Basics of organic vegetable gardening

Natural fertilizer

Fertilizer promotes faster growth of vegetable plants. In addition, fertilizer restores to the soil nutrients that are absorbed by years of growing the same vegetable plants in the same location. If fertilizer is used, the organic gardener uses natural fertilizer, such as leaf mold, compost, or manure. My garden does fine with nothing but leaf mold blended into the soil in late winter to early spring. In contrast, the non-organic gardener is more likely to use chemically created fertilizers.
In the picture above, taken in late fall, weeds are taking over the garden. In the center are wire tomato cages holding raked leaves. As soon as the soil is workable in late winter, the leaves will be worked into the soil with a rototiller. The leaves will decay in the soil, adding nutrients to my organic garden.
Weed control

The organic gardener may pull weeds by hand or uproot the weed with the use of a garden hoe rather than use chemical weed killers. Heavy layers of mulch, such as 2 to 4 inches of leaf mold, help to block weed growth. Both organic gardeners and non-organic gardeners may use plastic or fabric "mulch" to block weed growth. My preferred method is pulling weeds by hand when the weed is easy to reach. I use a hoe to tackle weeds growing between bushy plants like tomatoes.

Garden pest control

The non-organic gardener may choose chemical pesticides to treat plants, protecting them against unwanted bugs and insects. The organic gardener seeks natural methods including "companion planting," which is setting out beneficial plants that deter bad insects. I use two methods to control garden pests: plant companion flowers that repel garden pests and attract beneficial bugs and hand pluck bugs from vegetable plants. Okay, I do not really touch the bugs; who wants to touch a tomato hornworm? I snip off the leaf or fruit on which the bug resides and let it fall into a container for disposal.

Disease reduction through crop selection and crop rotation

I would plant tomatoes in the same location every year, just as I planted bell peppers in the same location every year and peas in the same … well, you get the idea. In an Iowa State University Extension article, Crop Rotation in the Vegetable Garden, I learned that rotating vegetable crops annually could help reduce soil-borne diseases. In addition, buying disease resistant vegetables can reduce the potential of crop loss through disease.

Is paying extra for organically grown vegetables worth it?

There is no conclusive proof that organic vegetables are healthier for you, so why pay more at the grocery store for organically grown vegetables? "Organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs are comparable in their nutrient content," says a Mayo Clinic article entitled Organic foods: Are they safer? More nutritious? The Mayo Clinic article goes on to say that some people claim organic vegetables taste better. Though I do not believe my organic vegetables taste better than non-organic vegetables, I do feel good about not using chemicals, especially chemicals for pest and disease management that could pollute ground soil and compromise water systems.