I have 3 important organic gardening tips for you. You don’t have to tattoo them onto your knuckles – remembering them will suffice.
If you’ve read my book, you know that I tend to get rather detailed in my organic gardening practices, because I like the process of perfecting my soil in order to get the healthiest possible plants – especially food plants.
But the fact is that we can have some pretty decent gardens by remembering to follow just the basics.
A few years ago, Heide Hermary of Gaia College wrote a nice little booklet called Soil Testing For Organic Gardeners. In it, she shows why most soil testing is not vital for the average gardener, and she gives 3 organic gardening tips to remember instead. She calls them the 3 M’s.
I still recommend soil testing for people who want to grow a lot of healthy food, and for professionals, but for most people these tips are a good place to start, and even us pros have to remember them, too.
1. Mulch. Mulch protects the soil, controls weeds, retains moisture, and most important, the best mulch types supply nutrients. The best mulch is leaves.
This is how nature fertilizes. Not with bark (which has very little nutrition and often contains toxins) and not with stones (which stop the whole organic matter recycling process altogether). Wood chips aren’t ideal either, since they can cause some problems in the soil. Straw provides some benefits, but leaves are the ultimate.
2. Microbes. You’d think a list of organic gardening tips would include organic fertilizers, but while nutrients are important for the health of the soil and plants, the thing we’re often lacking more than nutrients is a healthy soil food web, especially beneficial microbes.
The best way to bring microbes into the garden is through well-made, aerobic compost. It has the added benefit of supplying nutrients and organic matter. When we run out of good compost, we can use compost tea, effective microorganisms, and a plethora of new microbial products to help us inexpensively inoculate our garden, including the leaves of our plants.
Update: 2 1/2 years after writing this, I started selling microbial inoculants, so you can learn more about them here.
3. Moisture. This should probably be number one. Water is vital to all living things, and if you aren’t supplying it properly, your plants will be very sad.
Not enough water is certainly a problem, but so is setting the irrigation system to come on every day for 10 minutes – that just keeps the soil surface moist, encouraging the roots to stay up there instead of traveling deep into the soil. We want them to go deep because they will have access to more water, more nutrition and more stability.
So there are 3 of the most important organic gardening tips to remember. Are you doing all of these things? Is there one you need to focus on more this year? Let me know below.
And then you can download that little booklet for free from the SOUL website. Lots of good info in there. Here’s a link directly to the pdf: Soil Testing For Organic Gardeners.