Intrigued by all the benefits of growing a backyard organic garden and looking for a little guidance on starting your own? It’s easier than you might guess! Just think of organic gardening in two equally important parts: grow and protect.
How to Grow Your Backyard Organic Garden
Overall, the goal is create a sustainable, earth-friendly ecosystem that plays host to rich soil, a diverse mix of plants, and loads of both pollinators and “good” predators. Follow these steps for planting success:
- Choose a site with good light. To grow to its full potential (literally!), your backyard organic vegetable garden needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day. Short on space? No big deal. Simply find a sunny spot for a container or two on your doorstep or deck.
- Use stellar soil. It saves a lot of headaches and backaches to garden in soil that looks and feels like brownie mix instead of bricks. For just the right balance of texture and nutrients, use premium-quality Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose In-Ground Soil (for in-ground growing), Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® All Purpose Container Mix (for potted plants), or Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Raised Bed Mix (for raised beds) —both enriched with aged compost—or a 50-50 mixture of the two for raised beds. Best of all, growing in either of these mediums will give you up to twice the harvest vs. unfed plants!
- Plant wisely. Set your garden well along the way to maturity by starting with strong, vibrant young plants from Bonnie® Organics. Or, if you’d rather sprout your own seeds, be sure to look for packets labeled USDA Organic. Either way, choose plants that grow well together, including a mix of hybrid and heirloom varieties that have some inherent disease-resistant characteristics (check the labels). Also, if you’ve grown a garden before, switch up where you plant different plant types (a practice called crop rotation) to help thwart pests and diseases.
- Water well. Since moisture is essential for good growth, be sure to plan for watering from the very start, since most organic gardens require at least an inch of water per week (and even more when it’s hot outside). Easy access to spigots and rain barrels is key to avoid lugging heavy watering cans and dragging hoses around. Even easier is to “set it and forget it” by using drip irrigation tubing (the Gro® Potted Drip Kit is a great choice for containers) connected to a timer. Be sure to water right after you plant, too!
- Serve nutritious “meals.” Plants constantly pull nutrients from the soil, so it’s your job to replenish them throughout the growing season so your organic garden doesn’t go hungry and start to produce less than its best. To that end, a month after planting, start giving your garden regular helpings of Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition (check the label to find out how much and how often to feed). Enhanced with micronutrients, it instantly feeds the soil so your plants will have a steady stream of nutrition for their best growth.
How to Protect Your Backyard Organic Garden
Once you’ve planted the backyard organic garden of your dreams, you won’t be the only one who wants to visit it. Pests, diseases, weeds, and even harsh weather are sure to visit and can wreak havoc if you’re not prepared. Try these tips:
- Create a support system. Climbing and vining plants like tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans need a leg up to stay strong and off the damp ground (home to various pests and diseases). Help them out by placing a cage or trellis around or next to the plant while it’s still small. Some plants will grab onto the support on their own while others, such as tomatoes, will need twine or other material to tie stems to stakes.
- Make use of mulch. What do you do to protect tender plants in cold weather? Mulch. What do you do to keep moisture levels high in dry or hot weather? Mulch. What do you do to save your sanity from weeding, weeding, weeding? Mulch! Just spread a couple of inches of chopped leaves, straw, or untreated grass clippings over the soil around your vegetables, herbs, or flowers (but don’t pile it against the stems). Be sure to add more as needed.
- Show predators and pollinators some love. An area filled with rich soil and healthy plants will draw lots of creatures, many of which act as good garden roomies that spread pollen from plant to plant and/or leave little room for (and even feast on) sap-sucking pests. Don’t forget to be as welcoming to lizards, toads, and spiders as you are to ladybugs and birds. For more info on creating a pollinator-friendly garden, check out How to Attract Pollinators.
- Be on the look-out for disease. Walk your garden every day if you can and really look at your plants. If any leaves look spotted, measly, or sick, remove them before the ailment can spread to other foliage. If that’s not enough, treat plants with an organic garden disease control spray. If that still doesn’t help, be prepared to remove the plant—think of it as a sacrifice in service of the greater garden good. Be sure to put it in the trash, not the compost.
Now you’re set! When your friends beg for your brilliant tips on how to grow gorgeous organic vegetables, you can share these simple secrets—and a slice of that homegrown tomato.