Organic Gardening Essentials
Organically grown vegetables and flowers
The Beauty of Organic Gardening
All these vegetables and flowers were grown organically by Suzanne DeJohn, a horticulturistwith the National Gardening Association . Suzanne says if you want to grow a beautiful bounty like this, there are essential tips you should follow.
Healthy organic soil
Make Your Own Organic Soil
Building healthy soil is a foundation of organic gardening, Suzanne says. Adding organic matter, such as compost, improves both soil drainage and water-holding capacity and also feeds soil microbes. "These microbes, in turn, break down the organic matter into nutrients plants can use," she says. That's the premise behind the gardener's adage: "Feed the soil, and the soil will feed the plants." Suzanne says it's also important to adjust soil pH (acidity/alkalinity); most garden plants prefer a neutral to slightly acidic soil.
Diverse plants and flowers
Plant a Diverse Mix
Diverse plantings invite beneficial organisms to take up residence in your gardens, Suzanne says. Plants in this photo include liatris, yarrow, coneflower and bee balm. These plants attract pollinators, such as butterflies and bees, as well as beneficial insects, such as lacewings and tiny, nonstinging wasps that prey on pest insects. Also, if you allow some plants, such as coneflowers, to go to seed, you'll attract birds that also help with pest control.
Ladybug and ladybug larva
Get to Know Ladybugs and Their Larvae
Most people recognize the ladybug, but it's important to recognize their larvae too, Suzanne says. Ladybugs are beneficial insects, especially helpful at controlling aphids. You need to be able to recognize the larvae so you don't mistake them for pests and try to kill them. Suzanne says both the larvae and the adult ladybugs eat aphids.
Encourage Bumblebees
Many of our food crops require pollinating insects, like bumblebees, Suzanne says. Allow bumblebees to nest near your garden, and you will notice positive results at harvest time.
Row covers
Use Row Covers to Protect Plants
Row covers help to keep pest insects away from your plants. Many gardeners cover their plants in spring, as soon as they set out the transplants. Suzanne says you can leave lightweight row covers on all season, except on plants that require insect pollinators, such as squash and pumpkins. In that case, remove the row covers when plants begin flowering, so pollinators can do their job of transferring pollen.
Soaker hose
Invest in a Soaker Hose
Using a soaker hose conserves water and helps minimize disease problems, Suzanne says. These hoses deliver water to the a plants' roots while keeping the rest of the plant dry—which helps to prevent the spread of disease.
Garden greens
Try Easy-To-Grow Crops
If you want to ensure that your organic garden will produce food, you should plant greens, including lettuce and spinach. Suzanne says these are some of the easiest and most foolproof crops to grow.
Monarch butterfly
A Happy Ending
By practicing organic gardening and ending pesticide usage, Suzanne says you'll not only be putting healthy, homegrown produce on your table, you'll also be protecting welcome garden visitors, like this butterfly.

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