We can adopt an organic lifestyle by buying organic food and products but how about growing organic food as well? Growing fruit and vegetables, either at home in the garden or even in window boxes, or at a community neighbourhood allotment, has long been one of the favourite hobbies of the British – we are a nation of gardeners, and are justly proud of it.
How to Grow Organic
Growing organic fruit and vegetables is exactly the same; the difference being that the gardener must take care not to use non-organic chemicals or fertilizers on the soil or on the plants, and should source only organic seeds or seedlings.
For commercial sales of organic fruit and vegetables, the UK organic certifiers the Soil Association (SA) would expect the grower to leave the patch of ground fallow for a period of time before sowing. This is to allow the soil time to regenerate and cleanse itself of any chemicals that may have been used on it in the past. It might be useful to talk to a previous user of any plot of land to discover which chemicals, if any, have been used on the soil, and when. In the event of discovering that a lot of chemicals have been used at the site, take expert advice. The SA can help with this. However, this needn’t affect private home gardeners, who will only be growing organic vegetables for themselves, or to give away to family and friends. Organic seeds only!
Organic seeds will always be labelled as such, and should also carry an organic certification label on the packet. All of the traditional British seed growers are now selling an organic range of seeds, and there are a number of specialist organic seed suppliers who sell through the Internet.
The same goes for any potting compost or fertiliser of any kind: ensure it is organic in origin before using on the soil or to bed in seedlings. Take advice from experienced gardeners about how to start a compost heap – this both reduces household rubbish (by turning raw food scraps, grass cuttings, paper and cardboard into useable compost – nature’s fertilizer), and gives the gardener a plentiful supply of free soil nutrient.
Take advice from experienced local gardeners about the suitable preparedness of the piece of land you are going to use. Also read the sowing and planting instructions on the packet of organic seeds – pay particular attention to the time of year to sow each variety of seed. Do get some good quality tools – a hoe, fork and spade are the basics most gardeners will need. These can probably be bought secondhand locally – but do use tools that appropriate to your body size, as strain and injury can occur.
Think about the watering options available – can water be recycled from the house (if you are cultivating your garden)? A water butt placed nearby will also store rainfall, either in the garden or at an allotment. The most important thing is to have fun. Gardening is all about trial and error, and trying to learn from any mistakes made. But with a little effort, after just a short time most beginners will become competent gardeners who are soon eating their own organic fruits and vegetables!