Having a backyard organic garden for vegetables means that for up to 8 months a year you can have fresh produce, home grown for your family table each day. This saves money from your grocery bill and provides a chance for the family to work together, teaching your children about where food comes from and about nature.
You are also aiding the environment by withdrawing your demand for produce at grocery stores, creating healthy and balanced meals, and the exercise involved in maintaining and growing a successful garden will help towards keeping you fit.
What is Organic Gardening?
Basically, organic vegetable gardening is simply a system of gardening that uses only sustainable, ecologically sound gardening techniques. It resists the use of all artificial agricultural chemicals, including pesticides used to control insects, disease, weeds and nematodes.
It means that instead of going to your local garden center and getting a spray that zaps all living insects on your plant (both good and bad), you will buy some beneficial insects such as ladybugs, praying mantid, or green lacewing that will devour the bad guys.
Since bugs attack unhealthy plants (survival of the fittest applies in the plant world too) organic gardening also means that you will help your plants be healthy by improving the soil by adding lots of good organic matter like compost or well-rotted manure. Every time you dig a hole, add organic matter to the soil and use it to topdress vegetable crops.
Why Garden Organically?
What better way to end the day than going out to your own organic vegetable garden and picking vine ripened tomatoes, fresh cucumbers and squash for your evening meal. Not only do fresh home-grown vegetables taste better, but you can also save money, have fun, and reduce your environmental footprint to boot!
Vine ripened fruits and vegetables are more nutritious because much of the beneficial substances called phytonutrients (found in the colored vegetables) are produced at the end of the growing cycle. Fruits and vegetables that are picked early for shipping across the country, lack this vital ingredient.
When looking at how to grow a backyard organic garden for vegetables you need to do some planning first, decide to go organic for your health and your garden’s health, as well as looking at location, soil, crop rotation, rows, or raised beds and more.
Size and Location
Size depends on the space you have, whether you want to give up the whole garden or have a vegetable patch. Remember the bigger you make it the more work it will be – and there are only so many vegetables you can eat.
Do not grow so much that you waste it, unless you are able to sell your extra produce. If done well a garden that is just 100 sq ft can give you enough vegetables for a family.
You also need to think about where the sun hits the garden for most of the day. You want the vegetables to get at least 5 to 6 hours of direct sunlight a day. Check that trees, buildings, fences, shrubs and so on do not overshadow the vegetable area and cast it in shade. The roots of trees can also be a problem, so do not plant too close.
You should have at least 10ft between your vegetable patch and the drip line of any tree. If you cannot have that much distance make a barrier between the roots and vegetables, dig a narrow trench deeper than the roots are and then put in a heavy material that the roots cannot get through.
Tie strips of mylar balloons to the branches of your fruit trees just before harvest time. These flapping, shiny straps will frighten away birds and small mammals, protecting your fruit. Just be sure to remove them after the harvest, because if they blow loose, animals may eat them and become ill.
Think about any future plans you have, if you are going to put in more trees where will they go. If you live in a windy climate or get string wind in the year try to garden where a shed or fence offers some protection.
If you have sloped land terrace the beds, and make sure you have a spare bed that is not planted the first time, so that next year you can do some crop rotation that keeps the soil healthy.
Planning the Beds
You need to think about how many beds you want to plant. Keep in mind that some plants grow better when combined so you may want to grow in multiple beds so that you can rotate the vegetables around.
Are you having raised beds or rows which will need pathways that are at least 21 inches wide between them? The width of the beds should be less than 4ft so that you can weed and look after the vegetables more easily.
If you live in a climate that is colder raised beds to get warmer quicker and have better drainage, and fewer weeds and pest problems. Whereas in a climate that is hot, ground beds are more suitable because they need less watering.
Ground beds are also cheaper but you do have to bend further down and weeds from the pathway can get to the bed. Or there are sunken raised beds, which is a way to use the soil in your garden but you get the benefit of fewer weeds and bugs, but not the drainage or warmth.
Clean up your organic backyard garden at the end of the growing season. If you clean up your garden when the growing season is over, it will improve your appearance and make less work for you the following year.
Remove dead or damaged branches on trees and shrubs, get rid of weeds before they go to seed, and rake any leaves from the lawn. Remove old annual plants and cut perennials to the ground if they normally die back in the winter. Any plant material that isn’t diseased can be put in the compost pile.
As you are learning how to grow a backyard organic garden for vegetables you will learn that soil is vital. Soil needs to have the right nutrients in it for your backyard organic garden vegetables to grow well.
The first year of an organic garden that has not been gardened before will do well because those nutrients were not used before but after that you need to take care of the soil as well as the plants. There are soil test kits to find out the pH of it and then if you have acidic soil add lime and if you have an alkaline soil use sulfur and a mulch that uses acidic materials like pine needles.
For new beds, the soil should be dug down to 12 to 18 inches, turn it using a pitchfork and take out weeds, rocks and roots. Before you plant check how moist the soil is, there shouldn’t be clumping it should be crumbly, and if it is needed put in drainage. Enrich the soil with the organic matter by digging or hoeing it into the top 6-inch layer of soil.
Organic matter includes compost from your own compost bin, manure from horses or cows, green manure from plants, sea soil, or you can buy various products from a garden center. Then level and rake it. To help stop weeds from the paths getting to the beds cover them with landscape cloth and then bark mulch.