This article was guest written by Luke Smith.
In this digitally-enhanced world with its disposable culture, it’s nice to have something that feels natural and tangible in your life. This is one of the reasons why so many people are turning their focus toward developing their personal organic gardens. It’s something in a complicated world that is straightforward and can help to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Yet, making an organic garden is somewhat tricky to sustain year-round. Various factors of the natural world can leave unenhanced fruits, vegetables, and plants vulnerable. To successfully keep your garden growing throughout the seasons, you need to take important steps alongside the natural environment to protect and nurture your green features.
We’re going to take a look at some areas you can focus on that can help you to maintain an organic garden throughout the year and into the future.
Successfully maintaining an organic garden all year doesn’t happen on the fly. Any living element needs a great deal of care, and when you’re working without any enhancements, a greater degree of attention tends to be required to get it right. Not to mention that if you’re dealing with more than one species of plant or vegetable and a range of changing seasons, timing can be everything. As such, you will find you’re better able to stay organized if you commit to planning ahead.
Consider your overall goals and motivations. This will help guide the direction of your planning and act as a personal guide when things get challenging along the way. One of your motivations may be to achieve long-term self-sustainability. Growing your own food can be a step toward a more independent lifestyle alongside activities like generating your electricity and making your own clothes. This approach also supports goals geared toward a more environmentally conscious lifestyle that avoids industrial agriculture’s pressure on the planet. Whatever your imperatives for your organic garden are, formalize these for yourself — both the overall target and the milestones leading up to this.
This takes us to perhaps the most crucial consideration for your planning process. Start small. It might be tempting to try for diverse crops in your first year, but each species has its own preferences for treatment, time demands, and resource requirements. Even for the experienced home gardener, this can be a difficult juggling act. So, plan for just a few species, to begin with. First, research what actions you need to take for each. Immediately after, make a schedule for the care you need to perform around your other duties. And then, you can scale up the following year once you’ve gotten the hang of it.
Understand Your Region
As part of your plan to grow organically all year, you need to know what types of plants, flowers, and vegetables are practical and appropriate for your region. Introducing alien species into your garden might seem like an exciting botanical project, but it can also have detrimental effects on the local ecosystem. To be a truly organic gardener year-round, you need to dedicate some research to understand what can and can’t work in the spaces you’re cultivating.
If your garden is purely outdoor, look into what other plants, birds, insects, and animals interact with your environment. Consider items that grow by organic means and help local life thrive healthily and sustainably. You should make choices with little to no disruption to habitat creation and maintenance. Select plants and flowers that attract different kinds of local pollinators — this could include bees, hummingbirds, and moths, among others. This both serves the environment and ensures the health of your regional agricultural output.
Another aspect of understanding your region is working with your climate. Relying on artificial means, such as grow lights and heating mats, isn’t an especially organic approach when the weather gets cold. This uses additional resources that put further pressure on the environment. Get to know the flow of the seasons in your local area, and match these with plants, fruits, and vegetables that thrive in those climes. Planning a separate winter garden is a key part of year-round cultivation many beginners miss. Look into local cold-tolerant vegetables and salad greens. If your area experiences extremes of weather, create protective microclimates using tools such as straw beds to protect plants from frost and hedgerows to act as windbreaks.
Work with What Exists
An important part of organic farming is not relying too heavily on external or unnatural resources. When you buy new items from big box stores or with single-use plastics, you are essentially harming the planet and over-using our resources. A good rule of thumb for year-round organic gardening is to utilize what already exists wherever possible.
One way to achieve this is by using the natural strengths of your garden landscape, rather than tearing it up throughout the year to try and make it into something it’s not. This ties in with some of the more common landscaping mistakes even professional gardeners tend to make, like cutting grass so short it becomes susceptible to heat damage or creating a non-functional design. Not to mention that elaborate and unnatural landscape design can be hard to maintain. Instead, be mindful of what is already good about your space and how you can enhance it naturally throughout different times of the year. Are there low-light plants that can benefit from shady areas near your house? Can you intersperse your vegetables with plants attracting beneficial insects rather than relying on pesticides?
This approach should extend to the equipment you’re using to make your garden suitable for year-round organic growth. If you’re looking to expand your summer garden using greenhouses or poly tents, consider getting some junk parts and making your own. Old tires can make for creative and robust planters; you’ll find them stable in extreme weather.
Organic gardening can be a fascinating and environmentally considerate pursuit. But success year-round can be challenging. Make sure you take the time to plan ahead and learn about the details of your local climate to plant appropriately. By working with the nuances of your land and using recycled objects, you can prepare for the variations of the seasons without putting additional pressure on the environment.