If you wish to do some organic gardening this year, my first suggestion would be to get a calendar. So many activities need to take place within certain dates, all in relation to the date of the last frost in your area. A calendar helps you to have an organized plan of action, will help you recall when certain things happened, and will keep you from missing important steps.
The first step in any organic garden is to start seeds. It is a good idea to start early- certain plants (like tomatoes and peppers) do best when grown indoors for 6 to 8 weeks before being moved outdoors. A more complete list of plants and seed starting times can be found on another page.
Determine the last frost date for your area. This is the date you will be transplanting most of your seedlings outdoors. Now count back 6 to 8 weeks on your calendar and mark a date- this is when you should start tomatoes and peppers. If it is too late in the season to start your seeds this early, do not panic! Even plants started outdoors will grow, they will simply be smaller and produce less.
To start seeds indoors you will need seed starting trays, seed starting soil mix, a fluorescent light or two, a small oscillating fan, and a seed starting/transplanting fertilizer. Seed starting trays often come with a humidity dome to help keep the soil moist while the seeds germinate. They often also include little white plastic tags used to label your seedlings.
Using a commercially available seed starting mix will prevent most problems with weeds and seedling disease. Pre-moisten the soil and fill the seed trays to the top. If the soil drips when squeezed, you have it a little too wet. Add your seeds as directed on the seed package. Correctly label each seed section, add the humidity dome, and record on your calendar what seeds you have started today.
Most seeds will germinate at room temperature, and most seeds will sprout in 7 to 14 days. After the first sprouts appear, position the fluorescent light a couple of inches above the humidity dome. The fluorescent light should be kept on 18 to 24 hours a day. After all of the seeds have sprouted, you can remove the humidity dome. Always keep the seedlings within 12 inches from the light.
Plants breath through tiny holes in their leaves and depend on air movement to exchange gasses. An oscillating fan placed a couple feet back will accomplish this, and will also help thicken the stems to support more weight.
When the seedlings are 14 days old or so, they are ready for some plant food. I have lots of information on fertilizer on my organic gardening home page if you would like a better understanding, but here are the basics...
All fertilizers are made of Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (also written N-P-K). All fertilizers display 3 numbers which represent the ratio of these three nutrients and the strength of the fertilizer. You don't want to burn your new seedlings, so all three numbers should be small (less than 20).
Your new seedlings will be using lots of Phosphorus to grow new roots, so the middle number (P) should be the highest of the three numbers. You should fertilize your seedlings every two weeks until you plant them outdoors. Writing the date you first feed them on your calendar will help you keep a good schedule.
When you begin fertilizing your seedlings, it is also a good time to thin them out to one plant per container.
After 4 to 6 weeks your seedlings should be several inches tall and may be ready for a bigger container- however, transplanting is not always necessary. If your seedlings show no signs of stress (dead spots or discoloration) you may decide to plant them from the seed trays directly into your organic garden.
To keep costs down, I use cheap 4 oz plastic disposable cups. With scissors, cut small slivers from the bottom of the cup for drainage (in case of over-watering).
Fill the cups with about one inch of pre-moistened soil. Carefully pop the seedlings out of the seed tray and place them in the cups. Add pre-moistened soil around the sides of the seedlings and gently firm the soil.
With a permanent marker correctly label each cup for future reference. This will be the only time you need to transplant your seedlings before being placed in your organic garden.
Seedlings indoors are kept rather comfortable. Outdoors the wind is stronger, the nights are colder, and the sun is much brighter. These are enough to kill young plants moved directly into the garden. You can greatly increase your success rate by providing your transplants with some "in between" conditions for a week before planting them in your garden.
One common way of doing this is to place the plants in a cold frame. Another idea is to move the plants outdoors for a couple of hours each day, giving them more and more exposure each day. Finally, you could place them directly into your organic garden, mulch well, and use some kind of crop cover.
While you are still caring for your seedlings indoors, it is a good time to begin preparing your organic garden bed. In this way, as you arrive at the transplant dates written on your calendar, the seedlings can be moved into the garden outdoors with little effort.
Hi everyone, Jason from Jason's Indoor Guide here. When I got started with hydroponic gardening more than 20 years ago, my first garden used rockwool cubes and B.C. Nutrients....and I remember thinking to myself yeah, sure, there may be a lot of advantages to gardening with hydroponics, for example there are very few pest problems, therefore very little pest control, no weeding, no plowing or tilling the soil, no soil testing or having to add things into the garden soil, no watering the garden....but for someone who just wants to grow their own vegetables and have more control over their food supply and the quality of the food that they eat, the cost of constantly having to buy grow media and hydroponic nutrients makes this an expensive hobby for most people.
I suppose when you take into consideration how much money you save NOT having to buy food at the grocery store, it is surely cheaper to grow your own food hydroponically even with the cost of high quality nutrients. Nevertheless, I didn't have a whole lot of money to work with and I needed to make my efforts as affordable and effective as possible....and in the last 20 years I HAVE learned a thing or two!
As you browse through Jason's Indoor Guide, you will notice all of the systems that I use personally are homemade systems. As I got 3 or 4 years of experience under my belt, I quickly adopted a preference to standing water systems and systems that use expanded clay pellets or lava rock, because the media is re-usable and it eliminates a huge operating expense. So once a hydroponic system is built, garden maintenance is minimal- check and adjust the nutrient solution daily, and to change it completely every 2 weeks....and the biggest operating cost is the hydroponic nutrients. (and the electric bill, lol).
And, regarding the cost of the nutrients....I experimented for about 3 years with making different compost teas and nutrient teas, but there is still a lot of expense $$$ associated with making high quality nutrient teas....like kelp meal, liquid seaweed, rock dust, bat guano, un-sulfured molasses, worm castings. You can eliminate a lot of this expense by becoming an expert at making high-quality colloidal humus compost, and use your properly made compost as the basis of your hydroponic nutrient solution.
What is colloidal humus?
Unfortunately, I have been gardening for over 20 years and I have only just recently mastered this difficult skill....and even then, only because I happened to find a very easy to follow, high quality technique and decided to follow the instructions to the letter. I produced more high quality compost in just one week than I was able to use in a whole year! I highly recommend it. It is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase the productivity of your food production efforts, while at the same time decreasing the amount of effort required to grow all of your own food, and decreasing the total cost of operating your food production system.
And when I say decrease operating costs, I mean decrease them to almost ZERO, especially if you are producing your own nutrients.
One final solution to eliminate the cost of your hydroponic nutrients: Imagine a hydroponic system that does not require you to buy any nutrients, does not require you to make your own compost, and does not require you to brew your own nutrient tea. Seriously! No cost and no effort as far as providing nutrients to your plants is concerned. Plus, at the end of the gardening cycle, you harvest all of your garden vegetables, PLUS YOU HARVEST FISH from the system!
This solution is aquaponics. If you are serious about producing all of your own food and being self-sufficient, this is the ultimate solution for reducing expenses (as much as possible), reducing the total amount of work required, and maximizing the productivity of your gardening efforts. I have been gardening for over 20 years, and it is the perfect food production solution in my opinion.
Besides mastering how to make high quality compost, learning aquaponics is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your garden productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work. The product that I learned from is called Aquaponics4you. With all of my hydroponic gardening experience, the first time I came across the Aquaponics4you product I knew immediately that it was something very special! Place an aquaponics system outdoors and use the sun instead of grow lights, and you have reduced every garden expense to nearly ZERO!
This is where my advice ends for people growing in water. But some of you out there are in love with soil gardening and organic gardening, and rightly so! It's a pro-human activity. It is pro-conservation. It is pro-life. It nurtures and promotes life at all levels, from the micro-organisms to beneficial insects, to healthy humans. It's natural. it's spiritual. Gardening is written deeply into our DNA, like how you feel watching a bonfire or sitting by the ocean or next to a river.
My friend John at Food4Wealth has more than 20 years experience organic gardening, so he reminds me a lot of myself. He knows organic gardening like I know hydroponic gardening, and over the years he has learned just about every trick there is to organic gardening. He knows what makes the plants grow, and he knows how to do it with as little effort as humanly possible. His garden never needs digging, naturally repels pests, has no weeds, always produces more than his family is able to eat, produces vegetables everyday all year round, and....only requires 8 HOURS of light, easy effort PER YEAR!
Years and years of experience and results can't be argued with....the Food4Wealth gardening strategy is one of the top 3 things you can do to increase your productivity, reduce your total costs, and reduce your total work....specifically for organic gardeners who love soil gardening. THIS is the most efficient and productive way to do organic gardening, period! And combined with the ability to make a years' worth of colloidal humus compost in just one week (see World's Best Compost), this overall organic soil gardening strategy is just unstoppable- foolproof, low cost, and low effort!