Starting an organic garden (Google / STL Today)

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Starting an organic garden

Organic gardening is gardening naturally, using environmentally friendly products and cultural practices to produce healthy vegetables and beautiful flowers. In a 1940 magazine article, J.I. Rodale introduced the concept of organic gardening, in which he advocated the use of natural materials such as compost and manure in the garden. Today, more than 15 million home gardeners in the United States use organic gardening techniques. Concerned about the environment, they believe gardening is easier when working with Mother Nature. If you’d like to try organic gardening, these basic tips will help you get started. Perhaps you already use some of these techniques.

Soil preparation

The first step to organic gardening is to prepare a base of fertile, healthy soil. Healthy plants draw their nourishment from healthy soil and thus are less susceptible to diseases and pest attacks. Create healthy soil by adding natural organic matter such as compost and manure.


If you need fertilizer, use naturally occurring organic fertilizers such as bat guano, blood meal, bone meal, fish emulsion, cottonseed meal, green sand, rock phosphate and soybean meal.

Plant selection

The next step is to choose the right plant for the right place. For a naturally moist area, select plants that like moisture. In a sunny spot, choose plants that thrive in heat and sun. In either case, you save water, and the environment thanks you. Select Plants of Merit and native plants appropriate for our area. Plants that live in conditions that suit them require less maintenance and are less likely to succumb to diseases and pests. Many disease-resistant varieties of flowers and vegetables are available.

Cultural weed control

In nature, all weeds are plants. When these plants escape their natural environment and controls, however, they create problems and become weeds. Even the best garden probably has some weeds.

The trick to prevent weeds is to keep them from sprouting. To do that, keep their seeds from reaching sunlight. Good barriers to weed sprout are mulches such as pine straw, shredded or chipped wood, or pebbles. Ground covers such as Mazus reptens, Lamium or Ajuga, acting as living mulches, are even more effective. They prevent weeds from seeing light, prevent soil erosion and keep the soil moist, once again saving water.

More information


Anita Joggerst is an advanced master gardener in a joint program of University of Missouri Extension and the Missouri Botanical Garden and the co-author of “Best Garden Plants for Missouri.”

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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