Greg Bowman discusses the best ways to grow vegetables organically.
Many vegetable gardeners in the area want to grow their produce organically. Others want to use organic principals, but are willing to use fungicides or insecticides if there is a problem they cannot manage in the garden. Today, I would like to go over some organic gardening basics that can help overall vegetable gardening success. I will be sharing information from a UGA publication on the topic by UGA staff, George Boyhan, Robert Westerfield and Suzanne Stone.
Proper site selection is going to be an important key in organic vegetable gardening success. Pick a full sun exposure area if possible. The area in the least needs to provide 6- 8 hours of sunlight daily. Many times, putting the garden in an open field or where the garden will get more southern exposure will work. The spot needs to be well- draining. If drainage is a problem, you are going to need to do some area preparation to improve the spot. This could be from digging ditches, installing tile drains or deciding to grow the vegetables on raised beds.
Try to keep the garden site away from trees and shrubs that can compete with the growing vegetables for water and nutrients. Stay away from spots with too much slope than can lead to runoff and even soil erosion. It is suggested to stay away from areas that have more than 18 inches of elevation change in 100 feet. Many sites are selected close to a home so you have a clean water supply for irrigation. In organic gardening, stay away from areas that have weed problems already such as kudzu, nutsedge or even bermuda grass. These items can make it tougher to grow vegetables organically.
How you irrigate is important in gardening. The most common types of irrigation are overhead and trickle irrigation. Trickle irrigation is going to be the most efficient in water use. The key here is water is applied directly to plant roots with either soaker hoses, drip tape or emitters. I will admit that the cost of installation and maintenance can be more, but again this irrigation is more efficient. You will have to monitor to make sure the trickle irrigation is wetting the ground properly and may need adjustments during times such as plant establishment. Overhead sprinklers can be easy to use, but this type of irrigation can lead to uneven water application to the ground and again is less efficient. I will add that overhead irrigation will wet the plant foliage. This type of irrigation at the wrong time of day can extend the amount of time the foliage is wet thus could aid in disease establishment. In theory, you want to keep plant foliage as dry as possible.
I could probably write an entire article on soil preparation. I would tell any organic vegetable gardener to spend time doing your soil preparation research. It is stated that successful organic gardening is to feed the soil with organic matter, which feeds the plant, rather than to feed the plant with inorganic fertilizer like we do in conventional vegetable production. Many soils in Georgia have less than 1 percent organic matter, but your soils can be improved over time. You may also need to do some weed management in the soil preparation time. Turning the soil may help with some grasses and weeds.
You also may use soil solarization in controlling some weeds. I will add that since improving the organic matter in your spot is important, you may want to consider composting. Well prepared compost is a great way to add organic matter into your garden. Most all people can make their own compost. Making your own compost material is a great way to reduce some items that make their way to the landfill. You should take time to research material that makes good compost along with proper mixture of brown to green materials for the compost pile. You also need to learn on proper particle size and how to speed up decomposition in the compost pile.
I will add that crop and variety selection is important in organic gardening. Trial and error at times is a key in deciding what vegetables work best in your area. Keep notes or records on the vegetables planted and use that information for planning future gardens. Remember that one year’s worth of notes may not be enough in making a decision on a particular vegetable. It is stated that climate, disease and insect problems should all be taken into consideration when choosing a vegetable crop. I would suggest that choosing vegetable varieties with known levels of disease and insect resistance can be helpful if you grow organically, too.
Finally, the topic shared today is just scratching the surface in regards to growing vegetables organically. Doing your homework and covering the bases is important to successful organic vegetable gardening.
For more information, contact UGA ExtensionGordon County at 706- 629- 8685 or email email@example.com.