If you've decided to make the move to organic gardening, you may be wondering where, or how, to start. The good news is that you can start with just one thing at a time, or you can go all out, depending on how comfortable you are with it. Starting small, by changing just one thing this year, and maybe adding a new organic practice next year, is a good way to get starting. It's less overwhelming that way, and you have a higher chance of success, which will encourage you to make more steps toward organic gardening.
Here are a few ways to get started.
Ditch the "Blue Stuff"
You know...the blue stuff. The stuff that's supposed to work "miracles" on your plants. They don't need it, and neither do you! For outdoor container plantings, monthly feedings with fish emulsion, manure tea, or compost tea are all they really need for healthy growth. For indoor plants, consider giving the soil in the pot a topdressing of vermicompost a couple of times per year and fertilize every other week during the growing season with diluted vermicompost tea. It doesn't smell, and your plants will be thrilled.
Start Growing an Organic Lawn
Forget about weeding and feeding (in the bottled sense) and start thinking about really feeding your soil, which will result in a stronger, healthier lawn that is better able to out-perform weeds -- meaning that there will be fewer weeds overall! I have tips for doing just this in my article, How to Grow an Organic Lawn.
Start Making and Using Compost
Even if you don't do anything else, getting started with composting is an excellent step. Not only will you have a positive environmental impact by sending less trash to the landfill, but you'll end up with something so essential to healthy plant growth that you will likely realize that you don't need those so-called miracle formulas. If you want to get started with composting, here are a few articles to check out:
Start in the Vegetable Garden
If you're going to choose one area of your garden to "go green" in, the vegetable garden is an excellent choice. Most garden crops really don't need as much fertlizers as we give them, and who wants to eat toxins along with their kale, anyway? When preparing your beds in the spring, add a couple of inches of finished compost or composted manure. Mulch the beds well after planting to keep weeds down and retain water. Feed your plants monthly with fish emulsion or compost tea, and sidedress the plants midseason to give them a little extra boost. You'll be surprised by how well your vegetable and herb plants respond, and you'll save some money in the process.
Many gardeners break out the sprayer to battle weeds. It's understandable; weeds can be overwhelming and spraying them often seems like the only logical solution. However, with some smart gardening practices, you can ditch the weed killer. First, hoe or pull weeds when they're small. That will make your life so much easier. Mulch all flower and vegetable beds with at least three inches of mulch; this deprives weeds and weed seeds of light, and they won't grow. For sidewalk weeds, a pot of boiling water is often all it takes to cook the weeds to death.
Of course, more persistent weeds such as bindweed will take more work. The biggest thing to remember when it comes to organic weed control is to be vigilant and to weed regularly. Don't let things get out of control; it just makes it so much more work than taking care of weeds when they're small.
I hope these tips come in handy for those of you considering switching to organic gardening. Let one step lead to another, and, before you know it, you'll be calling yourself an organic gardener.