Organic gardening is the process of using all natural products and techniques to grow plants. Growing vegetables organically is the healthiest way you can produce food for your family, because you're ensured that there are no harsh or dangerous chemical residues on the food you're eating.
Green manure is a process of growing specific plant material that gives something back to the soil. It's often planted in the winter and allowed to grow until a few weeks before spring vegetable planting season, when it's cut down low and turned into the soil. Green manuring helps improve the overall quality of the soil by adding or retaining nutrients while it's growing, and rotting down into humus after it has been turned in.
Winter rye is an excellent choice of green manure for use during the winter, because it anchors the soil to prevent erosion and can be cut down and dried for use as hay mulch before turning the soil. Comfrey is another excellent green manure plant. A perennial with very deep roots, comfrey helps add nitrogen, potash, phosphate and many other minerals to the soil.
Finished compost is a rich, highly nutritious humus that helps improve overall soil quality in the garden. Compost is made from rotting organic material such as weeds, grass clippings, wood chips and bark, and kitchen vegetable or fruit scraps. Anything organic can be added to the compost pile and adding finished compost to your garden soil provides additional minerals and nutrients that help the plants grow strong and healthy. Compost also prevents water erosion and the spread of diseases.
Organic material can be added directly into the soil of your garden bed and turned under, where it will slowly decompose on its own. You can also add it to the top of the bed and over time worms will pull it under and digest it for you. The most popular way to create your own compost is with a dedicated compost pile or bin that has organic material added to it regularly throughout the year. As the older material becomes finished, you simply shovel it out of the pile and add it to the top of your vegetable garden bed, or turn it into the garden soil.
Mulching a vegetable garden is an easy way to retard weed growth while keeping the soil from drying out too quickly. Almost anything that covers the bare ground between your vegetables can be used as mulch, but organic materials will slowly degrade and add nutrients to your garden soil. Hay, dry grass and wood chips are excellent organic mulching materials to use in the vegetable garden. Spreading several inches of mulch onto the bare soil areas to prevent sunlight from reaching the ground will keep weeds at bay and keep the soil moist.
Companion planting is a process of planting specific types of vegetables, herbs and flowers together to fight off pests and disease, as well as provide nutrients to each other. Herbs are the most commonly used companion plant, but certain vegetables should be planted together or apart as well. When planting tomatoes with carrots, for example, your carrots will turn out much smaller than normal. So, if you don't want small carrots, it's best to plant these vegetables apart.
Garlic is a natural fungicide that can help with a wide variety of diseases and pests in a vegetable garden. In many cases--such as when grown near beets--garlic will even improve the flavor or production of vegetables as well.
Beans enrich the soil with nitrogen and make an excellent companion plant for corn, grains and other greedy plants that use the nitrogen from the soil quickly. Melons and squash are also excellent companions for corn because they have broad leaves that shade the soil around the corn and keep it moist.