Starting an Organic Garden
One of the best things you can do to christen your new rural land is to start an organic garden. It is a way to make your land productive and improving the soil to make it sustainable. While “organic” can imply “time-consuming’ and “labor intensive” and “expensive” it does not have to be the case if you do a little planning before getting started.
Learn Your Terrain
Before getting ready to plant familiarize yourself with the crops that will do well in your part of the country. The United States Department of Agriculture publishes Hardiness Zone charts that you can consult that will correspond to growers’ recommendations for fruits and vegetables. Also become acquainted with any particular microclimates that may exist on your property due to elevations, moisture retention and sun exposure.
The plants you grow organically will only be as good as your soil. You can test soil samples around your property with a testing kit purchased from your local garden center that will give you a general idea of the lay of your land – whether your beds will be starting out alkaline, acidic or neutral. To really understand the nutrients lurking in your soil collect samples from around the property and take them to your local agricultural extension office where, for a small fee, they will provide a complete analysis and recommendations for treating your soil organically. If you can, do your testing after the growing season so adjustments can be tweaked before winter.
Plotting Your Plots
In sketching out your organic garden you want to think short term and long term. Don’t try to cultivate a fully-formed farm in your first year. Start small and experiment with just a few crops. Plant each crop sparingly so you don’t waste money if it fails to take off and don’t waste food if it goes gangbusters. Learn which crops grow well together and revitalize the soil. Each year you can expand into your master plan as results are tallied and budgets allow. Plant your organic beds with plants to harvest in each season so you can reap year-round rewards from your labor.
Seek out seeds and stock plants from local sources. This is a great way to also tap into the local home farming community where you can share seeds, advice and even tools and equipment with your neighbors. They will no doubt be happy to share their past failures and successes to help you along your organic gardening adventure.