Organic Gardening Basics

Organic Gardening Plot Development and Vegetables


“As an organic garden, LHCG does not use pesticides, herbicides or commercial fertilizers which harm our environment.”


First Time Bed Preparation

Remove existing grass and weeds; add compost, lava sand, organic fertilizer, expanded shale (one time only in plot), cornmeal and dry molasses and work into the native soil. Total mix should be at or slightly above top of boards for best root zone growth.

Soil, Plants and Supplies

Navigate to our Handy Links page to find resources used by our organic gardners.

Mulch

Mulch will protect the plants and the microbes in your soil that allow for healthy plants, as well as retain water, prevent weeds, and mediate soil temperatures. Good choices are leaves from our leaf pile, straw, old, rotted hay (recently cut hay might have active herbicide).

Water

Water only as needed. Gauge the need by digging 3-4 inches below the surface of the soil and seeing if soil is moist or dry. Too frequent watering makes for shallow root systems, increased fungal problems, increased bug problems, and blossom end rot in tomatoes, peppers, etc. A deep water of an inch every few days is better than watering a little bit several times a day. Recently planted transplants and seed beds will need to stay slightly moist (but not water-logged) until established, then back off watering.

Weeds

Hand pull large weeds and work on soil health for overall control. Mulch bare soil in beds. Pull weeds from walkways and keep deep mulch in walkways.

Control Insect Pests

In general, control insect pests by encouraging beneficial insects and microbes and spraying with compost tea or worm compost tea. Spray minor outbreaks with plant oil products including orange oil, garlic-pepper tea, and Eugene oil. Hand pick pests (little kids love a penny a bug).

Avoid all pyrethrum products, especially those containing Piperonyl butoxide (PBO), petroleum distillates and other contaminants.  Try not to use diatomaceous earth, as our bees can bring it into the hives and destroy the hive.

There is evidence that fire ants will not be as prevalent in gardens with a high beneficial microbe count—supported by compost teas, worm compost teas, dry molasses, proper watering and mulched garden beds.

Control Diseases

Most diseases, such as black spot, brown patch, powdery mildew and other fungal problems, are controlled by prevention through soil improvement, avoidance of high-nitrogen fertilizers and proper watering. Outbreaks can be stopped with sprays of potassium bicarbonate, worm compost tea, cornmeal juice, diluted milk or the commercial product Bio Wash.

Fertilize

Foliar feed all plants during the growing season, at least monthly with compost tea, worm compost tea, or a fish/kelp emulsion. High-nitrogen salt fertilizers and products that contain synthetic material must be eliminated. Biosolid products should be avoided on food crops.

Miracle-Gro, Peters, other soluble crystal-type products and Osmocote are not acceptable in an organic program. Dry molasses is usually the best first step at 2 lbs per 100 sq. ft.

When planting seeds or transplants, you might want to side dress with one of the following: fresh compost, worm compost, alfalfa meal, dry molasses, organic fertilizer blend, cottonseed meal, fish meal, cornmeal product. Do NOT overfertilize, or you will have LOTS of foliage, but not too many vegetables/ fruits setting.

Harvest

Harvesting is a critical part of vegetable production. Many plants will reduce production if over-ripe fruits are left on the vine. Over-ripe fruit also attracts pests and reduces plant health, making it more susceptible to pests and disease.


Resources

Planting Guides from North Haven Gardens and TX Agrilife Extension. Summarized by Howard Garrett and customized for LHCG.

North Texas Vegetable Planting Guide – Spring – North Haven Gardens

North Texas Vegetable Planting Guide –  Fall – North Haven Gardens

North Texas Vegetable Planting Guide – Spring – Texas Agrilife