Article - Planting an organic Spring garden

Planting an organic Spring garden

Mother nature has given us a taste of warm Spring weather of late and how good does it feel! As the sun wakes us from our Winter hibernation, it’s a time we’re likely to feel inspired to tend to (or start for the very first time!) vegetable gardens.

There’s a direct correlation between the health of the soil our food grows in, and the nutrient value of the produce that is grown in it, so I highly recommend considering organic fertiliser and organic seeds. Also the more nutrient dense the food, the more goodness our cells can absorb to give us maximum health and vitality!

Organic gardeners use animal or vegetable fertilisers rather than synthetic fertilisers. They use natural substances and beneficial insects to ward off pests instead of spraying with harmful chemicals. However, organic growing is much more than what is used and not used. It’s a philosophy that stresses increasing the natural health of the soil, choosing plants that are suited to your area, and working with nature to produce a healthy and productive garden that benefits the environment. Organic gardening, even if you only have a tiny patch of land, enables you to have a natural relationship with the cycle of nature and the production of food.

Here are some simple tips to help you spring into fruitful action…

- Determine the best place for your garden: Start by picking an area that is exposed to around seven hours of sunlight a day and has good drainage. Planting in natural soil has many benefits, including providing the nutrients for healthy plants and a strong yield. However, raised beds are a good solution if you want to grow organic plants in compromised soil. Making beds in the garden that are separated by small walkways is your best bet. Walking on a vegetable bed compacts the soil and can disrupt plant growth.

- Get the soil right: The single most important factor in creating a successful garden is soil preparation. If you create good healthy soil, the plants which grow in that soil will also be healthy. Healthy plants are more disease resistant. Begin soil preparation by gently turning the soil with a tiller, spade or garden fork. After turning the soil add copious amounts of organic material such as compost, leaf mould, well rotted sawdust or decomposed animal manure. While you can buy organic fertilisers in almost every garden centre these days, for a cheaper option, consider picking up well rotted manure from local riding centres. They’re usually more than happy to get rid of the stuff for free. If you live near the coast, you can scatter pieces of seaweed over the surface of your soil too; just be sure to rinse them first to wash off any salty residue.

- Natural pest control: Pests target weak plants. Organic gardening relies on healthy, vigorous plants as the first defense against pests and diseases. Consider researching and planting companion plants close to your crops. These can provide necessary nutrients to help your crops grow and often help repel pests. Neem oil can also help to deter pests, without relying on synthetic chemical pesticides. Some of the chemicals plants create for self-defense are important nutritious phytochemicals in our food. Healthy plants mount vigorous defenses against pests and diseases. In comparison, conventionally grown vegetables’ roots are bathed in chemical fertilisers, and their leaves are sprayed to kill bugs. They produce few of these valuable phytochemicals!

- Water, water water: Get into the habit of watering your garden in the morning. This will increase the amount of water that your plants retain while also making it less likely that harmful mildew or mould will form. Be sure to water the soil rather than the leaves and research the best watering practices for your particular crop.

Popular crops for planting in Spring include;

Carrots - Sweet carrots are among a home gardener’s greatest culinary rewards and kids love to dig for them when it’s time to harvest! They’re a good source of antioxidant and are rich in vitamin A, C, K, B8, pantothenic acid, folate, potassium and manganese.
Onions - Onions are high in vitamin C which lends them to be highly regarded as an immune enhancing food. They also contain chromium, which can help to regulate blood sugar levels.
Lettuce -The minerals and vitamins found in lettuce include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and zinc, along with vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin B6, C, A, E, and K.
Beans - Dependable and easy to grow, beans have high fibre content and are a good source for acquiring vitamins like A, C, K, B6, and folic acid. In terms of minerals, green beans are a good source of calcium, silicon, iron, manganese, potassium, and copper.
Broccoli - Broccoli can produce a bountiful crop for even novice gardeners. They’re a very good source of dietary fibre, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin E, manganese, phosphorus, choline, vitamin B1, vitamin A,  potassium and copper.
Cabbage  - This cold-hardy crop is great in Spring gardens. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin C and vitamin B6. It’s also a very good source of manganese, dietary fibre, potassium, vitamin B1, folate and copper.
Peppers - Spice up your garden with heat-loving peppers! All peppers are extremely healthy, but the highest amount of Vitamin C in a bell pepper is concentrated in the red variety. Red peppers contain several phytochemicals and carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, which provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Spinach- The most nutritious leafy green grown in most gardens is a top crop for spring and along with being high in vitamins and antioxidants, it is an excellent plant-based source of iron.

Spring is the perfect time to get your hands dirty and create some magic in the garden. There’s a naturally sweet satisfaction in growing your own food and filling your family’s table with delicious, healthy produce. Happy Spring and happy planting!

Renee Leonard Stainton is a qualified naturopath, nutritionist, and medical herbalist. Her blog Renee Naturally is full of healthy recipes, and you can follow her on Facebook here.

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