Keen to get your green thumb working?
Here are 7 top tips to get you on your way …
- Work on improving your soil, as the soil quality determines how healthy the vegetables and subsequently you the consumer will be. The optimal soil will be beautifully structured, drained and aerated. It will be deep, moist and friable (crumbly and rubbly). Ideally it will be fertile sandy loam full of critters and organic matter. Raised beds, lots of compost and mulch and a targeted watering program in dry times will speed you to this goal. Consider doing a soil test or at the very least test the pH of your soil so that you can correct any deficiencies.
- Improve your compost making skills. As chemical fertilisers, raw manures, etc have no place in an organic growing system, the organic grower relies heavily on compost as a fertiliser, mulch, soil conditioner and as a food supply for the life in the soil, which keeps the whole engine room within the soil ticking over. Read books and articles on compost making and attend courses when available, but above all experiment and find a technique that suits your needs, fitness levels and resources.
- Perfect your observation skills, as the organic grower relies heavily on this attribute, particularly in the avoidance of pest damage and water stress and for picking up the signs of deficiencies. A plant needs to be grown quickly, in the correct season and with the best management in order to flourish. Pests don’t find plants grown this way palatable and leave them alone.
- 4 Learn to maximise the benefit from every drop of precious water. In these increasingly dry times, we all need to conserve water and eliminate waste. A general rule is to water if there has not been 2.5cm of rain in a given week, but this is dependent on the prevailing conditions, type of crop and stage of its growth. Aim to reduce frequency of watering by choosing crops that aren’t too thirsty, mulching heavily and checking soil moisture 4cm down before turning on the tap. Reduce waste by watering either early or late in the day to avoid evaporation.
- Start small – all too often we dig over a large space in a burst of enthusiasm, can’t keep up the maintenance and end up with a meagre crop in a weedy, dry plot.
- Regard weeds as allies not enemies. Chemical companies promote “war on weeds” campaigns in an effort to sell more herbicides. Herbicides have no place in an organic garden unless derived from pine oil. Weeds can be seen as a benign element of an ecosystem. They are nature’s indicators and the caretakers of the soil. Observe how they spread quickly to colonise bare areas to provide cover and protection for the soil life. If, however, weeds are growing where you don’t want them and are competing with crops for light, water and nutrients, use mulch, prevent weeds seeding, hoe when they are tiny and use close planting to deprive them of sunlight.
- Plant vegetables that your family prefers in quantities that will be consumed. Avoid planting large numbers of seedlings of one type at the one time. Stagger plantings according to !your families needs eg. a punnet of lettuce seedlings every few weeks.
These useful tips are from Victorian-based biodynamic farmer Jackie Dargiaville. Jackie has recently released The Vegie Box, which is a complete guide to growing your own organic vegetables, presented in a pine box with laminated growing cards, a comprehensive handbook and Gardener’s diary.
The Vegie Box is available at www.boxbooks.com.au for $64.95.