I started going organic a couple of years back and thought I would share some tips to get people started. The best advice I could give you is not to dwell on it too much and not to listen and read too many different viewpoints because it is going to drive you crazy. Just do it! This is the best way to learn – you can always come back and change things around, but the sooner you start the better.
Rule of thumb - organic vegetable gardening for beginners
So, let’s say there is nothing laid down and you want to start from scratch. That is probably a good thing because it is better than changing your soil and digging up everything. On the other hand, if you have to do that, then it is not the end of the world.
First of all you have to plan out your area. This is the most important thing. Trust me, I have learned from this. If you have a spot that gets practically no sun, then you are doomed. If you have veggies, you have to have sun. If you don’t then either chop down a tree or go for organic container gardening, which can often be a lot simpler. Here you can move your pots around and experiment.
Once you have found your spot, you have to start planning it out. When you are just starting out, don’t go crazy with varieties. Don’t be too adventurous either with a vegetable that you know is difficult to grow. Start with just a about three or four different kinds of easy to grow veggies that will go well together. Look up more about companion planting. There are certain veggies that just don’t like each other ):
A lot of beginners also make the mistake of planning something which is too big for them to handle. Just start small and you can always expand. Organics are a lot more complicated and there is more that goes into it than your conventional garden. You will be surprised how many tomatoes 1 plant can provide you with, so if you have 100 square feet, you will be surprised what you will be able to plant there.
After sun, it is the nutrients that go into the soil that are the most important. This means good compost, which is especially vital when it comes to organics. Also concentrate on fertilizers and do this on a regular basis.
The inevitable question with organic vegetable gardening always comes down to the words, slugs and snails. This is what causes most people just to give up. Fortunately, these days you can find a lot of organic products to combat this. However, they also come with a hefty price tag, so you can think of making your own potions.
This is not as effective. It is almost like a full time job. You have to use things like chilli and soap in a spray can. Some people use broken up egg shells. I have to say the proper formulated products works the best for me. I have tried other things as well. If you want to go organic, you should be prepared for a couple of sacrifices. For me, it is completely worth it.
Using containers is great because you can move them around, depending on where the sun is coming from in your garden. Sunlight is obvioulsy a major factor and a challenge for many gardeners. However, challengers can be overcome! I have even been using my old manure and compost bags as grow bags. They work wonders for salad leaves.
So I was just thinking, it’s one thing to harvest first class spinach, swiss chard, carrots, tomatoes, beans and lettuce, but how about your very own Italian vegetable garden in your back garden.
Vegetables come in all shapes and sizes, some you may not have seen before. How about a purple cauliflower or different varieties in beans? You could try borlotti and cannellini and tomatoes, the fruit of love that every chef cannot do without.
I love the good old juicy plum tomato and cherry tomatoes are so versatile. Serve them roasted on the vine on a little polenta. I always tell people to try new things. The other night I cooked for my parents who were somewhat apprehensive about having a spoonful of polenta on their plate, but they went back for more just as I expected.
Plant pimento peppers and aubergines and courgettes and grill them together with a little olive oil and balsamic and black pepper. Aubergines and Carrots come in a variety of colours. Have you seen or tasted a purple cauliflower before? Did you know the purple cauliflower existed before the white one and that its part of the cabbage family and it is indeed a flower? Maybe not..
Buying seeds online is your best bet to a healthy-looking Italian vegetable garden. There are some great websites for you to choose from.
Seeds of Italy would be my recommendation. They have just about everything you can imagine. You could even have a go at growing your very own mushrooms.
Here's to your success, coupled with plenty of good times!
Tomato and chili chutney
Just one of the great creations that can come out of your veggie garden!
This is one of my favourite relishes or chutneys, which goes great with curries or on a roast beef sandwich with a slice of cheese. It took me ages to perfect this mixture, but once I got it right, adding the correct amount of vinegar I was totally satisfied. The sugar balances the chilli out so you don’t have to worry about the heat too much.
- 125ml white wine vinegar
- 375g brown sugar
- 1 chili, deseeded and chopped
- 3 tomatoes, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- Put the chilli and tomatoes in a saucepan and simmer on gentle heat for a few minutes
- Add the garlic
- When the tomatoes start to go soft add the vinegar and the sugar
- Let this simmer until it thickens
- When it cools strain the chutney and place it in an air-tight container
To make it extra special you can add one or two pimento peppers straight out of your garden. Just Roast them in the oven until their skins go black and when they cool down peel them off, take the seeds out and cut them up really fine.