The Organic Garden for Beginners - by Nick Federoff

Posted by Jill Yanus on

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I’m so excited that you have decided to take the plunge to start your own organic garden. Growing an organic garden is a great way to create a healthier lifestyle while also helping the environment. If you’ve never grown a garden before, let alone an organic garden, it might seem kind of daunting. No worries, we’ll ease you into the process and before you know it, you’ll be a pro, and a living example for your family, friends and neighborhood.

Organic gardening has been around since ancient times. I’m certain the Cro-Magnon man spit some seeds out and that’s how it started. Before you knew it farmers were growing crops to feed the masses. Interestingly enough every farm had what was called a “Kitchen Garden” that was steps away from the house. The kitchen garden grew all sorts of veggies and flowers that wasn’t part of the farm. Thanks to Hippies and Flower Children organic gardening really gained popularity in the 1960s when people began focusing on natural products over chemically-manufactured ones. It was during this time that people started realizing how important it is for us as humans and our planet’s health to use natural resources instead of synthetic or artificial materials whenever possible. But the trend was slow to catch on. Today the organic garden is almost a way of life.

Location and Garden Size. With advances in technology such as hydroponic and aquaponic systems making indoor growing easier than ever before with artificial light, there are countless ways for even those with limited outdoor space, or who live in urban areas, can still get involved with organics. And if you do have access to some outdoor space – lucky you! There's nothing like fresh herbs from your very own backyard (or balcony). The enthusiasm that comes with planting a garden makes your eyes bigger than they should be. After being locked up all winter, cabin fever sets in and you want to get your hands dirty. The urge to plant ‘everything’ doesn’t seem unreasonable, but the reality is, maintaining an organic garden is a lot of work. The last thing you want to do is plant too much. A nice size to start off with is 100 square feet in any configuration (10’x10’, 5’x20, 3’x3.33333’) as long as you have full sun for 8-hours a day. If you’re able to master this size and maintain a full sun exposure you always can add more land or  planting containers.

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Kids outside gardening - boy with wheelbarrow and girl with shovel

Organic Gardening - A Family Affair.

Getting family members involved doesn't need to be complicated. Under supervision, kids can help out with sowing seeds, watering, pulling weeds and hand picking insects (yuck!). These activities bring everyone closer while teaching valuable lessons about how food is grown on a grand scale, on a farm.


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When I was in college one of the classes that resonates with me to this day was the “Soils” class – anything and everything you ever wanted to know about dirt (oops, soil). In particular the professor had a saying, “Dirt is what’s under your fingernails, soil is what plants grow in!” and was he ever right. Nutrient-rich soil isn’t made overnight. It takes time to incorporate the goodies needed to become truly organic: composted manure, aged leaves, soil bacteria mycorrhizae, beneficial nematodes, peat moss and most any kind of organic material preferably composted prior to adding. At this point I don’t want you to wig out what to put in your garden bed. Simply clear a spot out and add 3 inches of compost and mix it in the soil to a depth of 3 inches. Now you’ll have 6 inches of going medium or soil to plant in (notice I didn’t say “dirt?”).

When you get a jump on the season, it’s fun to start seeds indoors. You have to plan this out with your local weather patterns. You don’t want to start the seeds too early or too late.  About 6-weeks prior to the last scheduled frost is best. With a seedling heated blanket under the pots and an LED grow light you can start seeds in a garage, closet, davenport or the back of your car (which is kind of extreme if you ask me). It’s extremely difficult to water seeds because it’s so easy to water too much, wash away the soil off the seeds and drown them into rotting. The trick is to keep the soil moist, like a rung-out sponge, but not wet, by misting them (Chapin 10029: 48-ounce Hydroponic Fine Mist Handheld Pump Sprayer) as needed. Checking on them daily isn’t unreasonable. Should you miss your opportunity to grow by seed there’s no reason to hang your head in shame as your local nursery will have a wide range of already grown plants called ‘sets.’ You can buy them six to a container (6-pack), 3-4 inch round or 4-inch square pots. One company also has sets that are grown in compostable containers where you actually plant the container too! 


Easiest Veggies to Grow: peas, herbs, carrots, tomatoes, peppers's Top Easiest Veggies to Grow

  • Peppers (all varieties – mild to spicy)
  • Herbs (parsley, sage, rosemary and…basil)
  • Radish
  • Carrots
  • Snap peas
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Cherry tomatoes will always reap you a feast but don’t get too wild with other varieties.

If you are successful a single tomato plant will yield 40-70 pounds of tomatoes!  Think about it … 10 tomato plants = upwards of 700 pounds of tomatoes. What in the world are you going to do with that many? Remember, start small then add more.

Insects and Pest Control in organic gardening: nematoads, beetles, ladybugs, snails

Insect/Pest/Disease Control.

In the world of organic gardening it’s expected that you will need to forfeit 20%+ to insects/pests/disease. It’s either that or chance losing a lung or having body parts fall off from using chemicals. Since insect damage is the easiest to notice with chewed leaves, spinosad and bacillus thuringiensis are the go-to organic insect controls. Both come in liquid which can be delivered with a pump sprayer (G1000P: 1-Gallon Garden And Home Folding Handle Sprayer). Both of those organics also come in a powder form which must be delivered via a mister (5002: 16-Ounce Continuous Action Mist Sprayer) just like the pro’s use!


The Benefit.

The second your taste buds get tantalized by something organically grown by you you’ll wonder why you didn’t jump on the band wagon earlier or in this case the planter bed a long time ago. Organically grown produce has rewards of self-accomplishment and a job well done. This type garden will also yield you veggies with higher levels of nutrients like vitamins A & C as well as minerals like iron - allowing you to enjoy a harvest without worrying about any potential adverse effects from using artificial additives during the growing process before harvesting time arrives!


Nick Federoff
Award-winning radio & TV garden communicator

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