Organic gardening is gardening without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. For an organic garden to be successful, your soil needs to be in optimal condition for healthy plant growth. Replenishing organic materials to the garden to restore nutrients, companion planting and beneficial insects all play a crucial role in organic gardening. Taking a few preventive steps in soil care, disease management and pest control will ensure your organic vegetable garden produces a bountiful crop.
Improve the condition of your soil for the best outcome in an organic garden. Soil that is depleted of nutritional resources will grow stunted, weak plants prone to disease and pest invasion. To condition your soil, regularly apply organic matter such as leaves, grass clippings, vegetable scraps and garden vegetation that has been decomposed into compost. Compost not only improves the structure of the soil, but also increases beneficial microbes and moisture retention.
The addition of sheep, poultry, horse and cattle manures are also beneficial. Manure should be composted before being used in the garden. Composting will stabilize the nitrogen in the manure and reduce weed seeds, reports Lewis W. Jett at the University of Missouri Extension Department of Horticulture.
Disease management is a crucial element in growing an organic garden. Plant disease-resistant vegetable varieties in your garden. These varieties will not be completely disease-free, but are less likely to succumb to disease.
Rotate your crops to avoid disease buildup. Diseases target specific crops. Crops from the same botanical family (such as cucurbits, brassica and legumes) should be rotated to a different area of the garden every three years.
Control the weeds. Weeds overrunning the garden will create conditions conducive to disease. Applying a thick mulch will help suppress weed population by blocking the essential sunlight necessary for their growth. Mulch includes straw, grass clippings, newspaper and leaves. Hoeing and pulling weeds by hand are other options. Dispose of diseased plants and practice garden sanitation by cleaning planting trays and supplies to avoid transference of disease to your healthy crops.
Prevention and early suppression of pest outbreaks are essential to an organic vegetable garden. To prevent pests, combine the use of beneficial insects, companion planting and barriers or row covers.
Beneficial insects feed on destructive pests in the garden. Ladybugs, lacewings, hover flies, ground beetles, parasitic wasps, spiders and tachinid flies are all beneficial insects that can play an important role in the health of your garden. These insects feed on aphids, moth eggs, caterpillars, mites, thrips, scales, Japanese beetles, squash bugs and other pests. Consider planting pollen and nectar plants among your vegetables to attract beneficial insects to your vegetable garden. Perennial plantings and mulches will provide shelter for these beneficial insects.
Cornell University Department of Horticulture reports that destructive insects locate their food by smell. Companion planting is the method of planting flowers and herbs that confuse or deter these pests. Among the plants that may confuse or repel insects are garlic, chives, onions, horehound, basil and mints. Interplanting these companion plants among your regular garden vegetables will provide protection from the destructive insects.