How to Teach Beginner Organic Gardening in 15 Minutes

If you had 15 – 30 minutes to teach people how to start an organic garden, what would you do?

Last Wednesday I did this crash course for our local Green Drinks International chapter. I gave out a one page, fridge-magnet-ready handout to go with it — which I included below.

Photo Caption: I brought a sample of my gardening library so that attendees could thumb through the books and write down titles that interested them. Book list included below.

Here’s the handout. I was able to expand on some of the bullet points in detail at the meeting but here I’ve just linked to informative websites.

How to get started:

Gardening is not spraying… almost everything you need to do is to your SOIL, not your plants.

Four steps for a healthy garden:

  • Loamy soil (6″ or more deep with lots of compost & a mulch of some sort)
  • The right spot (6+ hours of sun)
  • The right plant (Disease resistant, etc.)
  • Plenty of water (Soil the consistency of a wrung-out sponge)

DON’T STEP IN YOUR BEDS. Use paths and stepping stones ONLY.

Get a pest/disease troubleshooting guide such as: The Organic Gardener’s Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control: A Complete Problem-Solving Guide to Keeping Your Garden and Yard Healthy Without Chemicals edited by Barbara W. Ellis and Fern Marshall Bradley



CORRECTLY identify problems before treating them. Use the least toxic method.

Soil tests: or (how to do it)

Grow what you like!

Make sure to plant cucurbit family plants on time for this area (April 15th is our “frost-free” date). Cucurbits include cucumbers, winter/summer squash-zucchini, pumpkins, cantaloupes/honeydew/musk melons, and watermelon. Use C. moschata varieties like butternut squash or ‘Tromboncino Rampicante’ from Pinetree Garden Seeds if you want to avoid squash vine borer. ‘Long Island Cheese’ is a good C. moschata pumpkin.

Compost won’t smell if you use more brown (leaves, other dry brown things) than green (fresh lawn clippings, kitchen scraps). Turn or not, it’s up to you.

If you start your own seeds, bright direct light is crucial. Most windowsills aren’t bright enough. Starting too early or crowding seedlings will lead to problems. You can carry a tray out in the morning on warm days and bring it in at night.

Here are the books and magazines I brought to the meeting:

You probably have a Green Drinks International chapter near you (they exist in over 600 cities around the world!)

They are fun social networking events and usually offer a free speaker as well. Try it out! Especially if there is a dearth of earth-conscious people in your vicinity and you’d like to be inspired. Green Drinks is a good place to find hope.

Eliza Lord

I'm a Greenville, SC native (the Appalachian foothills) who wears the hats of Greenville Master Gardener & Upstate Master Naturalist. I love to write about food and sustainability.

6 thoughts on “How to Teach Beginner Organic Gardening in 15 Minutes”

  1. Sandra - March 14, 2010 4:05 pm

    Looks like an wonderfully all inclusive list; bet folks learned a good deal. According to the USDA we’re a month behind you in the frost free category but, some years, we’ve seen frost every month.
    .-= Sandra´s last blog ..Be Yourself… =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - March 14, 2010 8:53 pm

      Frost every month?! Bleargh!!! You brave woman… :)
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Teach Beginner Organic Gardening in 15 Minutes =-.

  2. Meredith - March 14, 2010 5:17 pm

    Sounds like you gave the group a lot of reasons to be happy they showed up! I think you’ve got it right: it’s all about the soil — and the attitude. :)
    .-= Meredith´s last blog ..g.i.g.o. (part one) =-.

    1. Sustainahillbilly
      Twitter: appalachianfeet
      - March 14, 2010 8:56 pm

      Thanks! I had fun doing it (though I had to twist my own arm to talk myself into it in the first place).
      .-= Sustainahillbilly´s last blog ..How to Teach Beginner Organic Gardening in 15 Minutes =-.

  3. Liza - March 15, 2010 11:02 am

    I love it, Eliza. What a well-written, concise and super informative guide. Well done!
    .-= Liza´s last blog ..[Monday – Liza’s Plants] Garden Bloom Day, March 2010 =-.

  4. Pingback: Organic Gardening Books

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