Growing your own vegetables is a fantastic way to connect with nature, step away from technology, and supply your kitchen with healthy food. If you want to start an organic vegetable garden from seed, there are a few things you need to know.
Growing organic vegetables presents unique challenges to growing a conventional garden. You need different techniques for pest control, fertilization and soil.
Let’s get straight to the important stuff for you to grow your seeds.
- What is organic ?
- 1. Be aware of the location
- 2. Test your soil
- 3. Choose organic seeds
- 4. Buy from a reliable source
- 5. Start small
- 6. Use wide, flat containers
- 6. Use compost or manure instead of fertilizer
- 7. Plant flowers
- 9. Find chemical alternatives
- 10. Use cover crops
- 11. Rotate your crops
- 12. Be diligent about weeding
- 13. Use resistant cultivars
What is organic ?
Organic is a regulated term used in the United States to refer to plants and seeds that have been certified as having been grown according to the rules of the National Organic Standard.
In home gardening, the term organic is used to describe a way of growing crops that minimizes the use of chemicals and harmful environmental practices. But it is not a regulated term.
When we talk about organic gardening in this guide, we’re talking about doing our best to keep the environment and your soil healthy and happy without using harsh chemicals or gardening practices.
The term organic, when used in this guide to refer to the purchase of seeds, refers to the regulated term established by the USDA. The rest of the time, we just talk about sustainable gardening practices.
1. Be aware of the location
The first thing you need to sort out when planting a plant or vegetable is the location. If your plants don’t have the right amount of sun and proper soil drainage, they will never thrive. Before you do anything else, make sure you choose the right place.
You also need to know if the area is experiencing fertilizer runoff from other farms or if it has ever been contaminated with pesticides or other chemicals.
Before planting, spend a sunny day noting how much light each area of your garden receives. Document the sunlight as it moves through your garden on a map, as it’s very easy to forget if the sun moved away at 4:15 or 4:30 (for example).
2. Test your soil
Many people get into planting without testing their soil first. Then, as the season progresses, they dump fertilizer on the soil without even knowing what the soil was missing in the first place.
Test your soil before planting. This way you only have to add the nutrients that your soil is lacking. You don’t risk over-fertilizing the soil.
With organic gardening, the goal is to ensure that your soil is healthy and therefore nourishes the plant rather than applying the food directly to the leaves or roots, as with conventional fertilizers.
3. Choose organic seeds
This may seem obvious, but it can be a bit confusing. The labeling is not exactly regulated, which makes it difficult to analyze exactly what it all means. When browsing the organic seed aisles or placing an order online, there are a few things to consider before making final payment.
For example, you might see seeds labeled as “hybrid” or “heirloom” and you might assume the former is not organic, while the latter is. Not so fast. Either can be organic or conventional.
Hybrid seeds are exactly as they sound. They are a hybrid of two different plants. Breeders will combine two plants using various techniques to get a plant that exhibits positive traits, whether it’s large flowers or disease resistance.
Hybrid plants are often sterile and you cannot use the seeds to produce new plants.
Heirloom seeds are those that have been grown the old fashioned way. These vegetables have been around for decades or even centuries and if the plant produces seeds, those seeds will become true. Growing true means they will reproduce a replica of the plant rather than something slightly different.
You may also see seeds labeled as non-GMO. GMO seeds are those which have been selected in the laboratory and which have been genetically modified. However, non-GMO does not mean organic.
Don’t be afraid of the term “genetically modified”. Growers have been genetically modifying seeds for centuries through breeding. However, many GMO seeds are patented and you cannot save and reuse plant seeds.
Look for heirloom seeds if saving seeds is important to you. Whichever type of plant you choose, look for the USDA Certified Organic seal to know that the seeds were produced using certified practices.
4. Buy from a reliable source
When it comes to growing organic vegetable seeds, try to go to a reliable seller. The word organic is placed on many labels these days, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the seeds are high quality.
Do some research beforehand. Local farmers markets are a great place to find organic seeds. You can also find reliable retailers online if you prefer.
It helps to know the people behind the label and how your seeds were produced. Your organic seeds should ideally come from farmers who are fairly compensated for their work and who practice responsible land management.
When you buy from local sellers, you are not only helping the planet, but you are making a positive contribution to the lives of farmers and their families.
Remember that local doesn’t necessarily mean organic, but often a local grower will be a better steward of the land than a big box organic label, so don’t be afraid to stray from organic seed if you find a great one. source.
5. Start small
The best way to try organic seed gardening for the first time is to start a small herb garden indoors or in a small patch of your garden. This way, you can familiarize yourself with the special needs and process of organic gardening.
Herbs are ideal for growing indoors as many only need moderate sunlight and don’t need a lot of space. Plus, they’re easy to maintain, so you won’t need to spend hours maintaining them. Try basil, lemon thyme, cilantro or parsley.
If you don’t have a spare window sill, you can also use balconies, terraces and community gardens in urban areas.
6. Use wide, flat containers
If you decide to use containers to plant your organic seeds, you should make sure they are wide and flat to avoid overcrowding and reduce the need for pesticides or fungicides.
Avoid plastic if you’re worried about the chemicals leaching into your soil (not to mention the environmental damage that comes with making them and releasing them when you’re done).
Instead, you can reuse items such as old dresser drawers or create your own raised beds from recycled wood.
6. Use compost or manure instead of fertilizer
When it comes to gardening organic vegetables, it’s not just about buying organic seeds, it’s about your whole approach to planting. Well-rotted manure and compost (NOT fresh) are excellent alternatives to conventional fertilizers.
Compost and manure help provide your seeds with better nutrients, increased drainage, and help retain moisture.
This means you won’t have to use conventional fertilizers or soil amendments when you plant.
Making your compost is useful for successful organic gardening, but you don’t need to have a big compost pile in your garden to be successful.
If you don’t have the space to make compost, check with local horse or cattle farms to see if they sell or donate well-rotted manure or compost.
7. Plant flowers
Feel free to plant flower seeds next to your vegetable crops. Encouraging local wildlife like bees and butterflies to visit your plot of land is great for pollination. Some of the best plants for attracting bees are:
If you plant a few by seed when you plant your vegetable seeds, you’re sure to get some bees flying!
9. Find chemical alternatives
These days we have found all sorts of ways to control pests and diseases without having to use chemicals. Beneficial bacteria and nematodes can do real damage to the problems plaguing your garden.
Neem oil, copper fungicides, and hydrogen dioxide can all be part of a healthy organic garden.
Chickens are also an aid to the organic vegetable garden, as long as you keep them away from seeds while they start. Chickens eat all kinds of pests, from aphids to snout beetles.
You can apply plenty of it to the soil when you plant your seeds to control pests or diseases organically.
10. Use cover crops
Remember that trying to promote healthy soil is key to organic gardening. Before planting your vegetable seeds, consider using a cover crop to nourish the soil during the off-season.
11. Rotate your crops
I know it’s tempting to plant the same crops in the same place year after year, but don’t. Even though your tomatoes did incredibly well in that corner near your garage last year, don’t try to replant them the following year.
Crop rotation is one of the best ways to ensure that your seeds and seedlings won’t be killed by pests and diseases.
12. Be diligent about weeding
Weeding isn’t the most fun part of gardening, but you have to do it if you want to create a healthy organic vegetable garden. Turn on a podcast, step outside with gloves and a trowel, and get to work.
Do not use chemical weedkillers. These have no place in an organic garden. For advice on non-chemical weed control techniques, see our guide.
13. Use resistant cultivars
Although we have a few options for organic pest and disease control, it helps to choose seeds that are resistant to common problems in your area. This way you won’t have to worry about your plants so much later on.
Some people worry that you won’t find heirloom seeds that are pest or disease resistant, but growers have been carefully selecting plants for years to be hardier and tougher than ever.
To do this, they choose the hardiest plants in the garden and save the seeds for the following year. Over time, a tougher, tougher plant emerges.
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