Welcome to my first official blog post! Today, I want to share with you a bit of insight into organic gardening. Especially if you are an urban dweller who wants add some green to your garden, or you just want to practice sustainable methods, making you a very considerate person! I will also discuss the different seeds that you get as well as give you a recommendation on which one is best.
With access to thousands opinions on the web these days, you can easily get confused about who is correct. Often it’s easier to do your own research to find the best answers. But that’s why I’m here, I prefer not to be fooled or fool someone with the wrong facts. Let’s get our hands dirty!
Organic gardening is considered any form of plant cultivation that does not include synthetic fertilizers or chemicals applied to stimulate plant growth or protect plants against unwanted critters. Think of it as the natural approach to getting your garden in shape. Almost like choosing the homeopathic option above the precise and potent medicine that sometimes lead to some nasty after effects. But that doesn’t mean you should idly sit and watch as your precious seedlings weather and wilt. There are some surprisingly easy and natural ways to maintain your garden as nature intended.
Apart from adding modern day quick-fix materials to your garden, there is a mindset to consider as well. The rule of thumb is, if you take care of an entire garden it will take of itself as well, with a little help from yourself on occasion. You want to create an environment where your garden operates as an ecosystem. It is not as difficult as it sounds, I promise.
You don’t need chemicals to keep those unwanted critters away. Sowing some seeds that attract the right insects, worms and organisms is the key. The plants speak for them self! With the right organisms in your garden you can create a deterrent to the ones that will harm your ecosystem and create a haven for the ones that will protect it.
So, the idea of starting your own garden have been at the back of your mind. There’s no better time than to take initiative than right now! I want you to use this as a framework. The goal of this exercise is to let you consider the potential your garden is offering you. Here is some incentive; imagine the smell of your garden after a rain shower or the vibrant colours of the flowers and leaves you’ve brought into your living environment by your own hands!
Inspecting your soil
Some gardens come with naturally fertile and healthy soil, but most people aren’t so lucky. Especially if you take into consideration that we only recently started creating awareness for the environment. A healthy soil will deliver a healthy garden; it’s like preparing the canvas for the masterpiece you want to create.
You want to initiate and maintain optimum soil conditions for long-lasting effects, season in and season out. Remember that you are supplying the base nutrients for your plants to prosper. Over time your soil will require less maintenance as the condition improves, but do not disregard it entirely in the long run.
As a beginner gardener selecting the right plant or species can be a daunting task. It doesn’t have to be so! Ask your local nursery to recommend you some of their season favourites. What you must take into consideration is your location though. Some plant species prefer wet, humid climates and others prefer dry climates. Soil type is also a factor when your consider your selection.
But, what if you are sentimental about that one flower you grew up with? And what if that flower grows in a region that is in the entire opposite of your environment? Well, simply put, plants are extremely adaptable and you can experiment with its survival in your garden. We have trees growing on the university grounds that are native to the Arizona region of America, yet the tree prospers much better than expected in the South African climate. The tree I’m referring to is called Platanus wrightii (Arizona Sycamore), and in its native habitat it will only grow a few meters tall. Over here we have it growing taller than 10 meters!
What if your selection of species is really sensitive and is known not survive well outside its known habitat? Finding out what will allow your species to prosper is step one. Researching a species these days is way easier since you have the internet at your fingertips. Discover what makes that species so unique, like what specific nutrients it takes in. Depending on the time you’re willing to spend in your garden should be an indicator of the difficulty of the species you want to cultivate. If you are still unsure, leave me a comment and I will get back to you!
Other factors that should contribute to your selection is:
A very important note to the first time gardeners. A flower growing in its native habitat will be called natural in that region; in a different region it will be called a weed! The reason for this is that some species go beyond prospering and eliminate any other natural species that grows naturally in that region. If that occurs, the ecosystem is out of balance and if left unchecked will cause the ecosystem to collapse. A modern example of this include the hyacinth, which was introduced into South Africa as an aesthetic addition to water features. Today, it spreads across our water bodies and rivers, removing all available light to organisms living in the water.
Check with your local nursery that you not plant unexpected weeds in your garden. 😀
Planting and Watering
I know, this should be self-explanatory. I would like to touch topics here that some people do not consider, even me, who had to study botany to learn this! Seeds don’t like to be buried (well at least some don’t).
Some seeds lie dormant for years before germinating, for example seeds with a thick testa (outer layer of the seed). Other seeds that are from species that wilt at the end of the season like grasses, germinate regularly. If they are buried deep, they will not successfully germinate. If nature intended for the seed to drop to the soil surface and then be covered by more soil and eroding foliage, then so must we also leave the seed close to the soil surface. Seeds can undergo a lot of stress, and that stress is required for it to germinate.
Another topic that is usually misunderstood is watering. Apart from forgetting to water the plants, people also supply too much water. Again, the idea is to mimic nature. Enough water should be supplied for it to leach through the soil and keep it damp.
Weeds have a tendency to stick around. Removing weeds regularly from your garden will ensure that the nutrients in the soil go to right plant. When weeding you should also make sure that you remove the entire root from the soil as well, as some species have adapted to their stems being removed. They also like to cozy up under your plants where they have just enough sunlight and shade to prosper. When removing weeds close to your plants, be careful not to harm the delicate roots of your plants. Apart from being spread in natural ways, weeds can also be found in fertilizer and manure.
Ever wondered what is in soil? It’s natures natural blend of organic matter, minerals, air, water and other specific materials. Certain plant species can survive in soil with limited nutrients, but the ideal would be to keep a balanced soil of the above mentioned materials.
In most cases, you will be required to add organic matter to let those vital nutrients leach back into soil for your plants to take up. Remember that during dry or cold seasons, you can cover the soil with mulch (bark, grass & leaves) to protect your soil from losing nutrients. Over watering your garden will cause you to lose soil nutrients, especially if you notice that the water runoff spreads to surrounding areas of your bedding. To better maintain nutrient containment, consider using raised beds. I found a very interesting article on improving and maintaining soil here.
There is a study that was done, explaining how being spoilt for choice can cause a person to hesitate on making a decision on a product for example. With so many labels on today’s products, it is understandable to be confused on which product to choose. I want to clarify what the differences are between Organic, GMO and Hybrid seeds.
GMO Seeds (Genetically Modified Organism)
These seeds have been developed in labs. It entails the combining of organisms that will not naturally occur within one organism in nature. Some seeds have even been combined with bacteria in order incorporate the pesticide within the plant. The food that you consume will still contain this pesticide.
Some foods are even manipulated to have a longer shelf life or taste sweeter to adjust your apetite for it. When these foods reach the shelf they still maintain their freshness but they nutrient value is not the same as the day they were harvested. Hence, why more and more people are buying organic food.
These seeds are produced using natural but selective breeding, from one generation to the next until the desired has been achieved. F1 hybrid seeds are different because they achieve their desired harvest only after one generation. These seeds undergo natural modification and will not contain any harmful traits unless they were pollinated by GMO crops in the surrounding region and those traits were passed on to the hybrid breed.
The healthy alternative, organic seeds, contain manipulated genetics and are grown with little to none using man made chemicals to protect it. This is to ensure that these chemicals do not enter into the plant and be absorbed by us once we consume it. Their shelf life is not altered so its freshness will last its natural period.
I hope you enjoyed this article! It will be one of many to come. Leave me a comment on what you think of it. Tell me about your gardening ideas. What tricks of the trade do you know or apply to your cultivation? What is your favourite or most sentimental seed you have germinated?
I want to cultivate your perception of how beautiful nature can be and the potential of how it can sustain you. Learn from nature and watch for the small signs on how it responds to your influence. I am going to leave you with a video about a tree that grows 40 types of fruit.