Aura Huot, Stonyfield’s SAP Software Key User Trainer has been gardening for six years. She recently led a Munch n’ Learn in the office about organic gardening. We thought it was so helpful we tracked her down to get her to share tips with you.
What is organic farming?
Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies heavily on the natural breakdown of organic matter, using techniques like crop rotation, green manure, composting and biological pest control. Organic farming uses green manure and composting to replace nutrients taken from the soil by previous crops
This biological process, is driven by microorganisms and allows the natural production of nutrients in the soil throughout the growing season = feeding the soil to feed the plant.
What do you enjoy most about the challenge of organic gardening?
Tough question! There are multiple things I enjoy about organic gardening. I enjoy planting and learning from other gardeners and farmers. I enjoy seeing my veggies, herbs and flowers grow, knowing they are as real as they can be because they are organic. I like knowing I'm supporting a sustainable agriculture where everybody wins: the farmers (all components in my garden come from their farms), the pollinators (they eat and get to pollinate my plants), my family (I'm ensuring they are eating real veggies and fruits with out pesticides and/or artificial fertilizers).
And what are you planting this year?
Different variety of flowers, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, strawberries, blueberries, spicy peppers, sweet peppers, bell pepper, jalapeno peppers and herbs, raspberries.
What are some tips for planting and managing an organic garden?
1. Start small. Check the possibilities, ground gardening, raised beds, elevated raised beds, pots. (I used to live in an apartment and I used to plant my veggies in pots. It works!) A raised bed is a good idea for your veggie garden because you can manage the soil better. Raised beds starts at $25 or you can make it or design it yourself. Lumber is a good material to use. Do not use water shield wood. Add newspapers at the bottom or cardboard to prevent weeds.
2. Gather your resources. To start your own garden you need: organic soil, organic compost and organic manure. Good soil is dark and it is like powder in your hands. Some people used pea moss. You can too if you want to.
3. Add earthworms. Earthworms play an important role in breaking down dead organic matter in a process known as decomposition. Earthworms are also responsible for mixing soil layers and incorporating organic matter into the soil. If you do not have them you can purchase them in your local fishing store.
4. Place your garden in an area where it will get full sun. Aim for six hours or more of sunshine.
5. Water your garden at dusk, (too much = mold) too little = dry plants, dry soil. During the summer months add plenty of water.
6. Consider making your own compost or purchasing it from an organic farmer. For raised beds you can also add organic manure. It must be Organic Certified or from an organic farm. (Non-organic manure is not good at all. Your plants can get contaminated and multiple diseases can result if you eat plants that have been in contact with manure that is not organic. This kind of manure may contain other components such as trash, glass, sewer, etc. Please be careful when selecting manure.)
7. Plant mustard in your garden. Also mix in some small flowers. This will prevent animals and insects from getting to your garden and the flowers will attract pollinators to help your garden.
8. Be creative in your planting choices and you will be surprised yourself. Before getting your seeds, plants and planting them, take the time to learn a little bit about the plant and take in consideration the distance between plants. Their roots need space to develop so do not plant them too close together.
9. Consider taking a trip to a local farm and spending some time with a farmer. You will learn so much from them, their techniques, their knowledge about sustainability and nature itself, it is the best your can do for yourself and your garden. They have the knowledge of many generations before them and you will not find this in YouTube, Google, or Wikipedia!
10. Take your time when setting your garden. We aren’t competing for the Olympics! Rushing will not help so plan ahead, go slow, and enjoy.
What are your gardening tips?