Organic Gardening

Simone - Picnics and Paddocks is talking about growing Beans, Beetroot, Cabbage from Northland

Garden in progress

One of my long term goals is to have a completely organic garden. Currently I grow all spray free veggies and fruit, but I can’t say it’s completely organic. Some of my seeds are organic and some aren’t. I don’t use organic seed raising mix. I still buy the odd punnet of seedlings from our local farmers market or Mitre 10. I’ve also filled my gardens up with a good quality garden mix from Greenfingers. Good quality – yes, but not organic. I also want to move away from having anything like blood and bone in my compost. This is purely just a personal preference because I’m vegetarian.

While I’m happy with these goals, I did start to question what steps I’d need to take. How would I still ensure that my soil got what it required to grow those organic veggies? How could I organically control pests in my garden? How long would it take before I could say that I had an organic garden? I decided it was time to do some research. With all the heavy rain we’ve had this week there hasn’t been much time spent outside so it was nice to be able to do something gardening related indoors.

Here are some bits and pieces that I’ve learnt so far.

  • Organic pest control - There are a number of ways to control garden pests naturally e.g. the Yates Nature’s Way product range such as Nature’s Way Fungus Spray, Derris Dust, Nature’s Way Insect and Mite Spray, apple cider vinegar, natural pyrethrum, neem oil and horticultural insect barrier glues or sticky traps. There are plenty more listed in the Yates garden book, but those are some that I’m familiar with already.

  • Encourage Beneficial Insects - Look after your worms and other beneficial garden insects. I’m going to start by finishing our insect hotel and then looking into purchasing or creating a worm farm.

  • Green Crops - Grow a green crop in late Autumn. Allow it to grow through Winter and then dig into the garden when Spring arrives. Wait for three weeks once you’ve dug it in before planting a new crop. Green crops act as a protective layer for the soil, help gather nutrients for the following crops to use and support the structure of the soil. They can also provide a home and shelter for our beneficial insects. A couple of examples of useful green crops include – Lucerne, Clover or Lupins.

  • Organic Compost - Create your own organic compost (see my previous post for more detail on how to do this). It’s not as tricky as I originally thought.

  • Organic Mulch - Mulch helps to stablise soil moisture levels and temperatures. I’ve also found it useful for suppressing weeds. I currently use pea straw and am unsure if there’s an organic pea straw in NZ. Will have to have a little look on Google. Here are some organic alternatives for mulch – Autumn leaves (chopping with a lawn mower first is a good idea, then apply in a 10-15 cm layer), homemade compost, grass clippings – high in nitrogen so don’t spread too thickly (I personally just put them around the base of our fruit trees, but make sure they don’t touch the tree trunk), corrugated cardboard or newspaper are also often used, but don’t look as pretty on the garden!

  • Seeds and Seed Raising Mix - Lots of companies do organic seeds now – Kings Seeds, Yates and Koanga to name a few. There are also numerous organic seed raising mixes around too – Daltons, Yates and Tui all have them.

  • Liquid Tonics and Fertilisers - These can be made from seaweed, lawn clippings, coffee grounds, comfrey, banana peels etc. I’ll share some recipes in a post shortly.

It can be a wee bit of a lengthy process – taking anywhere up to two years to become completely organic in your garden. This all depends on fertilisers and sprays you’ve previously used, your soil and what’s in it, access to organic resources/materials and how much time you’re prepared to put into the transition. Thankfully I don’t use any fertilisers or sprays on my gardens, but I am aware there will be slow release fertilisers etc in the garden mix I purchased.

Still lots to think about and consider. My goal is to be 80/20 in 2019 and hopefully completely organic by the end of 2020.