A Beginner's Guide to Organic Gardening

Aspiring organic gardener? Then check out our comprehensive guide, filled with tips and tricks to get you started.


Garden Vocabulary
gardeningAnnual: A plant that completes its life cycle in one season. See also: Perennial.

Direct sowing: Planting seeds right in garden beds, rather than in pots first.

Full shade: Less than three hours of direct sunlight each day. Few food crops or flowers grow well in full shade.

Full sun: Six or more hours of direct sunlight each day. Most vegetables need full sun during their peak growing season.

Heirloom: Varieties that have been saved by gardeners and farmers for decades.

Hybrid: A variety created by cross-breeding other varieties for desirable characteristics, such as pest-resistance.

Perennial: A plant that survives (sometimes just its roots) and regrows season after season without replanting.

Soil pH: The soil's alkalinity or acidity is a critical measurement of its hospitability to plants. Most vegetables grow best in slightly acidic (pH 6.5 to 7.0) soil.

Hardiness Zones: The USDA divided the United States and southern Canada into 11 areas based on average minimum temperature. Hardiness zone indicates whether a perennial will survive winter in your climate, and very little else.

Bolting: When temperatures get too warm for lettuce and other greens, they grow a flower stalk and produce seeds. Their leaves then turn bitter and tough. Time for the next crop.

Compost: A decomposed mix of yard waste, kitchen scraps, animal manure, and other ingredients. Known to organic gardeners as "black gold" because it nourishes plants, conditions soil, suppresses plant diseases, and manages moisture.

Deadheading: Removing faded and spent flowers to concentrate the plant's nutrients, water, and energy on producing new growth.

N-P-K: The chemical symbols for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, three macronutrients plants need. You will see the N-P-K ratio listed on fertilizer packages.