8 Tips for Going Organic in the Garden

Posted on May 13, 2016

Gardening season is upon us and going organic in your own backyard is pretty simple using these tips and tricks.

1. Nourish Your Soil with Compost: Forget all those synthetic fertilizers that promise bumper crops. Great gardens start with great soil; all plants need to pull nutrients from the soil they are planted in so focus on nutrient rich, organic soil amendments.  Worm castings or your own backyard compost are great soil amendments you can be producing with your own organic waste like food scraps, leaves and grass. Compost can also help avoid weeds like dandelions, help hold water in the soil better and provide slow-release nutrients to your plants.

2. Natural Pest Control: A varied selection of plants in your garden will attract all kinds of insects - both good and bad. While you might lose a few, you'll also find which plants aren't susceptible or which insects are harmless. What you learn this year can help you plan next year's planting to avoid the baddies and attract the good ones.

3. Bringing in the Bees & Butterflies: You may already be aware that pollinators like honeybees are declining by what is thought to be the increased use of pesticides. But you can help pollinators thrive by planting with them in mind. There are some great resources online to help you choose plants that will bring bees and butterflies into your garden.

4. Choosing the Right Plants: There are plants available for all kinds of conditions - some like full sun, others need some shade; some thrive in clay soils while others prefer sandy soils. Consider where you're planting in your yard and what kind of soil conditions you have before buying your plants. Also keep in mind, Zone 2 & 3 plants are often hardy enough to survive the ups and downs of Calgary's spring/summer weather.  And whenever possible, go native and drought resistant. Blue Grass Nursery & Garden Centre can help you find the right plants with really knowledgeable staff. Or use The City of Calgary's Yard Smart series to help you out.

5. Less Effort, More Micro-Organisms: Underneath the soil, there are great beneficial micro-organisms that bond with plant root systems, creating more stable soil structures. Till as little as possible and explore no-dig methods of gardening. Less digging = less effort for a great garden!

6. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch: using shredded bark or wood chips in a shallow layer around trees, shrubs and beds in the spring and early summer help keep in moisture, keep weeds at bay and help maintain soil temperatures. Be careful not to get carried away (no mounding, please) and avoid decorative painted mulches. 

7. Use a Soaker Hose: A soaker hose that is weaved through garden beds helps provide water where plant roots need it most - supporting efficient water absorption by your plants and reducing wasteful runoff.

8. Rain Water Harvesting: You know how much we love rain barrels and what could be better than watering your plants with non-chlorinated water that comes at a natural temperature? Capturing rainwater not only helps reduce wasteful runoff, it helps us conserve tap water for in-home use while using all that harvested rain water for our lawns, gardens, trees & shrubs!

Special thanks to Evergreen for supporting more organic growing in Canada.