The first step in creating your organic garden is to determine its best placement. The closer it is to your house, the more attention it will receive. Make sure water is readily available, and it is in an area that is fully exposed to the sun.
Soil preparation is the single most important factor in creating a successful garden. I call it “dirt making.” You begin by gently turning the soil. If this is the first time the land is being used to grow food, a tiller may prove helpful. Subsequent soil preparation can be done with a spade or garden fork. Too much tillage destroys soil structure.
After opening the soil, add copious amounts of organic material such as compost, leaf mold, well rotted sawdust, or decomposed animal manure. You can make your own compost or purchase it from most garden supply stores. If you create good healthy soil, you will grow healthy, disease-resistant plants. Nutrient rich soil grows nutrient rich food.
Compost added to gardens improves soil structure, texture, aeration, and water retention. When mixed with compost, clay soils are lightened and sandy soils are better able to retain water. Mixing compost with soil also contributes to erosion control, soil fertility, proper pH balance, and healthy root development in plants.
Separate garden beds with walkways. You should not walk in the area where you plant your vegetables. The weight from walking on a vegetable bed compacts the soil and retards plant growth.
Utilize the garden space wisely. Select crops you will eat and enjoy or your garden space and the food you grow will both be wasted. Decide what you want to plant and where you will plant it. Know what you will plant after the spring season crop is harvested.
Southern exposure has the most light (if you live in the northern hemisphere). Plant your tall crops on the north and west sides of the garden to prevent shading of smaller plants.
Use known or recommended cultivars for your main planting. Always buy good quality open-pollinated or heirloom seed from a reputable company rather than hybrid seed, or buy transplant seedlings to save time.
Watch the moon and learn its phases. My own experience has taught me that things grown above the ground should be planted during the waxing moon, and things grown below the ground should be planted on the waning moon.
Water your garden as often as needed to maintain a uniform moisture supply. In the absence of rain, an inch of water once a week probably will be adequate for heavier soils. Light sandy soils might require more frequent watering. It is best to water early in the morning so foliage dries quickly. This helps prevent diseases.
Good luck with your garden! Growing food can be a rewarding, spiritual experience. Not only will you benefit from consuming the healthful food you produce, but you will also bring yourself closer to the ultimate realities of creation.
In the future we will delve deeper into some of the items discussed in this piece. Feel free to send any questions you might want us to address.