If you have been making the switch to organic gardening, you’ll discover like I did that the first couple of years of maintaining an organic yard can be very discouraging. As the chemicals wear off in your yard, the lawn will start to get patchier, the bugs start multiplying like mad, and the health of your shrubs, trees, vegetables, and flowers will slightly deteriorate.
Restoring the health of your yard organically takes time and a lot of manual labor in the first few years. After about four or five years however, the yard seems to fall into its own natural balance and becomes much easier to care for. I made the switch to organic gardening about 15 years ago. Here are 10 of my best tips:
Learn how to compost
Composting is a fantastic way of converting yard waste into organic fertilizer for your gardens. My yard (and chickens) generate nearly 3 cu. yards of organic compost each year which saves me money while also reducing waste.
Buy good digging tools
Gardening organically means digging weeds by hand before they have a chance to seed. Two of my favorite tools are a dandelion digger and a Japanese digging knife which do an amazing (and speedy) job of tackling those weeds.
Every spring I purchase 3000 ladybugs to release in my rose hedges and on the lower leaves of my maple tree. Ladybugs thrive on aphids and do a fantastic job of eliminating these pests naturally.
Aside from laying organic eggs, free range chickens will keep insect populations in check plus keep you well supplied in free chicken manure which is extremely beneficial for your garden beds.
Don’t ignore the lawn
Aerating, thatching, top dressing in the spring and mowing slightly on the high side will keep lawns healthy and relatively weed free.
I learned quite by accident that certain types of plants repel pests while others attract bees and hummingbirds which boost crop yields. You can learn more about trap crops and how companion planting can take care of your pest problems at Growveg.com and P. Allen Smith.com.
Don’t under estimate the power of mulch
Mulching isn’t just decorative. I also learned from experience that mulching keeps down the weeds while also reducing ground moisture evaporation. My favorite mulch material is newspaper with 2-3 inches of grass clippings on top.
Drop the grass clippings
The times grass clippings aren’t needed for garden mulch, we let them drop on the lawn where they break down in just a couple of days. Dropping the clippings shades the grass, preserves ground moisture, improves soil texture, and adds nutrition.
Boiled water is a great way to get of weeds and grass in sidewalk cracks and around the foundation, in gravel driveways, and along the edges of flower beds.
Cycle out pest and disease prone plants
I’ve been slowly getting rid of our hybrid rose bushes over the years and replacing them with water wise, disease and pest resistant bulbs and perennials instead. When the goal is to reduce dependency on chemical yard care, getting rid of plants that are prone to problems and replacing them with ones that Mother Nature can take care of herself is the most basic way of going organic.
More by this contributor:
8 high yield vegetables for the garden
What vegetable seeds grow best in my area
Why I plant vegetables and flowers together