Garden design for organic vegetable gardens is all about knowing what to plant and when to plant while taking sun exposure, watering and fertilizing into consideration. An organic garden is just gardening using only natural fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and soils. In every other aspect such as planning, preparing, planting and maintenance organic gardening is just regular gardening.
Preparing For Organic Vegetable Gardens
Irrigation watering is the best method for watering a vegetable garden. A vegetable garden must have exceptional drainage. Root vegetables, especially, will rot in the ground with poor drainage. A raised bed is the easiest and most effective way to guarantee good drainage and for creating irrigation channels. Creating a raised bed is quite easy to do and can be accomplished in just three or four hours.
The first step is to remove all grass and weeds from the garden spot. Then, instead of tilling the existing soil, you will need to add eight to twelve inches of material on top of the existing soil. You can add a combination of compost and top soil or just compost. While a combination of top soil and compost is adequate and effective, filling in the garden spot with all compost will provide your vegetables with the very best growing environment.
Measure out rows for your vegetables making sure you will have adequate room to move between the rows to weed and harvest your vegetables. Next to each row, cut an irrigation channel approximately six inches wide and six inches deep. Tamp the soil down firmly on the sides and bottom of the channels. When watering, you will simply fill the irrigation channels with water. As simple as that, you will have created raised beds and irrigation channels for your vegetable garden.
What To Plant
As a general rule, the easiest vegetables for beginning gardeners to grow are: tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, carrots, onions, squash, green beans, spinach and lettuce. These vegetables will provide you will fresh salads and vegetables all summer long and most are easily started from seed. However, for the beginning gardener, it is easier to buy the established plants from your local garden center.
When To Plant
From spring to fall, you can have fresh vegetables all through the growing season. You can be sure you have fresh vegetables all season long by staggering your planting. For example: plant one quarter of a row of lettuce every two weeks. Each successive planting will mature later in the season, giving you a steady supply of fresh lettuce all season. This method works especially well for lettuce, peas and green beans. However, it is not really necessary for tomatoes, peppers or squash, as these vegetables will put on fruit continuously all season long.
Sun Exposure, Watering And Fertilizing
Vegetables need a minimum of six to eight hours of sun per day. Vegetables planted in areas that get too much shade will grow poorly and often die.
Vegetables need a minimum of one inch of water per week. However, during hot dry months they will need more in order to produce successfully. To test to see if your soil needs watering, stick your finger into the soil near the plants about up to your second knuckle. If the soil at the bottom of the hole you have poked is dry, you need to water. As a general rule, the soil at the bottom of the hole should always be damp, not wet. Mulching is a good way to help the soil retain water and also helps discourage weeds.
If you have planted your vegetables in a raised bed of 100% compost, you will probably not need to fertilize during the season. Plant leaves that are yellowish or stems that seem too fragile are signs that you need to fertilize. There are several fertilizers on the market that are formulated just for vegetables. Follow label instructions carefully when fertilizing your vegetables.
Compost and organic fertilizers sound intimidating to some people. In fact, there is nothing simpler. Compost is a combination of leaves, plants, twigs and other organic matter that has decomposed into a rich fertilizer. Any organic matter such as grass clippings, leaves, weeds, even kitchen scraps can be composted and used as a fertilizer in your garden.
Compost is bulky and generally has the consistency of soil. Therefore, adding straight compost to the garden as a monthly, or frequent, fertilizer is not practical. You can get all the benefits of compost by making a compost tea to periodically fertilize your garden.
You can create a compost tea by wrapping approximately 6 cups of compost in a porous material like cheesecloth and soaking it overnight in a 5 gallon bucket of water. Remove the compost the next day and pour the resulting liquid, the compost tea, around the base of your plants. Before applying the compost tea, water the area you intend to fertilize to allow the soil to absorb the tea more easily. Apply the tea thinly and evenly over the entire garden.