At its most basic, organic vegetable gardening is the art and science of growing vegetables without synthetic chemicals. Organic vegetable gardening, therefore, is a great learning experience. In order to do it successfully, you need to start to understand the needs of your soil, the needs of your plants, and even the needs of the pests local to your area. Organic vegetable gardening seeks to balance all these things, ending in a bevy of delicious, synthetic chemical-free vegetables on your table year-round.
Main Garden Site
Locate a full-sun garden site and test your soil. Buy a test kit from a garden supply center or submit a soil sample to your local county extension service's testing facility. Check with your county extension service to see what their specifications are for samples, as they may vary by facility.
Dig any necessary soil amendments into your garden site. Use agricultural lime to raise the soil's pH or sulfur to lower the soil's pH. Apply these amendments at rates recommended by your county extension office; even if you did not have them test your soil; they know your area's soil best.
Dig compost into your garden site in a ratio of 1:1 for new garden beds. Dig to a depth of at least a foot, or more if you plan to grow tubers or root vegetables.
Sow organic seeds according to package directions. Transplant starts into the garden after the last frost date for your area.
Apply organic vegetable fertilizer according to package instructions throughout the season. Read instructions carefully, as different manufacturers may specify different requirements. Water deeply rather than often, to encourage deep, strong root growth. Water whenever the first couple of inches of soil looks dry.
Mulch around seedlings after they have sprouted, to a depth of 2 to 3 inches. Use mulch to maintain consistent soil temperature, prevent weeds, retain moisture, and provide a slow release of nutrients to your soil. Make sure the mulch does not press directly against the bases of your plants. Leave a 2-inch gap around the base of each plant that is mulch-free.
Use insecticidal soap only if necessary. Pay close attention to pests in your area, and consider planting companion crops of flowers and other plants that attract natural predators to local pests.
Starting Seeds Indoors
Sow seeds for warm-weather vegetables (tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers) in peat or coir pellets in a flat indoors. Start about 6 to 8 weeks prior to the date of the last frost expected in your area. Place the flat in a window with filtered sunlight, such as through a curtain or blinds.
Cover the flat with a piece of plastic wrap to act as a greenhouse until the seeds have germinated. Mist the flat under the plastic daily to water the seeds without disturbing them or the planting medium. Check the seed packets for the expected number of days till germination.
Remove plastic wrap once seeds have germinated. Continue misting daily; as plants get bigger, you can also carefully drizzle water into the cells of the flat without misting.
Transplant the seedlings to your garden site when the plants have developed two sets of true leaves and after all danger of frost has passed. Squeeze the sides of each cell to loosen the root ball, then place the start in a hole in your garden that is the size of the root ball. Cover with soil and firm down the soil, then water thoroughly.
Apply organic vegetable fertilizer according to package instructions throughout the season. Read instructions carefully, as different manufacturers may specify different things. Water deeply rather than often, to encourage deep, strong root growth. Water whenever the first couple inches of soil looks dry.
About this Author
Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker, and writer. In addition to cooking and baking for a living, Chuasiriporn has written for several online publications. These include Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty, and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication CarEnvy.ca. Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.