How To Garden Organically - Useful Gardening Resources

How To Garden Organically - Useful Gardening Resources

Tending an organic garden is one of life's great joys. There's something  satisfying about working in harmony with nature to coax nourishing food and lush blooms from the soil. While organic methods require a bit more thought than simply dousing the garden with chemicals, the rewards are immense - from the unbeatable flavours to the peace of mind that you're treading lightly upon the earth while you look after the soil..

Since I seriously got back into gardening (and indeed, started my own organic nursery!) I've found some particularly useful resources for organic gardening when I had to remember old lessons from my childhood and relearn how to garden. I want to share with you to make anyone else who is just learning how to grow and garden organically. Absorbing this wisdom has helped shape my garden into a vibrant, regenerative space absolutely humming with life. And I hope they inspire you as well on your organic journey!

Organic Gardening Principles

At its heart, organic gardening is about fostering a balanced ecosystem bursting with biodiversity above and below the soil. The guiding principles are quite simple really:

First to garden organically, we build fertile soil as the foundation to grow healthy, resilient plants by replenishing organic matter and nurturing the vast soil food web of microscopic workers like bacteria and fungi.

We then embrace that biodiversity by growing a variety of plants (a polyculture as opposed to a monoculture!), each supporting the other in a natural give-and-take. There's no need for reliance on synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilisers when nature's own remedies abound.

Instead, we practise environmentally-friendly pest management through methods like carefully selecting plants for companion benefits. We preserve moisture through mulches and moisture-retentive soils high in organic matter.

And we continuously recycle garden waste and kitchen scraps into compost to return those vital nutrients back to the soil in an elegant, regenerative cycle. It's all about working in step with nature, rather than trying to dominate her.

Resources: Compost & The Soil Food Web

The absolute bedrock of any thriving organic garden is nutrient-rich, biologically active soil. To understand and nourish your soil's subterranean community, I highly recommend these excellent resources:

Robert Pavlis's book 'Soil Science for Gardeners: Working with Nature to Build Soil Health' provides a masterful look into the incredibly complex soil ecosystem we aim to cultivate. It's utterly fascinating stuff. It can be almost too detailed at times, but well worth it.

Jeff Lowenfels' 'Teaming with Microbes' gives you an up-close look at the bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes that drive nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration when we get the conditions right. 

And the 'Composting for the Home Gardener’ produced by the University of California covers composting techniques from simple cold piles to hot, high-efficiency methods, how to build and maintain, speed up or slow down the process with an incredibly easy bullet point style.

Resources: Growing As Your Garden Grow s

Of course, organic gardening is a continuous process of learning, observing nature's patterns, and refining your skills as both plants-person and ecologically-minded steward.

Part of this mindset shift is rethinking "pests" as vital food sources for birds and other garden wildlife, "weeds" as valuable plants suited to just the wrong location (stinging nettles make an excellent butterfly nursery!), and materials like cardboard as resources rather than waste.

It's about working in tune with local ecosystems, avoiding harm wherever possible while still producing abundant food. An ongoing journey of opening our eyes to nature's incredible generosity when we live in synchronicity.

On the podcast front, I'm incredibly fond of 'Roots and All' - I find it provides honest and practical information and interviews some of the best-known experts in the world of horticulture. It's particularly useful if you’re interested in looking at ways to reduce the impact of your growing endeavours on the environment and animals, but really the advice is useful to all gardeners regardless of their working methods. I really do find it a top-notch way to absorb organic principles almost by osmosis while listening on-the-go. A couple of the episodes really did inspire me to make a go of my own sustainable plastic free organic plant nursery.

And Jack Wallington's book 'A Greener Life' provides an excellent primer on adopting sustainable, organic thinking across all aspects of the garden. His chapter on planning a garden is the most clear and helpful I’ve ever read on the subject with some really good solid pointers. 

Resources: Dealing With Problems Organically

A key tenet is avoiding problems through proper organic gardening methods. For instance, skipping quick-release fertilisers prevents the sappy, pest-susceptible growth they can spur.

Mulching generously with woodchips or leaves blocks weeds while improving tilth and moisture retention. Carefully considering each plant's cultural needs and spacing allows good airflow to minimise disease issues.

And by fostering a diversity of birds, bats, frogs, predatory insects and other beneficials through habitat plantings and welcoming features, you gain an entire workforce keeping pest populations naturally in check.

At the end of the day, that's what organic gardening is all about - working harmoniously with nature's own preventative measures, remedies and regenerative cycles. With patience, observation and knowledge from great teachers, you can solve any issue through tried-and-true organic methods.

Even in the most balanced organic garden, difficulties will inevitably arise from time to time. When they do, it's reassuring to have resources on effective, pesticide-free solutions:

'The Organic Gardener's Handbook of Natural Pest and Disease Control' by Fern Marshall Bradley and Barbara W. Ellis is my go-to reference for diagnostic assistance and safe, organic treatments.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board has a series of Crop Walker Guides, ranging from individual vegetables to horticultural nursery stock, which list all the major pests and diseases, with excellent descriptions and photos. It’s invaluable.

And Bob Flowerdew wrote a book about Companion Planting which I found useful with a lot more detail than you’d normally see about the history of companion planting and why various plants help or even hinder others. I also put together a companion planting table, partially utilising this book as reference as I wasn’t able to find an easy reference anywhere, so sometimes you’ve just got to do it yourself! 

So anyway, I do hope these resources aid you on your own organic path. While it requires continual growth, the fruits of an organic gardener's labours are immensely rewarding. Not just in the unbeatable flavours of your homegrown harvests and the joyful sights and smells of your natural garden, but in that soul-deep satisfaction of treading gently upon this wondrous earth we call home.

Happy gardening!

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