The Content Multiplier Part 3

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    Organic Gardening Methods


    Several organic gardening methods are discussed in the below article and should be considered by even the casual gardener. Things like composting, mulching and a reasonable crop rotation schedule will help make organic gardening a more pleasant experience.


    Composting improves organic gardening soil structure

    Composting organic materials helps stabilize nitrogen and kills pathogens and weed seeds. This allows you to use materials like raw manure and sawdust that should not be applied directly to growing area. Most compost contains 1 to 3 percent nitrogen.


    The addition of compost in the garden improves soil structure, increases beneficial microbes, increases moisture retention, reduces nutrient loss, boosts pH and helps suppress certain diseases during the organic gardening cycle.


    Organic mulches aid in disease prevention

    Organic mulches like straw, hay, compost, newspaper and wood shavings whelp with disease prevention because they reduce direct contact between soil and the plant. Mulch thickness should be 4 to 6 inches. Lots of soil-borne diseases infect plants from rain water splashing on the lower leaves.


    Because organic mulch usually lower soil temperatures warm season vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers should be mulched only after the soil has warmed. Organic growers can also use plastic mulches which are available in a variety of colors and are particularly effective in warming the soil. One of the most commonly used plastic mulch for spring and early summer vegetables is black plastic.


    Crop rotation helps prevent buildup of disease organisms

    Crop rotation has been a successful agricultural practice in organic gardening for many years. Continuously growing plants in the same botanical family allows for buildup of disease organisms. Vegetables that are in the same botanical family should not be grown in the same area for at least three years.


    For example, watermelon, cucumber, squash, cantaloupe and pumpkins are in the Cucurbitaceae family and are often attacked by the same disease organisms. By rotating curcurbits with vegetables in the Solanaceae family such as peppers, tomatoes, eggplants or potatoes the incidence of diseases can be potentially lowered.


    Proper sanitation helps prevent carryover of plant diseases

    Preventing carryover of plant diseases from one growing season to the next when organic gardening can be greatly reduced by using proper sanitation methods. Clean all planting trays and growing supplies such as wooden tomato stakes, planting trays and harvest containers.


    Most materials used when organic gardening can be soaked in a hydrogen peroxide solution or steam sterilized. Plant residues should be removed and the planting area cleaned of debris. Do not compost diseased plant residue. Eliminating weeds around the perimeter of the garden is also important because these can serve as hosts for plant diseases.

    Intercropping helps prevent harmful insects

    Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more vegetables in the same area during the same growing season and is often used when organic gardening. Avoid planting large blocks of any single vegetable in the garden. Mixing vegetables prevents spread and buildup of harmful insects while helping promote healthy plants. Healthy plants are less attractive to insects, and if attacked, are better able to survive and produce a marketable crop.


    Cover crops help build soil quality when organic gardening

    Cover crops provide many benefits while organic gardening including adding organic matter, reducing soil erosion, providing a habitat for beneficial insects and spiders, providing nitrogen, suppressing weeds and helping to loosen the subsoil.


    Green manures are cover crops that are plowed into the soil to provide nitrogen to the next vegetable crop and are especially important when organic gardening. Organic gardening cover crops are usually planted in the fall and allowed to grow during the winter and early spring before being plowed in.


    Use row covers to reduce damage when organic gardening

    Row covers are lightweight, spunbonded fabrics that can be suspended or draped over vegetables to protect them from invasive insects. Row covers are particularly effective in reducing damage by flea and cucumber beetles. Applying row cover to vegetables that do not need pollination to fruit can greatly reduce insect damage.


    Choose disease resistant vegetable varieties when organic gardening

    Disease resistance means that although a plant may occasionally contract the disease, it will not be seriously affected. Tolerance to a disease means that the plant usually contracts the disease when present but is able to survive despite the infection. The seed package usually lists disease resistance information of the variety, especially for hybrid (F1) varieties.


    Cultivation reduces the weed population when organic gardening

    A good cultivation method is to till the garden soil three or four weeks before planting and then allow weeds to germinate and emerge. The weeds can be tilled into the soil several more times before the crop is established.


    The above organic gardening technique is called the stale seedbed method. It helps reduces the weed population by breaking their natural cycle of emergence in the vegetable garden.


    Plant spacing and training

    The most important weed free period for most warm season vegetable plants is about 45 days after planting. Past that point the plants should be big enough to create a nice canopy to shade the weeds and inhibit their growth. Because of that early season weed control is all that much more critical. Decreasing the spacing between plants or rows so that the crop shades the soil rapidly can aid in weed management.


    I hope you enjoyed the above article about organic gardening. During my research for this article I was most interested to find out about cover crops,row covers and the proper use of cultivation. Remember to always practice good organic gardening methods whenever possible.