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A Natural Approach to Gardening

A Natural Approach to Gardening

If you’re interested in growing some of your own food, consider these simple ways to keep your methods of fertilizing, managing common pests, and watering your garden more natural and sustainable.

Fertilizing

Making sure you build your soil so that your crops get adequate nutrients is important—and you can definitely accomplish this goal without buying anything in a package or a plastic jug at a garden center.

One way is to start composting at home, which you can do outdoors by following these composting tips, and/or indoors with a worm composting bin. Dig compost into soil every time you plant a new crop. If you are able to compost outdoors, be sure to save all kitchen scraps and yard debris for your compost. If you use a worm bin, just save enough food scraps to keep your worms fed and happy. I compost indoors and outdoors. And don’t worry: If you take care of your worm bin and don’t add too many food scraps to it at one time, it won’t smell or create indoor pest problems.

Another way to fertilize naturally is to mulch around your plants with organic matter such as grass clippings. The grass clipping mulch, which is rich in nitrogen, will build your soil and feed your plants as it breaks down. Plus, this method is totally free! If you don’t have grass clippings from your own lawn, ask friends or neighbors to bag theirs for you instead of setting them out on the curb (just be sure they don’t use chemicals on their lawns).

You can also feed plants—especially small seedlings— with homemade liquid fertilizers. Find our how in this great guide to brewing liquid fertilizers.

Natural Pest Control

A key element of natural, organic gardening is diversity. Growing a mix of food crops and flowering crops will lead to a diverse insect population, and ultimately less insect damage to your crops. In this article about attracting beneficial insects, learn to grow the right flowers to attract the top 10 beneficials to your garden to minimize damage from aphids, caterpillars, flea beetles and other pests.

Occasionally, you may have to reach for an organic pest control product. Based on what has worked best for experienced gardeners across North America, check out this guide to common garden pests and control methods.

Watering

Depending on your climate, you may have to water your garden frequently in the warmest months of the year—but you can do so in ways that conserve as much water as possible.

Keeping a thick layer of organic mulch on your garden (made up of hay, leaves, newspapers, cardboard and/or grass clippings) is lesson number one in smart garden watering. The mulch will retain moisture, meaning you’ll have to water less often.

Sprinklers and watering wands can tend to use more water than other methods, such as drip lines, soaker hoses, and watering directly to the base of plants by scooping water from a rain barrel. Find out more about garden watering options in this guide to wise watering, and learn how to set up a rain barrel in this DIY guide.

Best of luck to you in your gardens this year!

More gardening articles:

Photo from Fotolia

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Shelley Stonebrook

Shelley Stonebrook is an Associate Editor at Mother Earth News—North America’s most popular magazine about sustainable, self-reliant living—where she works on exciting projects such as Organic Gardening content and the Vegetable Garden Planner. Shelley is particularly interested in organic gardening, small-scale, local food production, waste reduction, food preservation and cooking. In her spare time, she posts in her personal blog, The Rowdy Radish.

43 comments

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7:13AM PDT on Jun 18, 2013

Thanks

6:12AM PDT on Jun 17, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

2:50AM PDT on Jun 17, 2013

Thanks

8:54PM PST on Jan 27, 2013

good info to remember

12:55PM PST on Dec 27, 2012

Thanks

2:19PM PDT on Apr 13, 2012

Thank you for sharing. Yes, there are many natural ways to keep a garden almost pest free. I plant herbs in between ornamental plants, it helps. Sharing important information is so good for the garden and the environment.

11:26PM PDT on Apr 3, 2012

Good article. I had never heard of a worm bin before.

12:10PM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

In France we have a system called BRF, bois ramel fragmente- fresh wood chippings, you mince up fresh branches and lay them over the soil as a mulch. Over time they compost down to form a beautiful forest floor type soil. You have to be careful with nitrogen loss, I tend to lay a bed of compost first. It acts both as a water conserver, very important here in the Languedoc, and really builds up the organic content of the soil.

4:38AM PDT on Mar 30, 2012

thanks, will forward to a friend.

11:54PM PDT on Mar 29, 2012

Good advice.

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