Compost picture

Organic Gardening Tips

Composting

There are many different composting methods, but we actually use a compost spinner where we add our compost materials and spin the barrel often.  Eventually, we will have great dirt to add to our garden.  The bottom portion of  our composter also catches the liquid that comes out of the barrel as everything decomposes.  This liquid is called compost tea and is used as a mild organic fertilizer.

When adding to compost, you want to make sure you have an even mix of "greens and browns."  Click here to see a list of items that can and cannot be composted (also check out the rest of that website for more composting information).

Composter                Compost dirt

Fertilizing

The three nutrients found in fertilizers are Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potassium.  It is handy to remember the phrase "up, down, and all around," when it comes to knowing what each nutrient is for.  Nitrogen is for the leaves of the plant (up), Phosphorous is for the roots (down), and Potassium benefits the whole plant (all around).

Compost Tea
As mentioned above, if you have a composter like ours, you can use compost tea as a mild organic fertilizer.  Pepper plants do not like a fast-acting fertilizer, which is why compost tea works so well for them.

Dr. Earth Organic All Purpose Fertilizer
This is the fertilizer we end up using for pretty much all of our plants.  Dr. Earth has an entire line of organgic fertilizers for nearly every type of plant.

Supplemental Fertilizers
Occasionally, plants will require a little extra of one of the nutrients found in fertilizers.  When that is the case, we do add supplemental fertilizers like lyme (tomatoes need this), bloodmeal, or bonemeal.

Over-Wintering
One other technique we use is to over-winter rye grass.  Basically we end up tearing down everything in our garden by early November (sometimes earlier if there is an early frost...or snow on Halloween).  Once we clean out the garden, we throw down seed for rye grass and let that grow all winter.  In the spring, when we are about one month away from putting the first transplants in the ground, we kill off the rye grass.  This technique keeps the nutrients from leaching out of the soil, which will benefit your transplants.

To kill off the rye grass, trim it if needed and then put newspaper on top of it.  Once the newspaper covers the entire section, throw compost on top of it.  You will occasionally find a few resilient sprouts that still poke through, but after pulling them out as you see them, it eventually dies off just in time for transplants.

Rye grass            Rye grass

Pest Control

I'm sure most can agree with me, when I say I don't like bugs!  When they are in my house, I am very quick to make sure they are squashed somehow!  However in a garden, some insects are very beneficial.  For example, bees help pollinate plants and spiders eat the bad insects and leave your plants alone!  So before killing all bugs in your garden, make sure you find out if it is a beneficial insect or not.  A good guide for that is the Good Bug, Bad Bug book (click it to go to Amazon).

Bugs

Organic Sprays
We have used insecticidal soap and neem oil in our pest control efforts.  Neem oil is great when there is a Mexican Bean Beetle problem on your bean plants!  Insecticidal soap is a general pest control spray.  Just like any non-organic sprays, make sure you read the label for how to use it and what insects it takes care of.

Slug Traps
If you have a slug problem, one thing to try is to make a slug trap and set it in your garden.  All you need is a plastic water bottle and some beer.  Just cut the bottle in half, pour beer in the bottom half of the bottle.  Then, put the top half (spout first) into the bottom half of the bottle.  Lay this in your garden near the plants they are disturbing and you will see if you caught any slugs over the next few days.

Hand Picking
I let Steve have this fun job!  Sometimes, you just need to hand pick the bugs off the plants instead of using a spray.  We have had to do this with stink bugs and Japanese beetles.  What we do is keep a bucket of soapy water next to the garden and as Steve picks a bug, it goes in the soapy water.  Change the soapy water every few days as needed.

Weed Control

While I am sure there are organic ways of doing this other than our method, we only use the "hand picking" method here.  We do not want to risk spraying a weed and have it affecting the other plants we do want to keep.  So Steve and I are literally out in the garden every day and pick the weeds as we see them.  Keep in mind that while they are seedlings, they are much easier to pick!  That is why we check everyday.  One thing to keep in mind is if you are not sure if it is a weed or a seed that germinated, wait until the true leaves show up so you know if it was one you planted or not.

 

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