Starting an Organic Garden

In Action, Empowerment, Environment, Sustainability by Joan Shields, RN4 Comments

Joan Shields, RN
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LOCATION: The first step in planning an organic garden is to look for a sunny spot. Monitor the amount of sunshine the spot receives each day. Six to ten 10 hours of sunshine per day makes for ideal growing conditions.

SOIL: Prepare the garden spot with a composted soil made from discarded kitchen scraps, grass clippings, dried leaves, plain & untreated cardboard, dryer lint and black & white newspaper (yep the ink used for newspaper print is organic) Add rain water and snow to the compost to keep it moist. The rain and snow bring added nitrogen to the soil. Allow for sunshine, about an hour/day. Add composted soil at the beginning of the planting season, in the middle and then again at the end in late fall. This helps replenish nutrients taken from the soil to help grow the food.

UP-CYCLE: A wooden deck once sat in the same spot where the organic garden, seen in photo, is now. After the deck was removed composted soil was added and left to sit for four weeks. Resting the soil allows for beneficial microbes and parasites to acclimate to their new surroundings.
The shelving in the background was built from the discarded deck planks, as well as the trim surrounding the garden. Sitting on the shelves are old rain gutters. The gutters were damaged during Hurricane Sandy amd were upcycled to be used as planters for lettuces & mixed greens. Lettuces don’t require deep soil since the roots stay near the surface, making shallow planters ideal for growing. NOTE* do not use plastic containers for planting foods or flowers. the heat of the sun will release toxins from the plastic into the soil. The same goes for treated, pressurized wood. The chemcials in treated wood seeps into the soil and into the plants.

ORGANIC PLANTS: When planning the foods to grow consider all the foods you like and the ingredients used to prepare them. Those are the foods to grow. You can start the plants indoors,by seeds, 6-12 weeks before planting outdoors.It will depend on the foods used to grow. You can also sow seeds directly ourdoors when fear of frost is over. Some plant foods like garlic and onions can be planted in late fall, much like tulips just before the ground freezes. the bulbs will sit dormant and will appear in late winter.

COMPANION PLANTS: Add “companion plants”-plants that enhance each other. For instance, the soil used for tomatoes is enriched by growing basil nearby. The basil will sweeten the flavor of the tomatoes. Add plants that repel the harmful pests, like chives, basil, marigolds and sage. Plant them in between your rows of plants.

CROP ROTATION: After three years of growing foods in the same spot, rotate them. This allows the soil to rejuvenate. Planing foods in the same spot year-after-year allows harmful pests to find them and make themselves at home. Rotating the plants will prevent them from finding a permanent home near your organic plants. Crop rotation also prevents removing too much of the same nutrients from the soil.

NATURE’S PESTICIDES: Adding bird feeders and bird houses near your garden will encourage birds to feast on mosquitoes, aphids and other garden pests while encouraging pollination. In the fall and winter, the birds will snack on any plants that were left to rot in the soil. Those rotting, dried plant stalks provide shelter for the birds from predatory birds, wildlife or the neighbor’s cat.

FLOWERS: Adding flowers like, marigolds and sunflowers attract the pollinators! Bees, birds, butterflies, moths, dragon flies and wasps will all help pollinate your organic produce. Don’t fear these pollinators, welcome them to your organic garden. if you suspect there to be many wasps you may want to find the nest and remove.


  1. Very impressive we all need to be more aware of what we eat and how it affects our health !! Would love to read more about the organic gardening. Many people have mis-conceptions about organic products .
    We all need to be more informed!!!

  2. Wow! Thank you for providing an informative how to on creating an organic garden. Your step by step directions can turn my black thumb green! I look forward to reading more from you.

  3. Thank you. I’ ll be posting more info on organic gardening. I hope it helps others learn the benefits of fresh-picked organic produce.

  4. Love this new site !!! Love eating healthy !!!
    Nothing like fresh organic garden vegetables

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