The Organic Kitchen Garden

Organic, free-range, MSG-free, and going green are all buzz words and terms we have all used, the question is, how can we apply it in our homes?

Within our own gardens we have the ideal opportunity to grow and cultivate our own real veggies for the kitchen table and it is easier than you think.

Now is the time to start your prep work, and once you are hooked on the taste of home grown veggies, there is no turning back, and besides, creating and maintaining your own veggie patch is a great activity for the whole family.

Here are a few pointers on getting started

First things first, your soil

Compost and Manure.

The importance of organic matter for soil structures can’t be over-stressed.

Creating your own compost heap helps eliminate organic waste, and will eliminate the cost of buying compost for the garden . Instead of discarding anything of organic origin add it to your heap.

At least three Months is needed for decomposition, letting it stand longer will only result in precious nutrients leaching away.

To start a compost heap you need to clear, level and treat a suitably sized space. This will hinder flies from breeding.
The heap may be as long as permitted but at least 1,3m wide and high.
Always mix soft materials together, but only add grass clippings, green vegetation and vegetable waste after wilting in the sun first.
Moisten all matter thoroughly and ensure medium moisture throughout, with new additions pressed in firmly.
Ensure air circulation by mixing matter thoroughly.
Sprinkle agricultural lime over every 20cm layers and additional mushroom compost, manure or bark clippings over every third layer could prove very beneficial.

Build two heaps for constant supply.

Manure Water:
Fill a large container (use one that’s got a lid) with water. Make a Hessian bag, or use an empty orange bag, for the manure. Fill bag with “high quality manure”, and hang in the water. Leave to stand for a couple of days. Stir the bag in the water and pour a little of the liquid into a bucket. Now add enough water to this so that it resembles weak tea. Irrigate plants with this manure liquid once a week and replace the bag every two months.

Leaf mould is a main form of nutrition in nature. Leaves, excluding pine needles, are ideal for forming humus and are an excellent medium for the compost heap.
Pine bark chips decompose very slowly and are ideal for well-established plants. Note that pine bark, when fresh, may slow the growth of young plants down, due to it containing a growth inhibitor.

Straw is brilliant for it is almost completely weed-free.Shredded pruning should lie for a few days to neutralize before incorporating it as mulch.
Pebbles, stone-chips, rocks or pavers are ideal for mulching rock gardens.

Make the right choice. Choose veggie varieties with high disease and insect resistance for optimum success rates. Also keep in mind that longer maturing plants are more prone to insects and diseases.

Encourage Ladybugs, butterflies, preying mantis, dragonflies, Tachinid flies, Damselflies, wasps, Crab spiders, birds, chameleons, geckos and frogs to help control pests. Plants that attract these insects are alfalfa, angelica, borage, caraway, carrot, clover, coriander, cosmos, dill, feverfew, lavender, lemon balm, marigold, nasturtium, parsley, rose-scented geraniums, spearmint, sunflowers, sweet alyssum, sweet fennel, thyme and other indigenous flowers.

Mulch to retain moisture, provide insulation, fertilize and keeping weeds down.Rotating your vegetables:
Potatoes following sweet corn, sweet corn following cabbages;

Peas after tomatoes and tomatoes after beans;
Root crops follow cucurbits and root crops after potatoes.

The following thrive together:
Beans and potatoes; peas and carrots; cabbage and beets; cabbage and spinach; cabbage and celery; cabbage and lettuce; peas and turnips; spinach and cauliflower; kohlrabi and beets; spinach and eggplant; corn and beans; corn and cucumbers.

The following reject each other:
Fennel and tomatoes; tomatoes and peas; tomatoes and potatoes; bush beans and onions; cabbages and onions; parsley and lettuce.

Combating diseases:
Keep plants healthy – prevention is better than cure.

Rotate the vegetables in your patch.
Spacing of veggies for adequate airflow.
Sanitize the garden regularly. Remove all dead plant parts to the compost heap.
Make use of drip irrigation instead of overhead watering.

Repellents: Stay away from insecticides and pesticides and rather opt for natural deterring sprays.
Control weeds manually instead of using weed killers.

Marigolds are great to plant with and around the veggie garden as it repel a variety of insects.
Chives (and garlic sprays) are known to repel aphids.
Control ant numbers with mint planted under attacked plants.

Trap fruit beetles by making holes in the sides of a plastic cool drink bottle. Dice an old pineapple into little cubes and place in the bottom of the bottle. Sprinkle alcohol over(“Johnny Blue” works best……). Hang this bottle close to plants that are susceptible to fruit beetles.
Plant strong smelling herbs under fruit trees attacked by fruit fly.
Whiteflies can be controlled by spraying with a garlic tea.
Spraying a concentrated sugary liquid on the undersides of the leaves to create a sticky, unpleasant area can deter red spider mite.
Wood shavings repel slugs and snails when fresh. Always rake your soil evenly to avoid hiding places ideal for laying eggs.

Follow these basic principles on organic veggie gardening, and you will be rewarded with great tasting, healthy organic vegetables.

Keep those fingers green, even through the winter cold.