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.
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.
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.
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:
- How to Grow More Vegetables (and fruits, nuts, berries, grains, and other crops) *Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine by John Jeavons
- The All New Square Foot Gardening – Grow More in Less Space by Mel Bartholomew
- Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza
- The Rodale Book of Composting edited by Deborah L. Martin & Grace Gershuny
- The Organic Gardeners Handbook of Natural Insect and Disease Control edited by Barbara W. Ellis & Fern Marshall Bradley
- Garden Insects of North America by Whitney Cranshaw (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED)
- Rodale’s Pest & Disease Problem Solver by Linda Gilkeson, Pam Peirce, & Miranda Smith
- Guide to South Carolina Vegetable Gardening by Walter Reeves & Felder Rushing
- Seed to Seed – Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners by Suzanne Ashworth
- Designing the New Kitchen Garden – An American Potager Handbook by Jennifer R. Bartley
- Creative Vegetable Gardening by Joy Larkcom
- Mother Earth News Magazine
- Kitchen Gardener Magazine
- Grow Magazine/Journal
- Lots of catalogs
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.