How To Start Your Own Organic Veggie Patch
Starting your own Organic Veggie Patch is such a rewarding experience and a fantastic opportunity to teach children about where and how vegetables grow. Organic fruit and vegetables are by far a healthier and safer choice to conventional produce, as they don’t contain pesticides, fungicides and artificial fertilizers.
Why Having Your Own Organic Veggie Patch Is Worth The Effort
Did you know that in Australia they use more than 400 different pesticides, this is a huge load of very toxic chemicals that are designed with one thing in mind, to kill or deter a living creature or fungus, this therefore can’t be good for any living thing, including humans!
Choosing to eat only organic is great, but there are a couple of problems that the average person or family who choose to eat organic faces and these are that organic produce is a often more expensive to buy and can also be harder to source, than conventional fresh produce. Therefore starting your own organic veggie patch is a great way to supplement some or, all of what you buy.
There is nothing more satisfying than hand- picking produce from your very own garden and then getting to enjoy it while it is still fresh and at its peak nutritionally, as opposed to store bought vegetables that have gone through all of the following; being packed, transported and stored, giving them plenty of time to age, get bruised and moldy and lose a certain amount of nutrients.
Instructions For Building A Backyard Organic Veggie Patch
Step 1. Picking The Right Place In Your Garden For Your Veggie Patch.
The first thing you need to do is decide where to position your veggie garden. It has to be a place that gets enough sun and if it rains heavily, can drain well. If possible it should also be a position that is protected from strong winds etc. Then you need to decide whether you are growing your vegetables in-ground, or above ground in a raised vegetable bed, or in pots.
For those with small backyards or just balconies, pots and small raised portable garden beds work brilliantly. The materials you use to make your veggie patch are also extremely important, as you don’t want any chemicals leaching into your soil, so no treated pine sleepers or PVC plastic and be careful with glazed or painted pots.
Step 2.The Importance Of Good Quality Soil
If you are going to dig straight into your own garden, then it is advisable to have your soil tested for any hazardous chemicals, as you hardly want to plant into lead, or arsenic contaminated soil, which are both unfortunately quite common due to the fact houses were commonly painted with lead based paints and the timber used to build many houses and fences may have been treated with Arsenic and other dangerous chemicals which all leach into the surrounding soil over time.
E-how has this informative article on Toxic Soil Testing
Soil needs to have the right pH levels and the right amount of essential nutrients for your plants to grow and produce their crops.
Basically unhealthy soil equals unhealthy veggie patch with little or no produce yield. If your own garden soil in not suitable for planting, then you can quite easily build, or buy a raised garden bed and purchase healthy, clean soil that is suitable for growing vegetables in. There are various gardening centres that will deliver soil, but be sure to let the store know you want the soil for an ‘organic’ vegetable patch and you should ask for only soil that is free from chemical residue. If you are planting in small planter boxes, or in pots then you can readily purchase Organic Potting Mix and Organic Soil from garden centres and Bunnings.
Step.3 You Will Need Organic Mulch, Organic Compost & A Good Weed Mat.
I personally don’t believe that there is anything better than using organic compost from your own Bokashi Bin, or Compost Bin to help your veggie patch thrive. Your soil needs to be full of beneficial, soil microbes such as, bacteria, protozoa and fungi, as they convert organic matter into rich humus, which leads to healthy soil structure, nutrient levels and water retention. By adding all your organic waste food scraps to your Bokashi/Compost Bin and digging it into your soil you are actually feeding your soil and therefore your soil will feed nutrients to your plants. Alternatively most good gardening centers and even Bunnings sell organic manure, compost, mulch etc…
Mulching the soil is also extremely important. Using a mulch such as organic sugarcane mulch, will help to retain and improve moisture dispersion and keep the soil better aerated. If you don’t like smelly manure and blood & bone for ethical and other reasons, then you can use certified organic Power Pellets to fertilize your veggie patch. These pellets are great, as they are free of animal waste and do not smell and are also and very importantly, completely safe to use around children, pets and wildlife. There are lots of Manures and Fertilizers available, but another great liquid fertilizer is Seaweed Extract, again be sure it is certified organic and that is comes from a ‘clean’ part of the ocean.
A weed mat is essential if you are bringing in soil and laying it on top of your own ground as it stops the weeds and ground soil mixing into your veggie patch. Make sure your weed mat is not PVC! You can easily find weed mats made from the inert plastic Polypropylene.
Step.4 Choosing Quality Organic Seeds and Organic Seedlings
It goes without say, that if you have come this far in creating your ‘Organic Veggie Patch’ that you need to ensure your seeds and seedlings are certified organic. Organic Seeds are now very easy to find, they are sold in health food stores, most gardening centers, Bunnings and online at places like GreenPatch Seed, or Green Harvest. Seeds are very cost effective, as a packet of organic seeds costs usually just a few dollars and you get hundreds of seeds, that if stored correctly will last for a good couple of years. Organic Seedlings are harder to source, but they are available occasionally from various online nurseries and other nurseries such as Ceres in Melbourne.
When planting seeds, some types of vegetables must first be planted into seedling trays and usually when they have grown to around the two leaf stage can then be transported into your garden bed, or into a bigger pot. Alternatively other seeds do best when planted directly into the veggie patch.
Step.5 When To Start Planting Your Organic Veggies
All vegetables have different growing needs, some like hot weather and others thrive in colder conditions. Soil temperatures play a crucial role in getting seeds to germinate, so it is important to read and follow the planting guidelines you will find on each packet of seeds. You can get also get plenty of useful information via the Web on various organic and non-organic gardening sites and YouTube videos. These sites and videos will teach about when and how to plant your vegetables. You can also download, or purchase fantastic books on Organic Gardening and also very helpful planting calendars, that outline exactly what you should plant for the area you live in and at what time of year. Here is a great online Garden Calendar by Gardenate.
Important Tips for a Healthy Organic Veggie Patch
- Successful gardening relies on the right climate conditions, healthy soil and healthy seeds/seedlings and of course sun and water.
- Remember you can learn all you need to without paying a cent, simply by visiting various organic gardening online sites and also You Tube has some brilliant gardening tutorial videos; e.g. type in how to plant tomatoes and you will be able to watch established gardeners at work.
- Planting organic herbs and flowers that encourage beneficial insects to your garden, will help immensely in lowering unwanted pests that annoyingly enjoy eating your organic veggies and plants as much as you do.
- To keep pest levels under control use only organic pest control methods and wherever possible humane pest control methods ( in other words avoid killing wherever possible). To keep snails away try copper barrier tape, crushed egg shells etc. To keep birds and other larger animals away try netting your vegetable plants and seedlings with specialized, Vege Net. See examples at Green Harvest here. Note- Vege Net is PVC free, but we are not sure about other brands of vegetable nets available.
- If you have a real problem with fungus and mildew then only use a certified organic fungicide.
- It is important to apply a crop rotation system to your vegetable patch, as it will ensure you get the best results from your vegetable patch. See here for an explanation about crop rotation.
- Another truly beneficial addition to an organic veggie patch are, those wonderful, friendly worms. Have a read here to find out why. Worm Farms are also great fun for kids.
Growing your own produce is becoming more and more popular, even schools and kindergartens are introducing vegetable gardens to teach young children about how our food is grown and about why our environment is so important to sustain. Another bonus is that children seem to be a lot more willing to eat vegetable they have grown and picked themselves. My own children just love picking, then eating, our organic strawberries, carrots and tomatoes.
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Happy gardening !!