Before I get in too far with this multi-post, which broadly covers the basics of getting your gardens started at PPCG, it’s worth mentioning the idea that gardening is both a science and an art. For some gardening practices, we have scientific, documented evidence to back up using a particular technique. In other cases, maybe we do things a certain way because they’re traditional, or we like the way they look, or in our own experience, we’ve found they work.
The only rules that we ask you to follow at PPCG are the ones we include in our gardening contracts, particularly the rule that you not use any synthetic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers.
Feel free to experiment and try things out. We’ve all had successes and failures, and everyone’s site has different challenges. Don’t abandon your space if you find your plants struggling. Ask for help and keep at it. And by all means, enjoy your plot!
What is Organic?
The easy answer is that organic gardening does not use any synthetic herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers. (See here for other organic practices.)
There’s more to the definition, though. Organic gardening attempts to use nature as its guide, acting in ways that cooperates with nature.
By cultivating the space where our gardens are located, we’ve already disrupted natural processes. But our aim as organic gardeners is to minimize this disruption. For example, we take away organic matter when we harvest our crops, but we replace it by adding compost to the soil. (Above photo shows our site under construction, from Sustainable Braintree. See more photos on their website.)
Some people even consider organic gardening to be primarily organic soil-building. “Healthy soil yields healthy plants that are less susceptible to diseases and pests. Populations of beneficial organisms thrive in the absence of pesticides and provide further checks against problems” (Martin, 2014, p. 8).
Gary and I both get a fair amount of shade up in plots 30 and 31, but I think we do all right in part because we’ve worked for a number of years on building the soil. When I first started gardening at PPCG, right after the whole area had been been plowed under and staked out, the soil was so poor that water simply ran off and didn’t absorb into the soil.
Which brings me to the next point…
Consider Getting Your Soil Tested
If the above information hasn’t convinced you, here are some more reasons why to get it tested.