ways to keep pests at bay.
4. Reduce problems in the first instance by choosing naturally resistant plants. Pest resistant varieties such as 'Resistafly' can withstand carrot fly while the 'Sarpo' range of potatoes have been bred to resist blight, and these aren't the only ones. Check plant and seed packets when you buy.
5. Don't over water. So often organic gardening methods simply involve good gardening practices, and as overwatering encourages plants to be surface rooting and to produce weak sappy growth, many plant infections increase when conditions are moist. So water thoroughly, checking the soil between watering, and water around plants rather than over them, to avoid splashing the leaves and flowers.
6. Feed your plants. Weak, malnourished plants are much more likely to succumb to disease and attack by pests so feed them regularly, but don't overdo it. Too much nitrogen can cause sappy young growth, which pests like slugs and aphids love.
7. Check regularly for problems. Organic gardening is all about dealing with problems naturally, and the earlier you catch them the easier they are to deal with. Walk around your garden as often as you can, even every day in summer, and you will notice pests and other problems before they get out of hand.
8. Keep on top of weeding, making sure you remove the entire plant, root and all, and do it regularly. Hoeing every week through the summer is a great way to deal with weeds organically and you will help to stop them from reproducing and spreading further.
9. Mulch. A good soil is vital in an organic garden and a generous layer of your own home-made garden compost or well-rotted animal manure spread on beds in the autumn will break down and feed the soil as well as improve its structure. An extra helping in the spring will help to hold moisture in the soil and reduce the need for watering.
10. Don't over plant. A lot of problems such as fungal diseases and rots are caused by poor air circulation around plants, and overcrowding is a key cause. Give plants space to grow and breathe and prune plants to keep them in shape and check.