Organic Gardening Practices

Organic gardening or organic horticulture is the practice and science of growing ornamental plants, vegetables, and fruits utilizing only natural resources from seeding to harvesting. The practice specifically prohibits the use of any synthetic chemicals, including fertilizers, pesticides, and plant growth regulators. Rather than resort to harmful chemicals and unnatural treatments, the soils and the plants are maintained naturally and organically from start to finish.

Organic Soil Preparation

Organic Compost

Compost is the partially decomposed product of any kind of organic waste, either animal or plant waste. Compost is the way of the world. Without our interference, composting is the process that all organic materials will go through. It improves soil fertility, increases microbial populations, does no harm to the atmosphere, and is a significant contributor to waste volume reduction.  Compost of farm yard manure and vermicompost (decomposition using worms) are the two most commonly used compost products in the US during soil preparation.


Biofertilizers contain living microorganisms that enhance soil microbial population and are efficient in nitrogen fixation and mineralization of phosphorus and potassium. Microbial activity improves soil aeration, it’s water holding capacity, and has been found to increase crop yields by 20%-30%. In organic gardening, you can add biofertilizers instead of resorting to the use of chemical fertilizers and insecticides because biofertilizer also controls insect pests. (Blidariu & Grozea, 2011)

No-Dig Gardening

This is a permaculture approach in which the soil is not cultivated and instead is amended using decomposing organic matter. No-dig gardening operates on the principle of nature, i.e., “Nature is in perfect balance when left alone.” Charles Dowding has practiced No-dig gardening since 1928 in the UK. He has done a lot of work in the field of organic gardening and especially no-dig gardening. He used to add compost as a mulch to grow salad crops (in his market gardens) and those that grow well in undisturbed soils. {Deans, 2001 #394}


Mulching is the practice of covering the soil surface with an organic material layer. The material may be fully or partially decomposed. Organic mulch material varies from grass clippings, decomposed leaves, bark chips, wheat or rice straw, compost, peat moss, vermicompost, or cardboard and paper.

Advantages of Mulching:

  • In temperate regions, if mulch is applied in winter, it delays the spring growth in perennial plants, protecting them from spring frosts.
  • It serves to warm the soil, creating optimum conditions for germination.
  • It helps in soil water conservation by suppressing the evaporation process. 
  • It is helpful in suppressing weed growth.
  • It slowly decomposes, adding nutrients to the soil.
  • It helps prevent erosion.

Organic Maintenance Practices

Easy Home-made Remedies for Home Owners

Aphid Control:

Almost every garden plant (ranging from pumpkins, squashes, cucumber, beans, potatoes, etc.) is susceptible to aphid attack. Their nymphs and adults both suck sap from the underside of leaves, develop sooty fungus, hinder photosynthesis, and sometimes transmit viruses in the plants. (Rondon & Horneck, 2006)

Control: Spray (on large trees) or rub (on small plant’s leaves) 1% liquid soap solution. Another method is to prepare an insecticidal solution by mixing one teaspoon of vegetable oil and liquid soap in 2 cups of water to rub on the leaves. 

Snails and Slugs:

Snails and slugs are chewing-type pests that love to eat leafy vegetables, young seedlings, and ornamental and low-growing plants of all types. They attack both the roots and above-ground parts of plants. Damp conditions are their favorite. 

Control: place shallow containers of beer throughout the garden and change the liquid after every three days as it becomes unattractive for the pests. If your garden is small enough, you can simply control them manually by plucking them from the plants. Otherwise, use a 1% or 2% caffeine solution to discourage snails and slugs. (Hollingsworth, Armstrong, & Campbell, 2003)

Weed Control Techniques:

Weeds are unwanted plants that grow tend to grow freely in our gardens, often overtaking the more desireable plants. It is essential to control excessive weed growth if you want your actual crop to grow properly. There are several non-chemical ways to control weeds.

  • Soil Steam Sterilization: cover the soil with a plastic sheet and let it remain as it is for a week or more. The heat produced in the soil will kill the weeds.
  • Manual removal: hoeing, weeding and plowing are age old practices for controlling garden weeds. An added advantage to actual manual weed removal is the relaxing effect of spending time in your garden. It also gives us time to check on our plants for any disease or pest attacks and make compost of the weed plants.
  • Crop Rotation: crop rotation is not usually such an issue with small garden owners, but rotating the location of our crops will allow the different plants to use the soils most effectively and let the soil recover. 
  • Biological control: weed seed predators, bio-herbicides, and grazing animals are all biological control agents. Many of us have been conditioned to reach for chemical treatments first, rather than using the time tested, cost effective and earth friendly biological controls. 


Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more crops in the same place at the same time. The aim is to maximize the utilization of all the available space and resources (mainly water). Careful planning is, however, essential to get the potential benefits of intercropping. Below are examples.

  • Mutualism: is a practice of give and take. For example, Multi-Tier Cropping Systems in which three tiers or levels are made. The upper tier is coconut, the middle one is banana, and the lowest is pineapple, leguminous crops, or seasonal vegetables. Mutualism promotes biodiversity.
  • Pest Management: The use of multiple crops on the same piece of land can be an efficient method of pest control. Both trap crops (the crops that attract pests and save the actual crop from the attack), push-pull cropping (one crop attracts the pests and others repel them to keep a balance in population) are techniques that can be easily adopted in small and large scale farming.
  • Recourse Partitioning: means that the crops competing with each other for water, sunlight, and space would not be grown together. For example, short crops in the shade of tall crops and shallow roots in between deep-rooted crops.

Types of Organic Gardens

Square Foot Gardening:

In SFG, we divide the growing area into Small Squares of usually 30cm and grow as many plants as the square can carry, thus leaving no space for weeds.

  • The advantage of square foot gardening is the maximum utilization of available space, not allowing the weeds to grow or even germinate—a new gardening method in urban areas where space is the major issue.
  • Intensive planting creates a living mulch. In small spaces, it is easy to cover the squares or fence them to protect them from insects, frost, etc. 
  • This smart planting technique eliminates the need for fertilizers as compost can be added every time you re-plant.
  • Companion planting, i.e., planting an insect repellent with the actual crop, is possible in square plantings. You can easily plant a variety of crops in a small quantity for kitchen usage. {Bartholomew, 2013 #396}


It combines aquaculture (raising fish in small ponds) with hydroponics (growing food crops such as lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, etc., in water) to produce food. The nutrient-rich aquaculture water is fed to plants in hydroponics, eliminating the need for fertilizers, saving water, and producing no waste. Aquaponics is considered a sustainable source of food production and can be established both as an indoor and outdoor system. (Blidariu & Grozea, 2011)


Xeriscaping is a water-efficient gardening type that reduces or eliminates the need for irrigation. Drought tolerant plants such as cacti and succulents are usually planted in xeriscaping. The aim behind xeriscaping is water conservation by replacing the grassy lawns and high water utilizing plants with drought-tolerant native species, rocks, mulch, and soil. 

Tips for Beginning Organic Gardeners

  • Pick a sunny location: Most vegetables you plant will need full sun, i.e., 8 hours of bright light daily. So it is vital t to select a sunny site when you have decided to start an organic garden.
  • Start small: Most of the time, people start too big and have nothing but developed more problems and chores. So it is advisable to start from 100 feet or 50 sq. ft. It would be enough for a family of 5-6 persons. 
  • Plan ahead: Preparing your garden the season prior to planting using all organic compost is a great way to ensure an easy start in spring.
  • Plant selection: The selection of native plant species is very important to minimize the maintenance requirements, improve biodiversity, and help native plants. 
  • Don’t lose hope and have patience: Mother nature takes time to work, take your time and you and our world will reap the benefits.


Blidariu, F., & Grozea, A. (2011). Increasing the economical efficiency and sustainability of indoor fish farming by means of aquaponics-review. Scientific Papers Animal Science and Biotechnologies, 44(2), 1-8.

Diaz, L. F., De Bertoldi, M., & Bidlingmaier, W. (2011). Compost Science and technology: Elsevier.

Hollingsworth, R. G., Armstrong, J. W., & Campbell, E. (2003). Caffeine as a novel toxicant for slugs and snails. Annals of Applied Biology, 142(1), 91-97.

Lanza, P. (1998). Lasagna Gardening: A New Layering System for Bountiful Gardens: No Digging, No Tilling, No Weeding, No Kidding! : Rodale.

Rondon, S. I., & Horneck, D. A. (2006). Using home remedies to control garden pests.

Tonitto, C., David, M. B., & Drinkwater, L. E. (2006). Replacing bare fallows with cover crops in fertilizer-intensive cropping systems: A meta-analysis of crop yield and N dynamics. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment112(1), 58-72.

Deans, E. (2001). No-dig Gardening; Leaves of Life. HarperCollins.

Ascard, J., Hatcher, P. E., Melander, B., Upadhyaya, M. K., & Blackshaw, R. E. (2007). 10 Thermal weed control. Non-chemical weed management: principles, concepts and technology, 155-175.

Bartholomew, M. (2013). All new square foot gardening: The revolutionary way to grow more in less space (Vol. 4). Cool Springs Press.

McKenney, C., & Terry, R. (1995). The effectiveness of using workshops to change audience perception of and attitudes about xeriscaping. HortTechnology5(4), 327-329.