Organic Gardening: It’s not rocket science! by By Antoine Lucic and Hippolyte de Bellefroid

Herb spiral

Seeking to add some practical skills to a highly theoretical education, we decided to enroll in the Organic Gardening class offered by the department of Environmental Sciences here at the CEU. The organic gardening course was mainly divided in two parts; the first one consisted of theoretical knowledge and the second of concrete practice in the garden on the rooftop.

The first months were focused on the theoretical framework behind organic farming, permaculture, and soil biology. We learned about permaculture, how to design a garden, how to grow plants. We discovered that the subject was really more complex than it seemed before the course. Indeed, a garden design depends on many different factors such as the sun exposure, the companion plants (plants which fit well together), the seasons or the kind of soils. All of these factors make gardening complex because they are intertwined and it is therefore important to take all of them into account.  The aim is then to find the most balanced combination of these factors.  For example, to put companions together with a good rotation of plants not using the same elements of soils. This aim for balance is in the principles of permaculture.  Nevertheless, it is not only a balance between plants but it can also be with the infrastructures and animals around.  For example, to use chickens to remove some weeds and prepare a planting area instead of inverting the soil or to put the greenhouse attached to the chicken house to keep the heat of both of them.

Incorporating the acquired knowledge on companion planting, crop rotation and others, we were encouraged to design a garden plan for the rooftop garden.The second segment of the course involved seeding, planting, and taking care of the garden itself. Among the central elements of the garden was the herbal garden shown above. It saves garden space by taking advantage of vertical space, and each position in the herb spiral has different sun exposure and draininge, making different microclimates for different herbs. It was constructed during one of the voluntary sessions organized by the course instructors. We began by mounting the structure and filled it up with several layers of organic soil. After a couple of weeks of letting the soil settle and compact, we proceeded by planting the already grown herbs into the spiral. We made sure to give them enough space to develop as well as mixed the varieties to satisfy the aesthetic appreciation of the spiral. This experience helped us ealize how simple it can be to initiate a food-producing garden with the right information, guidance and willingness to be consistent in caring for it.


We also learned how to seed and take care of plants. Concerning the seeding, it is important to respect proper spacing between the plants depending on each seed, and how to make seed furrows. Taking care of the plants mainly consisted of knowing when to put them outside (we grew some plants such as tomatoes inside because of the low temperatures) and how to water them. We also learned how to make a good compost with different layers of elements which are mainly nitrogen and carbon. In the compost on the rooftop, we mainly used the organic wastes of the university restaurant, and dried plant cuttings from other garden areas.