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From Fork to Fork: Top tips for growing organic produce

by Norwoods Gardener | Sep 04, 2020

September celebrates all things organic, and we’re here to help you find ways to garden organically at home; whether you’re caring for a garden packed full of flowers, or you’re growing plenty of fruit and veg down at the allotment, adopting organic gardening techniques are equally as important for reducing pollution and caring for the animals visiting your garden! Follow our organic gardening guide:

 


 

Prepare to put the work in

 

We won’t beat around the bush, committing to gardening organically requires a lot of preparation, hard work and dedication. Start off your organic growing journey by putting in the planning time; consider where you will be growing and the types of plants most suited to the area – there’s no quick fix with a pesticide or inorganic fertiliser to help plants along, so getting this right first is key. You’ll also need to vigilant when growing organically, keeping an eye out for the early signs of issues with plants and maintaining your plot.


Choosing your plants

 

Once you’ve decided on the plants you’ll be looking to grow, it’s important to source your seeds and plugs from an organic supplier – all too often parent plants will have been treated with inorganic matter, so start with the best of intentions and read your packaging to ensure your seedlings have been raise without interference from chemical fertilisers and pesticides.


Soil care – possibly the most important part!

 

 

Pack your soil with nutrients before planting by mixing in plenty of organic matter, such as manure, compost or peat moss – we recommend the top four inches of soil should contain organic fertiliser to give your plants the best chance.


Our resident gardener George also recommends adding a good four inches of organic mulch to your soil too; this will help to prevent weeds emerging and make them easier to pull out, and will also help conserve water and provide an ideal environment for worms and other micro flora and fauna which will help to feed the soil and birds, toads and hedgehogs. It takes away the need for digging too, so may not be more difficult than chemical growing after all. After adding four inches of mulch in the first year, every year it should be topped up to 4 inches. 


One thing to be aware of is that straw from animal bedding can contain herbicides so it’s important to source carefully. George also don’t recommend lawn clippings as they tend to be full of weed seeds – he uses stable bedding made from wood shavings, no seeds, no pesticides, and more user friendly than straw. It is likely to have some hay content so he also stacks it for a year and grows a crop of squashes in it. If there is any herbicide lurking in it, the squash plants will show it up as they are very sensitive. Even if you use a nix without hay, George would still stack it for a year and make sure it is kept moist so that it is at least partially composted when used on the borders.


Dealing with pests

 

There’s unfortunately no quick way to get rid of pests and disease without chemical interference, so do everything to avoid them taking hold in the first place! Water at the right times in order to avoid plants becoming too damp and disease taking hold, net your plants (either over foliage or above the roots) to create a physical barrier between your plants and pests, and if the worst comes to the worst swiftly dig up and remove any badly damaged plants so they don’t affect others.


Controlling weeds

 

It’s back to good old-fashioned weeding by hand with organic gardening making sure to use your trowel or fork to remove the roots of weeds too – otherwise they’ll pop up very quickly again! You can also look to use a weed-proof membrane or bark chippings to make it far more difficult for weeds to take hold in the first place.


Practise crop rotation

 

 

And to make sure your efforts aren’t wasted year to year, look to practise crop rotation; by rotating your crops, you avoid disease taking hold and affecting all of your plants and allow your soil to retain different nutrients – the same plants are susceptible to the same diseases and take the same nutrients from the soil, so for example, swapping your tomatoes for squash from season to season will help your allotment last longer.