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Three essential principles of organic gardening

Worm farm kits from Biome

Organic gardening is easy.  In fact, once you get your organic garden established, it should be easier and cheaper than "conventional" chemical gardening.  The most important thing is to forget everything the chemical companies have told you about gardening.  Forget NPK fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.  You need to learn to work WITH nature and gradually nature will start doing most of the work for you.  Don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs either.  Here's three essential principles to get you thinking differently.

eight acres: organic gardening - don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs, let nature do the work!

1. Forget fertiliser - feed the soil
I wrote about soil a few weeks ago and my main conclusion was that if you increase organic matter everything else starts to balance.  My favourite way to increase organic matter in the soil is compost.  And my favourite way to compost is using worms.  Worm compost is fool-proof!  You just need to set up a worm farm, add worms and kitchen scraps and harvest the compost and leachate.  Lately I've also been making compost heaps on empty spots in the garden.  I just pull out weeds and heap them up in a pile, add ash from our woodstove and wood shavings from the chicken nesting boxes and in a few months, I have a pile of compost to spread over the garden. - Worm farm kits are available from Biome, click the banner at the end of this post.

eight acres: organic gardening - don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs, let nature do the work!

2. Control weeds with mulch, not herbicide
I don't really mind weeds in my garden, as they help me to build compost.  I do find its a good idea to keep the garden paths free of weeds, and so I keep a layer of mulch on the paths.  I also mulch around plants and just pull out any weeds that get too big.  If you are feeding your soil, there is no point worrying about weeds taking nutrients from your plants, there will be plenty to go around and the weeds can actually contribute too.  Not only does mulch help to control weeds, it also adds organic matter to the soil and helps to retain moisture.  On the other hand, herbicide will kill soil microbes and not help you do feed the soil.

For mulch I use:

  • woodchips from mulching branches around our property
  • hay that the cattle didn't eat (it does not have to be lucerne!), 
  • newspaper is really good for paths and it takes a while for the weeds to break through, 
  • wood shavings from the chicken nest boxes, 
  • grass clippings if we even mow the lawn.  

eight acres: organic gardening - don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs, let nature do the work!

3. Biological pest control is more effective than pesticides
Biological pest control is about encouraging beneficial insects and birds into your garden.  By allowing a natural balance between predators and prey, you let nature take care the pests.  Also if you feed the soil, you will find that healthy plants do not get attacked by pests.  The best way to encourage beneficial insects is to provide lots of food for them by letting plants flower.  Many of the predators will feed on nectar if their prey is not available, so keep them well-fed and you won't have to wait for them to appear.

If all else fails - try neem oil, as this won't affect pollinators.

eight acres: organic gardening - don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs, let nature do the work!

Do you use organic gardening techniques?  What do new gardeners need to know?  Any questions?

Worm farm kits from Biome


  1. Thanks for this. I'll have to keep it in mind for our garden, or our next garden when we have the room and soil to play around.

  2. Good tips! For the hay, have you found that it grows a lot of weeds back? I'm trying to figure out the whole hay versus straw thing and we have hay on hand and it seems like a waste to go pay someone for straw.

    1. Yes, but that's just more weeds for my compost.... I don't really worry about it. I think just get the cheapest mulch you can find, sometimes that is mouldy hay bales or lawn clippings. I'd only use straw if I could find it cheap, and even then, the stalks don't break down as well as the leaves, so I would prefer hay.

  3. Mulch is great, but I wish I could find a way to grow my own. I occasionally use lemongrass, but my favourite around the veggies is sugar cane mulch. When i do pull weeds I just lay them onto my paths over the cardboard or weed mat that is there and every so often I just turn that over and everything just feeds back into the soil.

    1. Yes, I know what you mean. Lemongrass is a good one in the subtropics, also arrowroot. We were doing well with mulching saplings until we finished clearing the property! You really need to find something that grows lots of biomass, either leaves that fall in winter or stalks that can be harvested or limbs that can be mulched....

  4. Just wanted to say I love your blog. I started at the beginning a few weeks ago and have read my way through all of your posts. I am hoping to do something similar to what you've been doing soon and plan on moving my family from the Sydney suburbs to a farm within the next twelve months. I feel like I have learnt so much from your blog. So thank you! And keep up the good work, I can't wait to read more xx

    1. Oh thanks! I appreciate your feedback, glad I could help you :) Let me know if you have any questions....


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