Organic gardening isn't just the practice of avoiding synthetic chemical sprays and fertilizers. It is also an all-encompassing gardening strategy that works with nature's own processes, like using organic material to increase microorganism activity in the soil, according to Washington State University. Basic management tips and principles can help boost your organic vegetable garden's growth and keep it productive and free of diseases and pests.
Gardeners have many options when it comes to organic fertilizers. Example fertilizers include fish emulsions and animal manure. Apply such products according to their labeled guidelines, since nutritional concentrations vary widely by product. For example, chicken manure is twice as potent as beef manure, according to Washington State University. The university recommends applying manure in the spring before planting; it will slowly break down over the entire growing season to feed the plants.
Organic gardens depend heavily on large amounts of organic material in the soil, according to the University of Florida. One of the most popularly used materials is aged compost, which helps the soil retain moisture and nutrients and encourages microbiological activity in the dirt. The university advises adding a minimum of 12.5 pounds for every 50 square feet of gardening space.
Organic gardens benefit from mulch because it reduces disease problems by limiting contact between the vegetable plants and the dirt, according to the University of Missouri. Such contact, especially during watering or rainy weather when disease-bearing dirt splashes up onto the vegetable plant's lower foliage, is a common source for fungal diseases. A 4- to 6-inch-deep layer of mulch sufficiently minimizes such disease risks.
Most common fungal and bacterial diseases, such as verticillium wilt, can be treated with organic fungicides made from fixed copper, elemental sulfur or copper-sulfate and lime, according to Washington State University. Because toxicity varies by product, gardeners must administer such dusts and sprays according to the specific product's labeled instructions. Just because a product is organic doesn't mean it is non-toxic, and gloves should be worn when handling fungicidal products.
Healthy soil, or dirt that has been amended with organic material and treated with fertilizers, helps produce healthy plants that are less susceptible to pests, according to Ohio State University. Sometimes, pest invasions are inevitable. Dig out all nearby weeds, which often play host to pests. Physically remove large pests, such as caterpillars and beetles. For small pests or widespread invasions, a spray formulated with organic horticultural oils like eem oil will effectively kill bugs.