Reducing our exposure to unhealthy chemicals can have a positive impact on our health as we age. One of the ways that many women over 60 are looking to reduce their intake of chemicals and unhealthy food ingredients is by starting to do organic gardening in their own backyards.

Organic gardening offers a variety of benefits: the food is free of chemicals, additives and unnatural ingredients; working in the garden is great exercise and can also be meditative and emotionally rewarding; and growing our own food gives us a great sense of satisfaction and self-sufficiency. Not to mention: fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden are delicious!

If you want to get started with organic gardening, here are a few ideas for where to begin:

 
 

Test and Prepare the Soil

An important component of organic gardening is that the soil needs to be chemical-free and rich in organic nutrients. Before you start gardening, get a soil test from your local agricultural extension office. The soil test will tell you what you need to do to improve your soil to make it optimal for the kinds of plants you want to grow. Then you can start preparing the soil with plenty of manure and organic matter (compost, leaf and grass clippings).

Make Compost

As an organic gardener, you need a constant supply of new compost to add to enrich the soil and help nourish your plants. Start by making a compost pile (you can buy a compost bin at a store or make a simple pile in a corner of the garden) and fill it with alternating layers of green and brown plant matter – green material includes kitchen scraps (banana peels, etc.) and brown material means leaves and garden trimmings. Mix soil into your compost heap.

Over time, your compost layers will decompose and become rich topsoil that you can add to your garden. Composting is ideal because it also gives you an eco-friendly way to re-use your kitchen waste.

Build Raised Beds

One of the best ways to do organic gardening is to use raised garden beds. With raised beds, you actually “raise” your garden up beyond ground level by building special garden beds to house your soil and plants. Raised beds make it easier to weed, water and harvest your plants. Here are instructions for how to make raised beds for your garden.

Choose Your Plants

Organic gardening can be a bit more challenging than conventional gardening, because you have to choose plants that will thrive without pesticides and chemical fertilizers/plant food. Not all plants do equally well in all regions and climates. If you’re based in the U.S., look at the USDA Plant Hardiness Zones map to find out which “zone” you live in. This will help you choose the right plants at the seed store.

Water the Right Way

The best time to water your garden is in the morning, when the air is cool and winds are calm, making it less likely that your soil will lose moisture to evaporation. If you water your garden in the evening, plants stay damp overnight and are more vulnerable to fungal and bacterial diseases.

Also, make sure to water not the green leaves of the plants, but directly take the water to the roots of the plant. This style of watering avoids damage to the plants and puts the water where it’s needed most.

Fight Weeds

If you’re not careful, your hard-earned garden vegetables will be crowded out by weeds. Fight weeds the smart way by mulching around your plants (using organic, decomposable mulch like grass clippings, instead of landscape fabric) and pulling weeds early before they get overwhelming.

If it’s hard for you to sit or kneel in the garden all day, consider buying a wheeled stool or other gardening tools designed for people with limited mobility, arthritis or other conditions – there are many ways to garden successfully while still staying comfortable, even if your body has a few aches and creaks.

Prevent Pest Problems

Instead of spraying chemicals to kill insect pests, organic gardening is all about using “peaceful methods” like row covers and nets to keep bugs off of your plants.

If you follow some of these simple guidelines, before long your organic garden will be ready to harvest, delivering a rich, delicious bounty to your kitchen.

Do you love to garden? Do you garden organically, or pesticide free? What other hobbies for women over 50 would you recommend we try? Let us know in the comments!

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