Organic gardening basics: how to get started

Organic gardening is still sometimes thought of as more difficult, time-consuming or hard work than methods involving pesticides and chemical fertilisers – but that’s really not the case. To explain just how easy it is to nurture your garden in a more sustainable, eco-friendly way, we’ve put together our top ten tips for how to go organic in your garden:

  1. Choose a good spot. Give plants the best chance at healthy growth by siting your organic garden in a place that gets at least six to eight hours of sunlight a day. It’s best to keep it away from large trees, too, as their roots can take water and nutrients away from what you’re trying to grow. If you don’t have a very big plot, container gardening can be a great way to grow flowers, fruit and veg organically. Raised beds are a great idea for vegetable gardens, too, as they avoid the need for digging.


  1. Pick the right plants. Growing from seed might seem appealing, as it’s cheaper, but if you’re a complete beginner you might want to start off your foray into organic gardening by buying young plants in the spring. Make sure you check what different varieties need in terms of aspect and light, and choose the right ones for your circumstances.


  1. Improve the soil organically. You’ll need to feed the soil, by digging in organic matter, as well as feeding the plants as they grow. Home-made compost and well-rotted manure are traditional options – but our organic Gro fertiliser and soil improver is an easier, immediately available option, and it’s much less smelly, too.


  1. Compost everything. It’s worth composting a mix of green (think grass clippings) and brown (shredded woody stems) material – roughly a 50/50 mix. If you need more brown, then add some crumpled paper, egg boxes or loo roll tubes. Make sure to leave out perennial weeds and any diseased plant matter, though. You’ll need to turn it over periodically, using a garden fork, to aerate the compost. The finished product should take about six months, and will be crumbly and a little sweet-smelling.  


  1. Adding a thick layer of straw, chopped leaves, untreated grass clippings – or of course a layer of Gro – as a mulch will help to control weeds and also keeps more moisture in the soil.


  1. Feed and water the right amount. There is such a thing as ‘too much of a good thing’! Too much feed can mean that plants are weak and vulnerable to pests and disease. Organic gardening methods mean that it’s much more difficult to overfeed, however it’s still important to use the recommended amount of organic fertiliser on your garden. Gro is a really easy to use, nutritious and low-odour option, and it’s quite straightforward to figure out how much to feed. Too much or too little water can cause real problems – wilting is of course an easy-to-spot sign of not enough water, but too much water can create a damp environment in which pests and disease thrive. Always check the soil before you water, and make sure you water close to your plants to make sure their roots get the benefit.


  1. Weed little and often. If you can keep on top of weeds, removing them while they’re small, they won’t be able to seed – and that of course makes weeding easier in the future. Hoeing is also a good tactic.


  1. Rotate your crops. If you always plant the same types of plant in the same place, then you can risk the build-up of pests and diseases (specific to that type) building up in the soil, awaiting the planting of the next seedlings. Rotation can also help with weed control – some crops have dense foliage or large leaves, which suppresses weed growth, and makes future maintenance of the area much easier. Additionally, changing what gets planted where reduces the likelihood of soil deficiencies caused by the same crops removing the same balance of nutrients.


  1. Grow companion plants. This helps to control pests, and improves yields by increasing pollination by attracting bees and other insects. Common happy neighbours include beans and nasturtiums (to deter aphids), alliums and carrots (to see off carrot flies), and marigolds with tomatoes (to ward off whitefly and attract insects that prey on aphids).


  1. Keep it clean. Always keep your garden tools clean (using disinfectant), and remove any diseased plant matter and overripe fruit. It’s also wise to regularly check for pests, hand picking slugs and snails and clipping off caterpillar-affected leaves – or opting for another organic method of pest control.