Congratulations!!! We welcome you to the new area of organic gardening. Since you have opted for a very noble activity, we would like to help you by providing some tips that will help you to start your garden in the right manner. This will help you to surpass the disheartening experience that can result if you commit the mistakes which you are not even aware. So, to make your new journey smooth and full of nice surprises we have compiled some points which one should keep in mind while starting a new garden.
- Not preparing the Soil: Soil is the foremost factor which should be taken care of. You can get healthy plants and sweet tasting fruits and vegetables only if the soil health is good. Soil should be treated as a living entity only. Before we put in any seed or seedling into the soil certain tests should be carried by you. The amount of organic matter present in the soil, the fauna present, the porosity of the soil, the drainage capacity of the soil and PH of the soil should be tested.
Organic matter decides the quality and the quantity of harvest you will get. Even if you manage to get the quantity, the quality will not be as expected in terms of taste and nutritional value. So, it’s recommended to add brown and green composts, vermicompost, crop residues etc to enhance your soil’s condition. The soil which results now will be called Healthy Soil. It will be full of beneficial microorganisms that provide nutrients, fight pests or other unwanted microbes and consume many harmful soil contaminants.
Like we vaccinate our children to give them a healthy life, the same way we need to vaccinate our soil with lots of organic matter. Now, a days options of potting soil is also available. These potting soils are enriched with organic matter and lots of microorganisms. Besides, biofertilisers are available in the market keeping in mind the depleting nature of the soils.
The more you invest in making the foundation strong, more benefits you are bound to reap. The drainage of the soil will become better, water retention will be more and nutrient availability will be more to the plants.
The PH of the soil also bears an impact on the plant. Plants have different PH requirements. Some thrive in acidic soils, some like alkaline soils while others have preference for neutral soils. Commercially, PH meters are available to tackle our problems. Depending upon the requirements of our plants, we can use lime or wood ash to increase the PH of the soil and organic matter or aluminum sulfate to decrease the PH. Time to time monitoring of the PH helps to keep a check on the plant growth.
Pot Size should be taken into consideration at the time of planting the sapling. The size of the pot should be big enough to give proper space to the roots of the plant. In case you have chosen a smaller pot, transplant it to the bigger pot.
- Sowing of seeds randomly, not at the right depth: Most vegetables and flowers we grow in our garden are started from seeds. There is a rule that seeds should be sown twice as deep as they are thick. Suppose, the seed is 10mm thick then it should be sown at a depth of 20mm. Seeds of spinach and fenugreek can be directly sown in the soil at 1/2 inches and ¼ inches depth.
There are also seedling trays available, in which you can sow your seeds very comfortably in an organised manner and can transplant later in the soil bed. This also takes care of the overcrowding problem which results sometimes when seeds are directly sown in the bed. Overcrowding will result in competition for nutrients amongst them and hence, inhibit the growth of the plant.
- Growing the plants in Inappropriate sunlight: Gather adequate information about the requirements of light for the plant you want to grow. Plants flourish only when they get the right conditions of light, temperature, water and nutrients. For example, tomatoes require direct sunlight for 6-8 hours will not grow well if you put them in shade.
Moreover, you also need to find out the growing season for the plants. There are separate seasons for growing different fruits, vegetables and flowers. Plants will not bear fruits / vegetables, if they are grown in the wrong season.
- Overwatering / shallow watering of the plants: The way we water the plants is of utmost importance for their growth. Both over-watering and shallow watering of plants should be avoided. Many times, we just give a shower to our plants. It’s not enough for the plants as they absorb water through their roots.
Initially, at the seedling stage shallow and frequent watering is advisable. At this stage the roots are not well-developed, so we need to keep a check. In case of developed plants, deep watering is preferred as the roots are quite developed for proper absorption of water by them. Care should be taken to avoid water- logging as the roots even need air for the proper development of the plant. Moreover, water- logged soils can lead to many fungal infections and death of the plant.
You can do a finger test to know whether your plants need water or not. Insert your finger in the soil to the maximum possible extent. If your finger comes up with soil covering your finger that indicates presence of sufficient moisture in the soil. On the other hand, if your finger comes out dry and clear, then you need to add water. Constant observation and experience will act as your guide.
Drooping, green, dry plant leaves which are turning to brown colour indicates deficiency of water whereas, drooping, green, non- dry plant leaves which are turning their colour to yellow signifies deficiency of water.
- Avoiding Plant foods: Like us, plants also need a regular dose of food. They cannot alone thrive on water. The best and the safest food for the plants is wholly cow manure or the vermicompost. They provide the required nutrients to keep the plants healthy. A handful of food fortnightly serves the purpose. The quantity can vary at the times when the plant is flowering or producing fruits / vegetables.
- Not controlling the pests in timely manner: Pest management is a major challenge in organic gardening. You can keep a check on diseases by providing good air circulation in your garden. This will help in drying the leaves of plants quickly. Avoid giving shower to the plants. Keep your plants under regular observation. Immediately pluck the diseased leaves or plants that you see. This will also keep fungal diseases away from your garden.
Insects can cause lot of damage to the plants and also spread various diseases in them. Common insects such as aphids and slugs can be removed by hands or by using mild insecticidal soaps. Even Neem Oil is a very effective remedy in the control of pests in the garden. Sulphur and copper based fungicides can be used for the control of fungal spores such as powdery mildew diseases.
Friendly insects like lady bug should be introduced in the garden for the control of pests population. Sticky pads also provide an effective solution for the control of white flies and spider population. Plantation of insect repellent plants like Basil, Marigold also keep away the pests from your garden. Their strong smell repel the insect pests.
- Non Rotation of Crops: It is an important part of the gardening. It helps not only in the pest management process but also in the replenishment of the soil nutrients. For example, if you have grown a tomato plant in a pot in one season then next time beans should be planted in it instead of a tomato plant. This will restock nitrogen of the soil, bean being a leguminous plant and simultaneously the tomato pests will get a run for food and lead to a pest free garden.
If you follow some thumb rules, you will be able to plant a happy garden. Keep learning from your mistakes and become an experienced gardener!!