How to Design Your Organic Garden

no dig gardening

The garden is where Nature and civilization meet so why would anyone want to use harmful pesticides and fertilizers in order to grow vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers?

It is not necessary to do so. Your garden will flourish when you stick with organic and natural methods of growing.

If you starting you first garden or simply adding another bed to an existing garden, there are a few things that you can do that will not only reduce the work that you do but will help create the conditions that will enable the plants you select to flourish.

First we will look at what organic means; I define organic gardening as gardening without synthetic additives so everything that I use must be natural. In workshops I often use the term natural gardening instead of organic gardening; sometime when we think about organic we think about organic certification which is not necessary if you are growing for yourself- or even if you are growing for the market as long as you use terms such as natural or chemical free rather than organic there is no need to consider certification.

Back to building the garden bed: the first step is to decide how big the garden will be. The answer to this may rest in asking yourself two questions;

1- what do I want to grow

2- How much time do I have to spend in the garden?

Now that you have the answers to these two questions you will need to decide exactly where that garden bed is going? What you grow will depend upon the amount of sun or shade that the bed receives. Flowers and most herbs and vegetables require sunlight to bloom and produce fruit. Some plants could sue a midday shade break especially in areas where it gets very hot.

Your best next step is to determine your gardening zone, this will give you a tool that informs you about your growing season and this will help you select plants.

Now you are ready to put in that first bed. I always say that a good gardener grows soil and that the soil grows the plants. You can build healthy soil right at the beginning. I use a no-dig gardening method that helps build the soil and saves me labour.

Step One; measure out the garden: I usually make a rectangular bed about three feet across and 4-10 feet long; this way I can reach all the plants without stepping on the bed. In a further hub we will discuss other garden bed designs such as the keyhole garden.

Step Two: water the bed.

Step Three: lay down cardboard to cover the space, yes cardboard, make sure it overlaps so no grass is showing and none can grow through.

Step Four: water cardboard.

Step Five; cover cardboard in compost, water

Step Six, another layer of cardboard, water

Step Seven, add a mix of soil and compost and water.

You are now ready to plant. If you are using seeds plant as normal and the same goes for seedlings. Follow the direction on the seed packs.

The cardboard will breakdown quickly and I have discovered that earthworms have a fondness for cardboard and will help break it down as they help aerate and feed the soil.

I once used a winter’s worth of pizza boxes to create a garden bed and they were gone in less than 2 months.

Now once you have the planting complete, you can mulch with the material of your choice. This way you will reduce your need to water and weed which is another bonus.

vegetable garden

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Comments 23 comments

Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 9 years ago from Ontario/Canada

Great idea about the pizza boxes.

I'm getting 'antsy' already; I want to go digging...

regards Zsuzsy

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Thanks, i like turning the containers that my supper came in into supper.

cgull8m profile image

cgull8m 9 years ago from North Carolina

Thats neat, I have so many cardboards, I can use them for gardening. These are excellent tips :).

Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet 9 years ago from Lancaster, Texas

PIZZA BOXES! Great idea..except I will have to beg them from the neighbors.... :)

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Marye, you could be doing your neighbours a favour and helping them recyle. :-)

thanks cgull and happy new year all.

WriterGig profile image

WriterGig 9 years ago

Thanks for the great ideas. I look forward to making my organic garden beds this spring. :)

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick Author

you are welcome

Ana Louis profile image

Ana Louis 9 years ago from Louisiana

Cardboard? really? I am not much of a gardener, but I want very much to to some box gardening this spring. I plan to implement your system...I can't wait to see the results.


Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Thanks Ana Louis, you can also use newspaper but it takes a lot.

firefly07 profile image

firefly07 8 years ago from UK

some great tips here and another great hub

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick Author

thanks for the comment and kind words.

marg07 profile image

marg07 8 years ago from Australia

Good stuff. Saving precious water today so very necessary. Everything tastes soooo much better too just like in the old days..........You get all the nutrients this way by the soil transfering them to the produce. Yummy worms, good bacteria etc rather than synthetic fertilizers!

Two of your videos are not working, you may wish to delete them.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Thanks, I have fixed the videos and thanks for the comments.

llongoria0 profile image

llongoria0 7 years ago from SATURN

Bob, thanks so much for this post. I can use this info. :P

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 7 years ago from New Brunswick Author

You are welcome and thank you for visiting

Eliza 6 years ago

That cardboard (or newspaper) and mulch weed control saved my life a few years back. This was a very thorough starting out with OG post, very nice! :)

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Thanks and happy gardening

GreenGoodsGuide profile image

GreenGoodsGuide 6 years ago from Lehigh Valley PA

What kind of dye was used on the cardboard in those pizza boxes? Most dyes on cardboard are petrochemical, I believe. I've been using newspaper, and I'm not so sure that's a good idea either. Have you done any research into this?

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick Author

I use newspaper more often, the point is that the cardboard breaks down if you do not want to use pizza boxes don't, we can worry oursleves into inactivity trying to be green, whatever that really is.

Maggie-May profile image

Maggie-May 6 years ago from the Island of Cape Breton to the Eastern Shores near Halifax, NS

All so very interesting and sounds like a simple no fail plan. Thanks!

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Organic pest control hub coming

Sunshine Uy profile image

Sunshine Uy 6 years ago

Thanks so much for the cardboard idea! I can't wait to try it out in my garden.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick Author

Let us know how it turns out, it would make a good hub.

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