The other day, while having the evening tea with a few green thumbs, the discussions lead to the so called ORGANIC gardening.

Most of us wonder what an ORGANIC garden is. This is a change over concept from the present day gardening, where the use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides is in vogue to the gone by ages when natural fertlisers and pesticides were the only available media for growing.

By not using chemical pesticides in your home garden, you are ensuring the health and safety of your family, pets, neighborhood, and the earth besides eating healthier vegetables.

An organic garden starts with healthy soil. Natural fertilizers promote the growth of beneficial bacteria, earthworms and fungi that build soil structure and foster healthy plants.

The ideal soil composition for the ORGANIC garden is pure clay and sand mixture in 1:1 ratio to which no chemical fertilisers and pesticides have been applied for minimum three last years.

The best fertilizer for your garden is homemade compost, made from food scraps, lawn clippings and fall leaves. If you still need store-bought products, here are a few tips.

The Commercially made compost has high levels of naturally occurring phosphorous and nitrogen that is released gradually and is absorbed more easily by plants. Other soil improvers, such as worm castings, Epsom salts and decomposed organic matter called humates. To this sometimes they may have added chemical nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Commercial fertilizers, even those labeled "organic," sometimes contain harmful ingredients, such as animal byproducts or sewage sludge. The source of the Animal byproducts, such as bone meal or fish meal, could be from industrial farming operations, and sewage sludge, could be contaminated with diseases or heavy metals.

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Have your soil tested by your local Agriculture Department or a private local Soil Testing Laboratory to determine pH value and the available nutrients with the percentage. Or you can test it yourself with a soil testing kit.

Once you know the pH, you can add organic matter to help balance it. The garden flowers, shrubs and trees vary in their pH preferences. Lime helps balance acidic soil, while sulfur helps to do the same with alkaline soil.

Planning Your Garden

The next step is to plan your garden.

1. Decide what you want to grow.

2. Determine how much space you have.

3. Take a sheet of paper and draw a small scale model of your garden plot, and decide where the vegetables will go.

4. You can determine the proper distance between seeds and between rows on most seed packets.

Besides vegetables and flowers you can add herbs? Just imagine treating your taste buds to nature's own food. What do you like? Tomatoes and potatoes, cucumbers in large numbers, peas and peppers, add mint, basil, coriander and thyme and you have a perfect herb garden alongside.

If you have a small yard, you can use containers for your vegetables and herbs. Containers can be found in a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. You will undoubtedly be able find just the right containers for your needs.

Working with nature through Companion Planting

Companion planting is another way of working with nature. Some dissimilar plants have developed a symbiotic relationship-they help each other survive. Of course plants that have a similar pH should be planted together, but many symbiotic plant relationships go much farther than pH.

The most famous symbiotic relationships are 'Carrots Love Tomatoes' and 'Roses Love Garlic. There are many other plant relationships that you can use to enhance the beauty and health of your organic yard. Symbiotic relationships are not limited to vegetables liking vegetables, but include relationships between many different plants. You can use these relationships to enhance your vegetables and herbs, as well as other plants in your yard. Your imagination is your only limit.

Similarly when basil is planted in close proximity to tomatoes, both grow very well. This is a beneficial relationship. Another symbiotic relationship is between climbing beans, corn, and squash. When the three grow together, they grow healthy and the yield is more.

You will observe that if you plant garlic in your rose garden the roses are larger in size and more lasting as cut flowers.

Nature’s Source of Nitrogen – By Fixation

The air in the atmosphere has nearly 80% of nitrogen (N2), but the plants cannot use nitrogen in the N2 form. N2 is considered an inert gas because it is very stable. It is composed of two nitrogen molecules that are held together by a triple bond. The Plants, however, need ammonia, which is nitrogen, combined with hydrogen (NH3), in order to manufacture amino acids, proteins, and other essentials.

The plants are unable to break the N2 bond. Here the Legumes and rye play an important role as these have the ability to 'fix' nitrogen. Actually, they both have a symbiotic relationship with various strains of Rhizobium bacteria. Rhizobium bacteria attaches itself to the roots of host plants and absorbs both nitrogen and hydrogen (NH2) from air in the soil and uses some of the plant's energy (carbohydrates) to change it to ammonia (NH3). The plant absorbs the NH3 and converts it to NH4 (ammonium nitrate). Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer for the plant. Both the bacteria and plant benefit from this.

If you plant nitrogen-fixing legumes, such as beans or peas, near nitrogen loving members of the cabbage family, such as broccoli and cauliflower, the cabbage family and legume family will both benefit from this.

Repelling pests

Some plants emit chemicals from their roots or leaves, called allelo-chemicals, which repel pests. As an example, tomatoes repel caterpillars (diamondback moths), which eat cabbage leaves for food.

Other plants attract insects that prey on pests that would otherwise damage nearby plants. As an example, beans attract insects that eat corn pests, such as leaf beetles.

Space and Other Factors

Plants that need partial shade often grow best in the shade of a larger plant or bush. As an example, spider flowers (cleome) can provide the partial shade that lettuce prefers. Sometimes a row of sturdy plants can protect weaker plants from wind damage.

Root depths vary from one plant to another. You can take advantage of this difference to grow more vegetables in a given area. As an example, by planting shallow-rooted onions in close proximity to deep-rooted carrots, you can grow more of each in your vegetable garden.

Container Gardening

Container gardening may be the answer when space is limited. Containers can also be used to accentuate decks, patios, entrances, and other areas. Most vegetables and herbs can grow well in containers, especially if you pay attention to companion planting.

Size, Light, and Other Basics

Your vegetables and herbs need a lot of sun. They should also be planted in raised beds because they need good drainage. In addition, you will need paths between the rows of vegetables so that you can work with them and harvest them.

The raised beds can be made by using prefab cement blocks-the ones that are usually used for building garden walls. There are several varieties and they can be used to create plots of almost any shape. 

Soil for Your Raised Beds

Be sure to use high quality organic soil with lots of compost in your new raised beds. The same advice goes for containers. The soil has to be built up each year, for which you will need a regular supply of compost. Keep composting to ensure availability of the same.