Organic Gardening Tips and Tricks
1. Do not "Monocrop"
Monocropping is a farming technique wherein a farmer focuses on one crop. An organic farmer must avoid such technique because having just one crop on an area makes it more vulnerable to pests, diseases and even natural hazards. But you should not just plant whatever comes to mind and put them together on one area. This are some tips on how to maximize multiple cropping.
Companion cropping is a farming technique that involves two or more crops that does not compete with each other when planted together. Furthermore, some of this crops improve the growth or help repel pests infecting another. An example is marigold that repels insects like whiteflies(that are carries tomato leaf curl virus)and root knot nematodes that are major pests of tomatoes. Another example are beans and peanuts that enriches the soil with nitrogen that can readily be absorbed by plant roots. This plants are best planted with or prior to heavy nitrogen intaking plants such as corn.
Practicing horizontal variation among crop choices means choosing two or more crops that does not have the same shoot and root levels. In practicing this technique one will be maximize planting space and minimize competition between crops. In this farming technique sun loving tall plants and shade loving smaller plants are advisable. A very good example are coconut trees, coffee plants and peanuts. With proper spacing, coconut trees' shade provide optimum growth conditions for coffee while being a high value crop itself and peanuts serve as an organic mulch while enriching nitrogen content of the soil. All of these functions take effect without the three crops competing with each other.
Crops and Animals
In organic farming, animal production is advised to be done side by side with crop production. This is to maximize the use of by-products from each of the said productions. For example, animal manure can be used as fertilizers while leaves and other plant parts can used as animal feeds. Doing this, can minimize farm inputs lowering the cost of production.
2. Do not use Chemical Inputs!
An organic farm is supposed to have none to very minimal amount of chemical residues. Thus the use of the "one spray away" pesticides and fertilizers is a major taboo for organic farms. But how will you improve the growth and protect your crop from pests and diseases? Here are some tips on how to solve this problems.
Composting is an organic way of producing fertilizer which involves bio-degradation of our common kitchen and backyard wastes (such as fruit peels, bread crumbs, plant residues and animal manure) . Composting is quite simple and needs little equipment, you only need a composting area (may it be opened or closed) wherein you will put your common kitchen and backyard wastes and let it biodegrade before returning the nutrients back in the soil. Another way of composting is by using earthworms (such as African Nightcrawlers) to produce biodegrades.
Use Plant Friendly Microorganisms
Aside from plant and animal biodiversity, soil microorganism biodiversity must also be observed in an organic farm. Introduction of plant beneficial microorganisms can be done to improve soil conditions to favor growth of your crops and control soil-borne diseases. Application of Trichoderma harzanium in the soil helps control soil-borne diseases such as Phytophthora sp. and Fusarium sp. it also converts unavailable nutrients in the soil to forms available for plant consumption. Another good microorganism is Rhizobium sp. this bacteria works really well with peanuts and legume species for they attach on the mentioned plant roots and help turn nitrogen into available forms for uptake of the plant. For animals, farmers can make bokashi, aside from its plant growth promoting properties it can also help animal growth and eliminate animal odors.
Making homemade pesticide sprays can be quite laborious especially if you are making an organic spray out of plant materials that will be used for a large area of land. But it is effective in controlling pests while the ingredient costs is significantly low compared to commercial chemical pesticides and might be free you have planted some of it in your garden.
Aside from using organic materials on farming or gardening, one must read on cultural managements that can be used to minimize chemical inputs. Cultural techniques are really effective since it was used, improved and optimized by our ancestors, I would like to go into details with this one but this hub will get really long so instead; here are links to readings on cultural management.
In organic farming or gardening, the flow of energy within farm area is important thus one must know how to reuse biodegradable outputs or by-products. In crop protection, one must use biological and cultural techniques. However in cases of severe and heavy damaging pests and diseases one may use chemical inputs as a last resort. I'll keep this hub updated so hit the comments for questions:)