10 Steps to a Simple No Dig Garden

Let’s say you’ve just moved into a new home and although you have space in the sunshine for growing your own vegetables you have poor topsoil and you don’t want to break your back digging it over.

There are many variations on this no dig garden routine but here’s a simplified version for those who are faced with a poor site and want to get an organic garden going quickly and cheaply from readily available materials.

You need to end up with a large timber box open at the bottom and around 15 inches (40cm) high. Position this in a sunny spot away from shady trees.

Here’s how you do it:

Clear away the old veggie garden (if there is one) to make way for a new bed built entirely from salvaged timber.
Take 4 hardwood planks approximately 6ft (200cm) in length and 15 inches (40cm) deep.
Assemble them into a box.
Drill pilot holes into each end and drive in the screws. The timber will be tough to work with so drive the screw in half-way, then reverse,  then drive it back in.
Coat the inside with a wood preserver safe for growing food crops.
Start filling with ordinary sand from the backyard or wherever you can find it.
Line the bed with weed matting or plastic, making sure the material goes across the frame and up the sides to stop grass roots from finding their way in.
Add a mix of topsoil, manure, compost, mineral based fertilizer.
Water it all in.
Start planting.

The great thing about this garden is that if you need to move house again you can easily disassemble the structure and carry it with you.

Encourage the earthworm

Earthworms are tireless aerators of your soil. They create tunnels which carry water right to the root of the plants which also helps make sure heavy rain can run away easily. The friendly worm loves to eat fungi and harmful insects, and when he’s done he leaves a ‘casting’ from his digestive system which is a great garden fertilizer. When the worm’s life is over his body also turns into valuable fertilizer rich in nitrogen.

If your compost heap is in good shape the worms will breed right there and when you transfer compost to your garden bed they will happily colonize the new environment, contributing to the health and vitality of both soil and plants.

Plant a mix of vegetables herbs and flowers

Vegetables, herbs and flowers can flourish together in a very limited space. Flowers and herbs provide color and fragrance and your vegetables will benefit from the companionship of plants that scare troublesome insect pests away.  For example, marigolds are a great insect repellent that add wonderful color to your garden and send come-hither messages to the bees.

Janet Hall likes to promote organic gardening as a way of life. She believes that anyone can grow a good supply of food even with limited space. Visit her site to get started building your own organic garden, or take the mini-course at Organic Garden Guideto learn more and discover many great resources.

How to control weeds in the garden

Hints & Tips for weed control in the garden

One: Get to work on weeds as soon as they appear. Try not to let them flower as this means they’re there for the long haul!

Two: Cover empty ground with mulches and a suitable weed control fabric. This will prevent weeds from growing in the first place.

Three: Ready to use weed killers are the most convenient as no mixing is needed. For large areas, choose one with a nozzle.

Four: If the weeds have flowered then put the roots in the bin, otherwise they’ll find a way back to your garden.

Five: If you’re struggling for time, make sure you remove flowering weeds first to prevent them setting seed.

What is weed control fabric?

DIY Matters Weed Control Fabric is a black UV stable nonwoven material, specially designed as a porous, breathable weed suppressing membrane for use under organic mulch, decorative gravel, bark or for lining planters in the garden.

Weed Control Fabric only lets water and nutrients through to your plants, whilst suppressing the growth of unwanted weeds.

Weed Fabric helps to keep the ground moist and protects from extreme temperatures, whilst reducing the need for watering of plants.

Where can I use Weed Control Fabric?

DIY Matters Weed Control is ideal for borders, flower beds, under decking and gravel paths.

It can be finished with bark, mulch, light weight gravel or slate to enhance your outside living space.

What roll sizes is Weed Fabric available in?

Weed control fabric’s come in a variety of sizes.

1m x 10m
1m x 15m
1m x 20m
1m x 50m
1m x 100m
2m folded to 1m x 10m
2m folded to 1m x 20m
2m folded to 1m x 50m
2m folded to 1m x 100m

How do I install Weed Control Fabric?

Step One
Prepare the ground, remove any stones and make sure the area is free from weeds. Rake the soil to a smooth surface.

Step Two
Roll out the weed control fabric over the area & cut to size. For large areas please ensure that there is a 75mm (3″) overlap.
Secure any overlaps with ground pegs.

Step Three
For new plants, cut a cross in the material and pin back where you intend to place the plant. Dig out the soil below and prepare the ground as instructed. Return the Weed Control as close to the base of the plant as possible.

Step Four

Cover with at least 50mm (2″) of bark or mulch.
The fabric can be cut around existing plants, shrubs or trees and underneath hedges.

DIY Matters, a company set up as a subsidiary to one of the largest UK suppliers of non woven landscaping materials. This gives DIY Matters unique access to the finest, most innovative gardening fabrics sourced world wide at unbeatable prices, offering you wholesale prices delivered direct to your door. We have a complete range of weed membrane and driveway control, woven ground cover and Geo-textile ground stabilisation materials supplemented by frost protection fleece and a range of handy DIY and gardening wipes. Added to this is a BBA accredited weathertight roofing membrane and a range of damp proof membrane polythene products. This diverse range is sourced with quality and value for money in mind, ready to be converted and packaged in a UK factory, to offer the best service and flexibility.

Planting a Vegetable Garden

When planting vegetables, careful planning is the key to success. Before you even determine which seeds you’d like to plant, you must designate a space for your vegetable garden and come up with a detailed plan. Find the sunniest place in your yard and start there. If you don’t have a large enough plot for everything you’d like to grow, you may chose to construct raised planter beds. It is not unusual to grow vegetables in containers on patios, decks, or anywhere else with ample sunlight. A vegetable garden should receive about 6 hours of full sunlight a day. Many vegetables thrive under these conditions as the soil gets warm sooner and stays warm longer, promoting healthy growth. Raised beds also afford better drainage, as the water cannot flood the water logged plants and soil. This is important also when rain storms hit for drainage reasons.

Next, you need to consider the soil that you will grow your vegetables in. The soil should be fertile and provide the plants with plenty of vitamins and nutrients. You should add plenty of organic humus such as well composted manure. If you are re-cultivating in the same space as perhaps last year, there is not much to do but enrich the soil with additional organic materials as last years’ crop probably sucked most of the nutrients out. The soil should be light and airy, allowing the roots to develop in a healthy manner.

Draw out a schema for each and every seed. Take spacing into account as it’s very important. Some vegetables do not need much space to thrive while others need a lot. Some root shallow while some root deep. Take advantage of the knowledge you have of each specific seed and make better use of your space. If you plant a row of deep rooting vegetables, utilize the space between the seeds by planting shallow rooting plants. They will not get in the way of one another. Another thing to take into consideration is the direction your planter is facing. If you are planting a combination of crops, you will need to place them according to height so that the taller plants do not shade the shorter ones. Taller plants should be on the north side of the garden. As a general rule, rows of plants should run east to west. This will prevent those larger crops from shading the shorter ones.

Establish your walkways early so that you are not trekking through your garden, overly compressing the soil which can suffocate roots, or displacing seeds. Mark your beds well, noting what you are planting, when you planted and when you should expect sprouting seedlings.

Once you have developed a clear plan, you can start sowing. Use stakes and a piece of string to ensure straight rows. Place your seeds at the appropriate depth and plant extras. Not all will germinate and the extra seeds will cover the ones that do not. Firmly cover the seeds, creating a cocoon of moisture and water lightly, making sure not to disrupt the seeds or roots. Always keep the seedlings moist to ensure steady growth. When you see them sprout for the first time, be patient. Wait until they have sprouted two or three leaves before you prune. Let the roots develop before you prune which can put a bit of stress upon them.

If you’re planting during sweltering summer months, do it early in the morning or late in the evening, once the temperature has cooled off a bit. The heat can take a lot out of the plants, making the transition more stressful, leading to fewer thriving plants.

Again, planning is the key. A successful, fruitful garden depends on a few things:

1. Designate a sunny, well drained space for your vegetable planter.
2. Aerate and amend your soil with plenty of organic matter.
3. Draw a schema for your seeds, taking into account the height of the plant, the depth of the roots and the space needed around it.
4. Establish walkways so you do not damage root systems or overly compact soil.
5. Sow seeds in straight lines, taller plants on the north side of the planter.
6. Wait for the magic to happen and prune when necessary.
7. Enjoy homegrown vegetables!

When you taste the freshness of home grown sweet corn or vine ripened tomatoes on your family’s dinner table, you will know that all of the hard work was worth it. Home gardening is also a great way to spend time with your children, teaching them that hard work and diligence pays off directly with delicious homegrown vegetables.

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Compost For Your Organic Garden

If you are one of the many gardeners who are into organic planting then one of the most important thing you will be needing in order for your plant to grow is to make a compost fertilizer right at your backyard or should I rather say right from your kitchen. Yep, those leftover from your dinner plate can turn into gold fertilizer for your plants to grow healthy.

Here’s what you need to make a good compost:

1. Organic materials – This can be the leftover you had on dinner, fruit and vegetable waste, leaves, woods etc.

2. Air – It is recommended that you place your compost in an open air.

3. Water – The amount of water in your compost should be enough to help the bacteria and other organisms break down the materials in your compost and turn them into fertilizers.

4. Gardening tools – Tools like rake, spade and fork would be useful.

Actually you do not need many things when making a compost fertilizer but how you do it makes it more important. There are so many things to keep in mind in order to turn your garbage into something worth consuming for your plants.

You should remember that not all garbage can be use to make a compost. Avoid putting in human waste, cat or dog waste, plastics, big piece of wood which does not only include trunks but as well as branches (you will need to trim or cut this into small pieces), metals. Also, keep in mind not to place too much water in your compost pit, it would be better if your compost is dry than overflowing with water. And you know what is the good thing about making compost? You can make use of your old newsprint.

You have to place it in a container with water and let it stay overnight then transfer it in your compost pit. If you want your compost to be more ‘healthy’ you can opt to use urine instead of water to provide he necessary hydration of your compost. It does not only contain acid which can help in breaking up the solid materials but the human urine is full of nitrogen as well as flushed out vitamins and minerals from our body which plants can still make use of. Now, you can use the urine ‘pure’ or you can mix it with water and pour it straight to the compost.

Effective Garden Décor Tips

Are you looking for something nature-based or stylized, straightforward, and inexpensive way to add to your garden decors? Definitely there are many things that you can put in to your outdoor living space, perhaps to your backyard to make it comfortable and pleasing along with providing you just with few hours of work on maintenance. Now, here are some effective garden décor guides for you to learn.

First, if you own a landscape or a garden that is absolutely large, you can create a flow throughout it to make it a much more fitting for human habitation and organic environment. For instance, a pathway leading through the garden is significant as it provides for a way to move through the area enjoying all of the finest sights along the way.

Second, overcrowding a space with too much decor or even multitude of plants as well is really a bad dealing. Overloading plants can cause them to take over the whole garden or perhaps eventually die. Instead, look for a more nature-based landscape component.

Third, specific theme right through your garden décor is not of a necessary need, but you should look towards the same or related offerings. Just make sure that different items or decors on your garden match with its environment or through its shades or colors. Bind certain areas of the garden together as well.

Finally, a large amount of the aspects within a garden are going to need some preservation. If you pull your weeds, do not let this be outshined by the fact that you have not washed that white possessions in a year. In addition, keep up on wrecked or misplaced items as well as within the duration of harsh winter months, remember to make sure to put as much as possible in storage that can be broken.

The abovementioned points can really lend a hand to bring about lovely, solemn, and fashionable garden decors that are perpetual, simple to manage and a welcoming place to call your own.

For more of effective Garden Décor Tips, just go and visit Gardenstreet Gardens Decor Guide – what it takes to make your garden decorations adorable.

Plant a Vegetable Garden Easily

The first thing you need to know is to identify what vegetables you want to plant. It is recommended to choose vegetables that are easier to grow. Once you have your selected vegetables to plant, look for an appropriate location for planting your vegetable garden. Make sure that there are no trees or other plants around your garden location. This is because when trees or other plants are around, they will suck all the nutrients away from your vegetables. Furthermore, make sure that your location has enough sunshine for your veggies.

After choosing the appropriate location, make sure to examine the quality of the soil. Be sure to test the pH level of the soil. The ideal pH level of a soil is 6.5. This means that the soil can give enough nutrients to your vegetables. If the pH level is low or high, the soil will give insufficient nutrients to your vegetables. The secret of having a good garden is having quality of the soil.  Moreover, if you want to make the soil fertile, there are organic fertilizers such as animal manures are great for providing additional nutrients to the vegetables. These fertilizers maintain moisture to the garden. On top of that, make sure that there is enough water to keep your vegetables rehydrated since vegetables need a constant supply of water. Research shows that morning is the best time to water the plants because they dry off quickly.

Once you planted your vegetables, all you have to do is wait for the harvest season. To get the best harvest and flavor, make sure that vegetables are picked in their peak of maturity.  Do not wait for the vegetables to become overripe. Furthermore, make sure to harvest frequently in order to encourage production.  Once you harvested your vegetables, you can now enjoy your newfound success as a gardener.

Vegetable gardening is simple. We don’t need to acquire a skill in vegetable gardening. Try this best tips for organic vegetables gardening.

Designing your Vegetable Garden an Introduction to the Classic Designs

There are a number of different designs you can use when planning your organic vege garden – and choosing an appropriate design style for your home and personality will ensure your vege garden is an attractive feature within the garden as a whole, rather than a functional sideline.
 
It’s also important to consider the plants you want to grow. There is little point growing a pile of vegetables you won’t eat (although providing a local homeless shelter or food bank with homegrown vegetables is a wonderful way to use up surplus produce – a fantastic project if you have kids, too, as you can get them involved in gardening and charitable giving all at the same time.) You may also want to consider vegetables that you love, but can be expensive to buy. Salad greens often fall into the category with greens such as baby spinach ridiculously expensive in the shops, but so easy to grow at home.

Add in any considerations around companion planting and you will have a guideline to laying out your vege garden.

While there are an infinite number of garden designs to choose from, a few of the more classic vegetable garden designs are outlined below. You can choose the design that best suits your needs and personality, and then adapt it as you choose.

Potager:
The word ‘potager’ is now widely used in English to describe a formal vegetable garden which combines flowers, herbs and vegetables in an attractive pattern, with a clear structure. Fruit trees, often espaliered, are also used in potagers, together with topiary trees such as bay. Box hedging can be used to edge and define the beds, and can often be used to split the beds into geometric patterns. Pathways are made from traditional elements such as old brick, lime chip or shell, and create an attractive walk between the beds. with attractive pathways made from brick, shell or lime chip in between. You can include arches covered in roses or vine fruit, or highly structural plants such as artichokes. Potagers are ideal designs for organic gardening as the combination of vegetables, herbs and flowers allows for a huge range of companion planting options.

If you vegetable garden will be clearly seen rather than hidden away, a potager may be an ideal option for you. However before you begin, take some time to sketch out your design – to scale if possible. They key to a successful potager is in the geometric detail and this is not something that you can usually play by ear.

The Traditional Kitchen Garden:
The kitchen garden is usually walled – stone or brick being the traditional materials, however modern gardens can create the ‘walled’ effect using fences or hedging, to fit with the style of your home. The entry to the garden is usually through a gate or archway.
 
Kitchen gardens have a very organized layout. Both paths and plantings are run in straight lines, and pathways are usually made from gravel, or rammed earth covered in straw. Plantings tend to run north to south, to allow even access to sunlight.

Unlike potagers, kitchen gardens are primarily functional and don’t include ornamental elements such as flowers. Herbs, however, have a place and can be used as borders along your paths. Lavender, rosemary and bay all make attractive and fragrant hedges.

Vegetable Patchwork:
In a vegetable patchwork plants are planted in bold blocks of single plants. In this way you create high visual impact and can design your plantings according to height, color and texture to create an attractive, interesting tapestry.

There are usually wider, main pathways through the garden with smaller, narrower paths leading off into the beds to allow easier access to the planting blocks. Again, paths tend to be made from beaten earth or gravel. A patchwork garden is a easy way to manage your crop rotations – you simply move all your plantings over one block each year.

Cottage Gardens:
Cottage gardens are beautiful, care-free gardens which are characterized by a seeming lack of structure. Flowers are interwoven with vegetables and herbs to create an abundant, lush garden which can give joy to the senses. However as with all gardens a cottage garden needs some planning to work well.

Pathways are meandering and narrow, so there can be as much planting as possible. A casual garden chair can be placed in a small nook – you can even grow things over it – and it will look perfectly in place. Paths are covered in straw and you can leave you’re your garlic and shallots to dry in the sun, which will only add to the atmosphere. The overall feeling is of productivity, vibrancy and abundance. However, when gardening organically bear in mind that your plants need adequate airflow, which can be a problem in a cottage garden. Diseases and pests can also spread quickly due to the intensive planting. Therefore it’s worthwhile keeping a good eye on your garden for any telltale signs of disease or infestation.

City, or Container Gardening.
Finally, you can still enjoy the fruits of your labor even if you are not lucky enough to have your own plot of earth. There are a wide variety of plants and herbs which do very well in pots and containers – including small window boxes.

When deciding what to grow in your courtyard, balcony or patio, the type of tubs you use can be a key to your design. If you are simply keen to grow as much as possible then you can purchase organic gro bags from your local garden centre which will work well for a couple of plantings, and allow you to grow intensively. Otherwise choose your containers and pots in keeping with a theme – old English or Mediterranean, for example – and you can then grow plants which embrace this theme.
 
You can now buy a huge range of dwarf plants which are ideal for container gardening. Dwarf peas and beans are ideal, as are tomatoes, and they have been bred to crop heavily.

Remember, however, that your plants need plenty of sunshine – 6 hours a day is ideal – shelter from the wind and sufficient water. Your container plants will dry out far more quickly so will have higher water requirements than plants in a traditional plot.

By designing your garden in a style you find personally attractive you will enhance the aesthetic appeal of your garden and discover it is a place where you actually want to spend more of your time. And this, of course, is where you reap the benefits with wholesome, abundant crops you can enjoy with family and friends.

Fi McMurray is a garden enthusiast and author who has been gardening organically for 10 years. She has been involved with 2 award-winning gardens at the prestigious Ellerslie International Flower Show in Auckland, New Zealand.

Her latest book is “An Introduction to Successful Organic Gardening”, which joins her previous books “Successful Rose Gardening” and “Secrets to a Thriving Herb Garden”. You can find out more about Fi’s books at her website, www.fimcmurray.com

Fi lives north of Auckland, New Zealand, with her husband and two small children.

Controlling Pests in your Organic Garden

One of the main concerns of gardeners considering switching to organics is, “How do I control the pests?” The aim of organic gardening is not to eradicate pests, but to make sure your garden’s ecosystem is in balance so plants continue to thrive.

One vital tool in the organic gardener’s toolbox is companion planting. This is where gardeners plant different plants together as they either deter pests by acting as a natural insect repellent, or encourage vigorous growth in the companion plant.

Companion planting works for both herbs and flowers, and if you plant a variety of flowers in amongst your vegetables you will not only have an attractive vegetable garden, but a productive one as well.

There are hundreds of planting combinations however common companion plants include marigolds, garlic and onion. Well known combinations include tomatoes and basil, and parsley and roses.

Soap as a pesticide
Making your own pesticide sprays is easy and cost effective. One of the most versatile sprays can be made with common liquid dish soap, a little fixing oil from your garden center, and water. You simply spray this over your plants and then rinse.

Soap spray is effective in combating common garden pests such as aphids, thrips and spider mites. Make sure when you spray that you also reach the underside of the leaves, the stems and the flowers of your plants. But make sure you only use a few drops of soap per bottle as too much soap can damage your plants.

 Picking off the bugs
One of the best ways of removing the bugs from your organic garden is simply to pick them off before they have a chance to establish. It is best to look for insects when they are most active, which is early morning or dusk. Simply wander around your garden and squash any small bugs you see, such as aphids. Caterpillars, snails and slugs can be removed to other areas of the garden or, if you want to remove them from your garden entirely, then you can drown them in some soapy water.
But remember that there are also beneficial bugs in the garden that you want to keep and encourage, so make sure you don’t remove these by mistake!

Manual Barriers
You can protect your plants from larger insects such as snails and slugs by using physical barriers around your plants. Household items such as crushed shell, coffee grounds or wood ash sprinkled in a continuous ring around your plants will protect them. However make sure there are no gaps.

Other simple remedies such as a saucer of sugar water or half an orange will attract the insects and keep them away from your plants. Replace your organic traps every day or so.

Encouraging helper bugs
Not all insects are bad for your garden. In fact helper bugs are essential to ensure the health of your plants. Beneficial insects feast on the nasties that eat your plants, and should be encouraged as much as possible.

The main beneficial insects for your garden include ladybugs, lacewings and spiders. If you want to get started quickly then you can often buy ladybugs or lacewings through mail order, or from your garden centre.

Spiders (as long as you are not in an area with very unpleasant ones) can be encouraged into the garden through blocks of perennial planting and straw around the garden.

So there are a number of ways you can tackle the nasties in your garden without resorting to chemicals. They key is to be vigilant and keep on top of the problems before they get out of hand, and you have a thriving, healthy garden you and your family can enjoy.

Fi McMurray is a garden enthusiast and author who has been gardening organically for 10 years. She has been involved with 2 award-winning gardens at the prestigious Ellerslie International Flower Show in Auckland, New Zealand.

Her latest book is “An Introduction to Successful Organic Gardening”, which joins her previous books “Successful Rose Gardening” and “Secrets to a Thriving Herb Garden”. You can find out more about Fi’s books at her website, www.fimcmurray.com

Fi lives north of Auckland, New Zealand, with her husband and two small children.

Starting your Vegetable Garden The Main Vegetable Types ampamp What you Need to Know

If you want an abundant, productive organic vege garden then it’s important to first understand a little about the different vegetable types, and the conditions in which they thrive. Vegetables tend to be grouped into 3 main categories: fruit and seed vegetables; leaf and stem vegetables, and root and bulb vegetables, depending on the part of the plant that is most commonly eaten.

They can also be grouped according to their temperature preferences: cool season vegetables grow best at low temperatures of 50-70 deg F (10-20 deg C); warm vegetables grow best at temperatures of 70 def F (20 deg C) or above, while a third, temperate group prefers temperatures of between 60 -75 deg F (15-25 deg C). If you grow vegetables out of season then, despite your best intentions, you are doomed for disappointment as your vegetables will either fail to germinate and grow, or rapidly bolt to seed.

This article is not designed to act as a comprehensive guide to growing individual vegetables – there are many good books available that will cover these basics and that may be well tailored to your own particular climate. Instead, you will find an overview of each of these groups, and their requirements, in turn. If you do not have a vegetable gardening book then most seed packets give detailed maps or descriptions on the back, explaining the best time to plant in your area.

Fruit and seed vegetables.

This group include beans, peas, eggplants (aubergines), capsicums (bell peppers), tomatoes, sweetcorn and cucurbits (vine crops such as cucumber, zucchini (courgettes), pumpkins and squash).

As a general rule, these are warm or temperate season plants which hate frost. In colder areas they should not be planted out until early summer, but will grow quickly. Do not be tempted to plant them out too soon – you will only be frustrated at their lack of inclination to thrive.

Leaf and stem vegetables.

This group includes vegetables such as cabbages, lettuce, brussel sprouts, rhubarb, chard (silverbeet), spinach and celery. Broccoli and cauliflower are also often included in this group, although strictly we eat the flower buds, not the leaves or stems.

This group includes a range of cool and temperate weather crops which are sown in the cooler winter months or early spring.

Root and bulb vegetables.

This group includes most of the kitchen staples such as onions, shallots, carrots, potatoes, turnips and beets. Again, this group tends to include mainly cool and temperate crops, which may run to seed if planted too late in the season.

Crop rotation

The key to successful crop rotation is to keep it simple. Unless you are a commercial gardener very few people have the time or inclination to prepare complex crop rotation plans year on year.

As I have far too many things on my ‘to do’ list as it is, I keep my planting schedule as simple as possible. My approach is to divide my beds up into blocks, and then plant only one vegetable category, such as bulb vegetables, or leaf vegetables, in each block. Then the next season I move all the plantings one block to the right, so I am now planting a different vegetable category in each block. This seems to have worked well so far!

If you follow this simple guide to vegetables you should have no trouble planning a successful, disease-resistant garden to feed you and your family year round!

Fi McMurray is a garden enthusiast and author who has been gardening organically for 10 years. She has been involved with 2 award-winning gardens at the prestigious Ellerslie International Flower Show in Auckland, New Zealand.

Her latest book is “An Introduction to Successful Organic Gardening”, which joins her previous books “Successful Rose Gardening” and “Secrets to a Thriving Herb Garden”. You can find out more about Fi’s books at her website, www.fimcmurray.com

Fi lives north of Auckland, New Zealand, with her husband and two small children.

Make your Own Organic Garden Fertilizer Easily and Cheaply

One of the keys to successful organic gardening is healthy soil. By feeding your soil with rich, homemade fertilizers before planting then you will be giving your plants the best chance of success, and encourage robust, vigorous growth. You will also be avoiding adding potentially dangerous chemicals to your soil, and saving money in the process! Organic garden fertilizer is easy to make and cheaper than commercial, chemical fertilizers as you can make it from waste you generate every day around your home.

Ideally you should feed your soil twice a year, particularly in areas where you grow vegetables or annual plants, which deplete the soil of nutrients more rapidly.

Animal based fertilizer

Animal based fertilizer can be made from animal manure that has been well rotted or decomposed. You can use horse, chicken, cow or sheep manure, and fertilizer made in this way will add structure and warmth to your soil.

Once the manure has rotted down and decomposed you can either dig directly into the soil, or use in a liquid form by pouring water through your fertilizer and collecting the runoff. However it’s important to ensure your fertilizer is well combined with the soil for a least 3 weeks prior to planting, to ensure it is well integrated.

Plant based fertilizer

Plant based fertilizers are probably easier to make than animal based fertilizers as they use produce and scraps from around the home. Plant based fertilizers include home made compost, worm fertilizers and green manure.

Worm fertilizers are easily made using commercial worm farms which you can buy from your local garden centre, or online. This can be a great project if you have children and the resulting fertilizer and worm ‘tea’ is very beneficial for your garden. Weight for weight, worm fertilizer is five times more nutrient rich than the surrounding soil, and it requires very little effort on your part. Feed your worm farm with green waste from your home, and you can also include damp newspaper and other organic matter.

Growing “green manure” is very beneficial for your soil if you have the patience to wait for it to grow. Green manure is a nitrogen fixing crop such as clover or lupin that you grow in your soil, then cut and dig in. The decomposing matter feeds the soil as it breaks down, and the roots help to improve the soil structure.

Making your own compost

Organic compost is easy to make, satisfying and cost effective, and is one of the best ways to feed your soil organically. Compost is the result of green waste which has decomposed. It improves the soil by returning nutrients, helping to retain water, and improving the structure of the soil. It also helps soil aeration and drainage, allowing the soil to ‘breathe’.

You can make compost in a commercially bought compost bin, or make your own bin from chicken wire or wood. (If using wood try to ensure it is untreated). Place your compost bin in a sheltered area, but not one that is shady or cool.

You can use a range of household green waste in your compost – vegetable scraps, egg shells, grass clippings and leaves are all ideal. It’s also hand to add straw or hay every so often to help improve the structure. Do not, however, include grease, bones or meat scraps in your soil as they can attract vermin.

Try to keep your compost pile no more than 3 feet high, and turn it every couple of weeks to ensure good ventilation. Depending on your climate, you should have compost ready to use between 1 to 6 months after you begin.

When is it ready?

A question I’m often asked is, how do you know when your compost is ready? Compost that is ready for use is crumbly, and a dark, rich brown or black in color. It has a distinct, sweet smell when you crumble it in your hands.

Which brings us to one final point about compost piles – they should not smell. If you compost pile smells then something is not in balance; you may have too much water or not enough air in your pile. This can generally be fixed by forking over and mixing your compost.

By making your own range of organic fertilizers at home you not only save money, you know exactly what is going into your soil, and therefore into your plants. And what can be more satilfying than that?

Fi McMurray is a garden enthusiast and author who has been gardening organically for 10 years. She has been involved with 2 award-winning gardens at the prestigious Ellerslie International Flower Show in Auckland, New Zealand.

Her latest book is “An Introduction to Successful Organic Gardening”, which joins her previous books “Successful Rose Gardening” and “Secrets to a Thriving Herb Garden”. You can find out more about Fi’s books at her website, www.fimcmurray.com

Fi lives north of Auckland, New Zealand, with her husband and two small children.