ASK MARTHA: Organic Gardening Made Easy

Going organic in your yard is easier than you think. Let Martha show you how!

Question: Hi Martha, How do I make organic gardening easier?

Martha Stewart: If you think having an organic garden is a fantasy requiring extra work and expensive products, think again. An organic garden provides us with healthy vegetables, fruits, and herbs. But how do you get started? Knowing a few useful basics, as I have outlined here, provides the information and confidence you need to begin this rewarding growing method. And if you start soon, you’ll have delicious fresh veggies on your table by the close of summer!

When you garden, you establish a bond with the earth; the deeper you dig, the more you learn about the life of the soil itself. There’s a world of busy beings down there—earthworms, microorganisms, and good fungi and bacteria—that makes a garden thrive. When you choose an organic approach, you take your place in an already successful natural system.

If a total overhaul of your usual growing practices seems daunting, you can take it step by step, making small changes over time. Follow my practical advice below and you will be on your way to a more sustainable garden!


You need to decide where your garden will grow. Even if you have just a small patch of land or a square of concrete out back, don't be deterred. Here are three useful options!

In the ground

Growing straight in the dirt offers the benefits of organisms that will help your garden thrive in the long run. While ground growing requires more work upfront to prepare your soil, it’s worth it because you’ll have healthier soil for years to come. I like to amend my soil each year with a nutrient-rich garden soil, such as Miracle-Gro® Organic Raised Bed & Garden Soil.

In a raised bed

Picture a bottomless sandbox filled with rich soil. A raised bed is the way to go if your existing soil isn’t workable and you’d like to start planting right away. Construct your bed in any shape you like, using materials like brick, untreated wood, or stone as a border. Don’t make the bed too wide (you need to reach the middle) and be sure depth — is 10 - 12 inches high to allow roots to grow. Fill the bed with soil, Miracle-Gro® Organic Raised Bed & Garden Soil makes a great choice, and top it with compost.

In a container

If you lack yard space, containers are the way to go! Most vegetables and herbs will grow very well in them. As for what size container you need, using larger ones for vegetables allows for companion planting and greater reserves of food and water. Herbs require less space and can be planted more closely together, but remember small pots dry out more quickly. Whatever size you choose, make sure the container has holes at its base to allow for drainage.


You can build or buy a composting enclosure. (Bales of hay make an affordable and natural container for your compost). Using kitchen scraps, leaves, and yard clippings is an easy way to get started. For a step-by-step guide to composting see "Ask Martha: How to Compost at Home".


An airy loam with a nearly neutral pH (6 to 6.8) constitutes the ideal growing ground for most plants, and this is best achieved by adding a nutrient-rich organic soil. Miracle-Gro’s new product, Organic Raised Bed & Garden Soil is an excellent choice.

It ensures that your soil has a broad range of nutrients; supports the soil’s fertility, moisture retention, and aeration, and helps neutralize soil pH, a contributor to plant health.

TIP: Combine bales of hay to create a natural compost bin that will eventually become part of the organic mix.


Soil that has been covered with a layer of shredded bark chips or leaves, and other quick-to-decompose organic debris (including hay or compost), holds moisture better, blocks sunlight to hinder weed growth, maintains temperatures more evenly, and grows richer over time as the mulch decays. This is how nature works, feeding from the top down. Try Miracle-Gro Organic™ All Natural Mulch.

TIP: Cover soil between rows with Miracle-Gro Organic™ All Natural Mulch

Or other organic matter provides more than neatness. Such a layer also holds moisture that plants need, hinders weed growth, and, as it decays, nourishes roots.


There are many benefits to using organic fertilizer such as increasing the soil’s organic matter content, which helps with soil structure and water movement. You should apply the fertilizer when soil temperatures have warmed to 50 degrees or more and the soil has moisture. Because organic fertilizers are less concentrated than synthetic you may need to reapply more frequently throughout the season. Follow label recommendations. A good multi-use product fertilizer is Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics All Purpose Plant Nutrition Granules.


Healthy soil is 25 percent air, and we need to replenish the air that is lost through settling, compaction, and root growth. But rather than using a rotary tiller or cultivating deeply, which can damage soil structure, use a garden fork or old-fashioned broadfork to make holes eight inches deep. This sends down air in selective spots, instead of churning up all the soil. Aeration is especially important for lawns and vegetables, which do not develop the deep, extensive root systems that many perennials establish.

Aerating soil with an old fashioned broad fork (See right).

Aerating soil with an old fashion broad fork


Once you’ve chosen your plot, determine what you want to plant and when. Start simply with what you like. If Caesar salad is a summer must-have, plant some romaine lettuce. If you think that beets can’t be beat, then grow them. Keep in mind, though, that climate and pests will influence your success. Talk to neighbors, local garden centers or contact your local cooperative extension service ( dex.html), part of a national agricultural education network, to see what types of vegetables grow well in your area.


When you grow edibles, rotate planting locations annually. This prevents roots from taking excessive nutrients out of the soil and discourages the buildup of plant-specific pest populations.


Learn to make it a habit. Cultivate between plants with light hoeing on sunny spring days, uprooting weeds while they’re still small enough to dry out and die on the soil’s surface. From then on, use gardeners mulch with organic material or Miracle-Gro Organic™ All Natural Mulch, to discourage new weed growth until plants are big enough to cover the ground.

Article by Martha Stewart, as part of the Growing with Martha Stewart partnership.