How to Start an Organic Garden Made Easy
Organic Gardening Made Easy
Starting an organic garden is easier than you think. I'll be honest I'm a lazy gardener. For years, I thought I had a "black thumb" because I couldn't keep any house plant alive except for one lone Pothos plant that lived for years. But when we bought our house and I saw the large patch of sunny yard, the legacy of my Noni's garden flooded my thoughts. My Noni's garden was like paradise on earth with flowers and vegetables growing everywhere in the incredibly rich soil she had nurtured for years.
I did some reading up on organic gardening, my favorite author being Ruth Stout. Years ago, she had her famous "year-round mulch" garden in Redding, Connecticut, where I grew up. So I felt a kinship with her and knew she also had to to deal with the fickle Connecticut weather patterns and all the critters that love to plague our gardens.
Ruth Stout's method is also now known as the "lasagne" method of gardening, but Ruth, like me, was a lazy gardener and never really relied on the "formula" method of layering that's currently being proposed. Her method was simply to cover the entire garden with mulch hay (it can be wet or rotting hay that local farmers cannot use for feed hay.) All you really want it to do is to smother vegetation you don't want (ie. weeds) and to have the hay decompose into the rich soil you need to feed your vegetables.
Organic Gardening Made Easy - Getting Started
To start, I found the sunniest spot in our yard. Plenty of Sunshine is the one thing that all vegetable plants need.
Rather than dig up all the existing grass and sod, I simply covered it all with about 8 inches of mulch hay and left it to "cook" from the Fall through Winter until I was ready to plant in the Spring. Being that I am in Connecticut I did have some work to do come springtime, and that was to harvest rocks, Connecticut's primary produce.
I started very small, only 10 x 15 feet as I was unsure how much "stamina" I would have for gardening. However, you would be amazed at how much you can grow in such a small space when you have fertile soil and a fence to grow plants vertically. Snow peas, pole beans and cucumbers can all be trained to climb the fence so you will still have lots of room in the garden for other veggies.
Mulch Hay - Easy Garden Composter
How much Hay do you need?
According to Ruth Stout, quoting Richard Clemence in "" 25 bales of hay at about 50 pounds each would be the minimum for an area of 50 feet by 50 feet. I was starting with an area of about 6% of that size (10 by 15 feet), but I wanted to establish a very deep base to start the process, so I used 4 bales of hay for my initial Fall preparation. After that, I added hay as the garden got "flatter" usually about twice per year (Spring and Fall.) The No-Work Garden Book
Where do you get Hay?
I buy my mulch hay from Castle Hill Farm in Newtown, CT. Good places to look are dairy, beef and horse farms. The hay you want is the mulch hay... it can be wet or not up to "feed hay" quality because you are most interested in it decomposing.
Composting Made Easy
The easiest way to continue to add rich organic matter to your garden is to compost directly into the garden (lazy, remember!?). So, during that first Winter (when I hadn't yet planted anything) and in all the months following, I would gather my kitchen scraps (except for meat and dairy) in a kitchen compost bin and then bring it out to my mulch covered garden and bury the scraps right under the hay.
Planting Your Organic Garden Made Easy
For me, the most wonderful thing about using the year-round method of mulch hay is that you never have to till the soil, under your hay you always have rich loamy soil.
To plant seeds or seedlings, simply rake away enough of the hay to expose the soil and plant into the soft soil. For seedlings, you can pull the hay right up to the edge of the plant to prevent weeds from creeping in. For seeds, leave them exposed or cover with a very light covering of hay to protect them from birds and other critters as they sprout. When you thin the seedlings, tuck hay around them to prevent weeds and conserve moisture.
Maintaining your Organic Garden Made Easy
A year-round mulch garden needs considerably less care than a garden with exposed soil.
- Watering: it needs to be watered much less frequently because the hay keeps the soil underneath moister longer.
- Weeding: there are almost no weeding chores with a hay mulch garden, if you see weeds, simply grab a handful of hay from another part of the garden and smother them.
- Fertilizing: the constantly decomposing hay, plus any compost from your kitchen that you bury under the hay keeps the soil with a rich balance of nutrients. Occasionally you will want to get your soil tested to see if the pH or any other element needs additional balancing (but I have never had to do anything but add a little wood ash from the wood-stove to help balance the pH.)