Posted 11th Aug 2015
Growing your own organic vegetables is relatively easy, particularly as many organic techniques are simply good gardening practices, so why try starting your own organic allotment this National Allotment Week (10th to 16th August 2015)?
Organic allotment gardeners don’t use synthetic fertilisers or pesticides on their plants and view their allotment as part of a whole eco-system that starts with the soil and includes water supply, people, wildlife and insects. Organic allotment gardening strives to work in harmony with nature, so here are some top tips on how you can achieve just that...
Choose a site for your veg beds, making sure there is good drainage, direct sunlight for at least part of the day and if possible away from trees that will be taking nutrients away from your crops. Ideally the beds should be designed so you can reach the centre without walking on the soil and compacting it. Prepare the soil by removing all grass and weeds, ensuring you have taken all the roots out. Covering with black polythene or old carpet for several months will do this for you. Loosen the soil by digging and feed it with organic matter such as compost and leaf mulch. Good healthy soil helps to create strong, productive plants.
Compost is free food for your soil and plants, so from the outset it is advisable to start a compost heap close to your growing beds. All cuttings, grass mowings and vegetable waste can go into the heap, where they will be broken down into a nutrient rich, sweet-smelling material that will build up the fertility of your allotment. There are a variety of compost bins available or you can build your own.
Less is more
It’s a good idea to start with a small but varied selection of plants, and learn what works for you. The Organic Gardening Catalogue website has an Easy to Grow section which recommends a range of veg and herbs suitable for beginners. If you start small you can expand each season and experiment with different types of vegetables.
Choose organic seeds, plants and garden supplies
If to start with you can’t make enough homemade compost you can obtain a wide range of organic feeds, growing media and soil conditioners by mail order and online. To give your crops a good start in life, choose organically grown seeds and plants – the more you support people growing and earning their living producing these for sale, the more there will be available in the future.
Protect plants the organic way
There are many ways you can protect your plants from pests without using chemicals. Prevention is the first rule of organic allotment gardening, so use traps, repellents and barriers to stop the bad bugs getting onto your plants. Use nets and mesh covers to keep butterflies and aphids at bay, and discourage birds from damaging your crops with a bird scarer. At the same time, encourage natural pest predators onto your allotment such as frogs and ladybirds. For slugs and snails try using barriers such as copper rings or strips or SlugGone wool pellets, or a natural repellent spray. They are much safer and better for the environment all round.
By Michael Hedges, MD of The Organic Gardening Catalogue www.OrganicCatalogue.com
Every product sold by The Organic Gardening Catalogue helps support the gardening charity, Garden Organic.