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Basic Terms

Hopefully you have become interested in starting your own organic garden like the Dirt Army. Organic gardening can be fun, and with the right amount of work, you should be able to raise a variety of healthy crops for your own consumption. So, what are some basic steps to get your creation underway right in your own backyard? First, you will probably need to know some key terms involved with organic gardening to get started first.

Organic Gardening- If you are trying to start one, you should probably have an idea of what it is. Organic gardening is the method of utilizing materials derived only from living things. Everything in an organic garden should be natural and not synthetic. The USDA provides regulations and definitions on varying degrees of what is considered organic and natural which will later be described.

Nutrient Recycling- This process plays a very natural role in the effectiveness of organic gardening. It is the method in which the decomposition of plants and animals are reabsorbed into the soil. There, the organic matter is further broken down and slowly transformed to become nutrients that are available to growing plants. So, you can see how nutrient recycling gives back to the garden’s growth by providing all natural resources.

Compost- This is simply an organic soil amendment resulting from the decomposition of organic matter. Compost can be anything from crushed up leaves, grass, twigs, etc. Any “green waste.” What is great about compost is you can make it yourself and it is an all-organic supplement.

Fertilizer- You probably know what fertilizer is already. Soil amendment (manure) that is applied to help promote plant growth.

Growing Season- This is the number of days between the average date of the last killing frost in spring and the first killing frost in fall. Knowing and understanding the growing season of your crops and garden is important. How else will you know what to plant and when to pick for the crops you have chosen to grow?

Soil pH- The measurement of the soil acidity is called soil pH. An acid solution has a pH value less than 7. A good range to shoot for is 6.5 to 7.2 pH, as most plants can healthily grow at this level. Of course, specific pH levels also depends on what plants you might want to grow.

Soil Nutrients- the absence of key nutrients can cause problems with plant growth. A good balance of major nutrients is required for all plants. These major nutrients include Nitrogen, Potash, and Phosphorous. Minor nutrients can include magnesium, copper, calcium, iron, manganese, etc. The usage of a fertilizer will help in many regards and see that your crops get the necessary amount of both major and minor plant nutrients needed to grow.

Pesticides- This is the substance or mixture of multiple substances intended to prevent, destroy, repel, or mitigate any pests. Most organic gardens do not use pesticides because they avoid synthetic products, which many pesticides are. There are, however, organic pesticides you can use on your garden.

Native plant- This is any plant that occurs and grows naturally in a specific region or locality. It is convenient for you to learn what any native plants are in your area, as this will make it easier for that plant to grow, and you can take advantage of all the crops that naturally grow in the environment you plan to create for your organic garden. You will probably want to first start out or focus mostly on native plants to get the hang of growing.

Cultivate- Cultivating is the process of breaking up the soil surface, removing weeds, and preparing for planting. This weeding and preparation can amount to a bit of work, but it is necessary to ensure your crops get a good start in healthy soil.

Tillage- Soil eventually becomes very compact over time, so it is important to know when to till your garden. Tillage is the agricultural preparation of the soil by ploughing, ripping, or turning it. Tilling the soil will make it easier to work with and the soil itself will support healthy plant growth and water attainment.

USDA- The United States Department of Agriculture determines the certain degree to how organic the farming process is. Organic foods and gardens can range from a little organic to completely and 100 percent organic. You can read through their regulations to determine for yourself how organic your garden actually is.