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Garden Myths – Learn the truth about gardening

You see the word organic used everywhere these days so you would think that the word has a simple definition. Not so.

The word is used by different groups of people to mean different things.

What does organic gardening mean?

What does Organic Mean to a Chemist?

What does organic mean to a chemist? Chemists use the word organic to describe a chemical that contains carbon. When a chemist says a pesticides is organic it means it contains carbon. It could be derived from nature or man-made; either way it is organic.

What does Organic Mean to the General Public?

When the general public refers to something as being organic it can mean different things. An organic apple is an apple that was grown without synthetic pesticides. The word ‘synthetic’ here is critical since even organic apples can contain significant levels of nasty natural pesticides – a topic for another post. the post What is Organic Fertilizer provides a more detailed description of organic fertilizer.

Several countries, including Canada, US, European Community, and Japan regulate the meaning of ‘organic food’. To be organic food, the food must have been produced by following specific organic farming guidelines. These guidelines determine both the use of pesticides as well as other cultural practices such as the use of organic fertilizers.

The term “natural” is now used more and more and seems to be synonymous with organic which just confuses things even more. As we will see in other posts, natural products can be very deadly. The term natural does not have a legal definition and is therefore used too freely. To better understand what natural chemicals are see my post Chemicals are Bad, Part 1.

The term organic gardening usually means that some environmentally friendly practices are used. For example, mulching with organic material, and fertilizing with manure would be part organic gardening. The term is not well defined, and can be misleading. For example, if I use peat moss is it organic gardening? The peat moss is a natural product so it would seem to be an organic choice for amending the soil. But peat moss is usually trucked a long distance to get to your garden. The transportation required is certainly not environmentally friendly. Instead of the term organic gardening I prefer environmentally friendly gardening – but that is also hard to define.

What if you garden organically most of the time, but once or twice as year you use synthetic fertilizer. Are you still an organic gardener? The term is perhaps not so important. What is important is that all gardeners try to use organic practices when possible. It is also important to understand how certain organic practices benefit or harm your soil, your plants or yourself. The idea that anything organic or natural is good for your garden is a myth.

1) Legal definition of organic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food#Legal_definition

2) Photo Source: Jack Dykinga

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What Is An Organic Garden: Information On Growing Organic Gardens

Eat organic, the ads in the ‘health’ magazines scream at you. One hundred percent organic produce, says the sign at the local farmer’s market. Just what is organic gardening and how can it be beneficial to you? Keep reading to find out exactly what makes an organic garden.

What is an Organic Garden?

Organic gardening is a term used to designate that the flowers, herbs or vegetables have not been subjected to any chemical or synthetic fertilizers or herbicides. This distinction also includes the ground they were grown in and how they were treated while producing.

An organic garden is one that uses nothing but natural methods of bug control and natural, organic means of fertilizing the soil. The belief is simply that organic food products are safer and healthier for us to eat.

Tips for Growing Organic Gardens

Organic farmers achieve natural bug control by using companion planting and beneficial insects, such as ladybugs, to rid the garden of pests, like aphids, that destroy crops. Many organic farmers, and even some who are not, plant their crops in certain combinations in order to repel pests.

A good example of this would be planting hot peppers near beans and peas with the idea that the capsaicin will deter the bean beetle and other insects. Another example of this would be marigolds in the potato patch to dissuade the potato bug.

A good organic garden is only as good as the soil it is grown in. To achieve superior soil, most organic farmers rely on compost, which is made from the breaking down of organic matter (i.e. eggshells, coffee grounds, animal feces and grass or yard clippings).

Throughout the year, organic gardeners collect the household waste, animal manure, and yard clippings for the compost bin. This bin is turned regularly in order to facilitate decomposition. Normally, by the end of a year, the waste matter will turn into what is known as ‘black gold.’

Early in the growing season, the organic gardener will work the compost into the garden plot, thus enriching the soil with the natural ingredients needed for a rich growing bed. This black gold is the key for rich soil, which in turn is key to growing organic vegetables, flowers and herbs. It gives the plants the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy.

Organic Gardening Concerns

Currently, there are few large scale organic operations in the United States. Most organic gardens are raised by small farms and homesteads scattered around the country. Yet, the demand for organic, especially produce and herbs, is growing annually.

While there are numerous organizations that organic farms can join to have their produce certified organic, there are not FDA or USDA guidelines of what can be sold as organic in your local supermarket. This means, there is no real guarantee that because the sign says ‘organic’ that the product really is free of pesticides and herbicides.

If you are looking to purchase organic produce, your best bet is the local farmers market or health food store. Ask lots of questions to be sure of what you are truly buying. A real organic gardener will have no reservations explaining how they raise their product.

The only real way to ensure that you are eating organic is to grow your own organic garden. Begin small, choose a small area and start your own compost bin. Read a lot of books or check out any of the numerous article on this website. By this time next year, you too, can be eating organic.

How to Grow an Organic Garden

How to Grow Your Backyard Organic Garden

Overall, the goal is create a sustainable, earth-friendly ecosystem that plays host to rich soil, a diverse mix of plants, and loads of both pollinators and “good” predators. Follow these steps for planting success:

  1. Choose a site with good light. To grow to its full potential (literally!), your backyard organic vegetable garden needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight each day. Short on space? No big deal. Simply find a sunny spot for a container or two on your doorstep or deck.
  2. Use stellar soil. It saves a lot of headaches and backaches to garden in soil that looks and feels like brownie mix instead of bricks. For just the right balance of texture and nutrients, use premium-quality Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose In-Ground Soil (for in-ground growing) or Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Container Mix (for potted plants)—both enriched with aged compost—or a 50-50 mixture of the two for raised beds. Best of all, growing in either of these mediums will give you up to twice the harvest vs. unfed plants!
  3. Plant wisely. Set your garden well along the way to maturity by starting with strong, vibrant young plants from Bonnie® Organics. Or, if you’d rather sprout your own seeds, be sure to look for packets labeled USDA Organic. Either way, choose plants that grow well together, including a mix of hybrid and heirloom varieties that have some inherent disease-resistant characteristics (check the labels). Also, if you’ve grown a garden before, switch up where you plant different plant types (a practice called crop rotation) to help thwart pests and diseases.
  4. Water well. Since moisture is essential for good growth, be sure to plan for watering from the very start, since most organic gardens require at least an inch of water per week (and even more when it’s hot outside). Easy access to spigots and rain barrels is key to avoid lugging heavy watering cans and dragging hoses around. Even easier is to “set it and forget it” by using drip irrigation tubing (the Gro™ Potted Drip Kit is a great choice for containers) connected to a timer. Be sure to water right after you plant, too!
  5. Serve nutritious “meals.” Plants constantly pull nutrients from the soil, so it’s your job to replenish them throughout the growing season so your organic garden doesn’t go hungry and start to produce less than its best. To that end, a month after planting, start giving your garden regular helpings of Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics™ All Purpose Plant Nutrition (check the label to find out how much and how often to feed). Enhanced with micronutrients, it instantly feeds the soil so your plants will have a steady stream of nutrition for their best growth.

Organic Growing – What does it mean?

Organic growing doesn’t just mean throwing away the chemical weed killers and pesticide sprays. It is more exciting, challenging and satisfying. It is using natural ways to promote a healthy, productive and sustainable growing environment. It involves feeding the soil, encouraging wildlife, and getting creative with nature’s pest and disease controls. It’s cheap, it’s practical – and it’s good for plants, people and communities.

You don’t need a large space to grow organically, and it doesn’t have to be untidy!

If you don’t have a garden or an allotment, then a window box or pots on your balcony or patio can in their own way be as productive. And if you mix your planting you can enhance your fruit and vegetables with beautiful flowers, enjoy the wildlife and have a succession of fresh produce.

The following pages will help you get started, to care for your soil, to manage your allotment, to grow vegetables, fruit and flowers, make your own compost and feeds, manage your weeds, deal with pests and diseases, save your seeds and harvest your crops. All done the organic way – saving money and the environment.

Getting started

The best place to start is by downloading our Principles of Organic Gardening. These explain the thinking behind organic growing. Designed with a simple traffic light system (green – good; amber – acceptable, but not for regular use; red – never acceptable), they help you on your organic growing journey – whether you are a complete beginner, want to convert to organic, or be reminded of good organic practice.

Good soil is the keystone to organic growing – fertile soil that provides the home for millions of bacteria, which are essential for healthy plant growth. Soil also holds air and water which gives it a good structure (not compacted or waterlogged) and good texture (not too heavy or light). This allows plants to put down roots, to absorb water and nutrients, and encourage strong growth. Good soil is key to organic growing success. See Managing for your Soil and Home Composting.

New veg patch? Your first allotment?

If this is your first time to grow organically, you might be wondering where to begin? Maybe you are faced with a large area of weeds? And you know you don’t want to use toxic chemical weedkillers. We’ve put together a guide to starting your veg patch or allotment the organic way. Its not only environmentally sound, it also the smart way.

**Garden Organic offers introductory courses on how to start planning your organic garden – looking at crop rotation, ground preparation and more. Details and how to book are here.

11 Organic Gardening Tips for August

The heat is on! August brings those lazy, sultry days that make September such a treat. However, this is not the month to be idle! Shorter days mean plant growth is slowing, but their maturity and the heat means they need extra care. Here’s your organic gardening checklist to ensure your garden is lush and healthy.

This list of garden chores is loosely based on Zone 5. Adjust for your zone or micro-climate. Just like in July, watering, weeding, and watching for pests are high priorities.

1. Water your organic garden.

Fruits and vegetables still need an inch of water a week. Towards the end of the month, you can back off a bit, as days continue to shorten and hopefully cool down. Water trees and shrubs deeply every week.

2. Remember to weed, so flowers don’t go to seed.

Keep pulling or digging weeds. Do NOT let them flower and go to seed! That will create more problems for years to come. Some weed seeds can remain viable for years until the conditions to germinate are optimal. Do not compost flower heads – put them in the trash.

3. Watch for these pests.

A few destructive pests to watch for are tomato hornworm, Japanese beetles, and aphids. The key to organic pest control is knowing the life cycle of the critters you are dealing with, and keeping your plants healthy. Bugs love stressed plants!

4. Stop fertilizing trees and shrubs.

They are getting ready to go dormant for winter, so you don’t want to put on new growth. Prune out dead and diseased wood.

5. Mow this way.

Lawn mowing will start to slow down a bit. Keep mower blades high. Leave the cuttings to act as mulch, cool the soil, and add nutrients as they decompose. Late in the month, reseed bare patches.

6. Harvest big.

August is the biggest harvest month in the vegetable garden! Tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, basil, and cucumbers will give you more than you can eat. Experiment with new recipes, and learn to put some up for winter. There is nothing like eating your own produce in the middle of winter – you can’t buy food that good in a store! Your County Extension or other organization may offer classes. If you are a book person, I highly recommend Stocking Up. I’ve learned all I know about canning, freezing, and drying food from this book.

7. Trim vined plants.

In mid-to-late August, trim the tips of tomato and vining winter squash plants. This will keep new flowers and fruits from forming, and plants will put energy into ripening existing fruits.

8. Prep your pot herbs.

Dig and pot up herbs you want to bring inside. Make a winter kitchen garden!

9. Compost leftover plants.

When you have harvested all of one crop, pull the plants, compost them (if they are free of disease and pests), and seed a cover crop for winter. It will add nutrients to the soil and improve its structure.

10. Divide irises and day lilies.

It’s not too late to divide irises and day lilies. Did you know day lilies are edible?

11. Order spring flowering bulbs.

I recommend daffodils, tulips, snowdrops, crocus, muscari, and the heavenly scented hyacinth.

As tired as you may be this time of year, remember it is still a busy month. Pull together your energy to gather and appreciate the abundance. You can slow down a bit in September!

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26 Organic Gardening Tips and Tricks

Tip #9
“Chopsticks are the cheapest, most versatile gardening tool that you didn’t realized you already owned.” – David Oblas, producer at RodalesOrganicLife.com, a seasoned organic gardener, and in charge of the employee garden at Rodale. .

Tip #10
Creating a Container Garden? Fill the bottom of large pots with foam peanuts to improve drainage and make them easier to move.

Tip #11
Sprinkle coffee grinds around plants to keep pests away and nourish the soil.

Tip #12
Stick a plastic fork with the spikes side up near seedlings to keep birds and pests from destroying your garden.

Tip #13
Soak your seeds in warm water the day before you plant.

Tip #14
Use an unused, opened diaper to help retain moisture in hanging plants.

Tip #15
“Plant chives and onions strategically in the garden around the tulip bulbs to keep deer away from spring blooms.” – Bren Haas, gardener with over 20 years of growing experience and the administrator of #gardenchat

Tip #16
Use a large coffee filter in the bottom of a flower pot to keep dirt from falling out.

Tip #17
Use a mixture of vinegar, dish soap and water to get rid of weeds.

Here are six more ways to get rid of weeds naturally.

Tip #18
Cut off the top of a clear soda bottle and place over young plants that need a mini-greenhouse.

Tip #19
Pre-sprout your seeds to speed up the germination process.

  1. Lay a damp paper towel on a flat surface (such as a cookie sheet).
  2. Place the seeds in the middle of the wet paper towel. If pre-sprouting different plant types, use a different paper towel for each kind.
  3. Fold the right third of the towel over the middle seeds and then fold the left third of the towel over that. Pat down so the seeds get moisture. Then fold the top third of the paper towel over the seeds and then the bottom third over that.
  4. Place your damp paper towel pocket with the seeds inside a plastic bag. Keep the plastic bag open to breath and check the towel every day to make sure the seeds have just enough moisture to sprout

Tip #20
“Think outside the planter box when creating a container garden. Isn’t a container basically any receptacle you plant in? You are only limited by your imagination when choosing your container.” -Robin Horton, founder and creative director of Urban Gardens.

Tip #21
Design curved raised beds to get a few extra feet for planting and to make it easier to mow around.

Tip #22
Poke an empty soda bottle with a dozen holes or use a plastic nursery pot with holes to plant near your veggies. Allow just the opening of the bottle to be above ground so you can fill it with water to make a drip feeder.

Tip #23
Use half of an egg shell or lemon peel (poke a hole in the bottom to help it drain) to start your seedlings inside and then plant the whole thing when it’s ready.

Tip #24
Add crushed eggshells to your compost pile or to the bottom of a planting hole for veggies that tend to get calcium deficient, such as tomatoes or peppers.

Tip #25
Use a permanent marker to draw lines on the long handle of one of your gardening tools to have easy access to a measuring stick when spacing plants.

Tip #26
“Put some art in the garden. It never dies and the bugs don’t eat it. It’s also a great way to create interest 12 months a year.” -Dave Epstein, meteorologist and horticulturalist from Growing Wisdom.

Do you have some gardening tips and tricks you would like to share? Post them in the comments below or visit Safer® Brand on Facebook and share them there with our community.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean buying expensive organic produce from that one big store in town with the exorbitant prices; nor should it mean crossing your fingers in hopes that your local grocer will have something good in the tiny organic section of its produce department.

Save yourself some money and the headache of hunting for fresh, healthy foods by following these 10 tips to successfully grow your very own container, patio, or old-fashioned-in-the-dirt organic garden!

1. Easy Seed Starting

Before you head out to your local home and garden store to pick up those expensive seed starters, take a look around your home for some free alternatives. You can up-cycle everyday items like citrus peels, egg shells, old newspapers, and even empty K-cup containers to give your seedlings a comfy place to sprout.

Check out our 10 Creative Seed Starting Ideas to learn more great tips and get your garden growing!

2. Get To Know Your Fertilizers

Few things are more important to growing a successful organic garden than choosing the right food and the proper balance of nutrients for your plants. When it comes to organic fertilizers, there are a lot of options – many of which you may have never heard of. From basics like composting and grass clipping tea to less obvious fertilizers such as Epsom salt and vinegar, these 10 Tips & Recipes For The World’s Best Homemade Organic Fertilizer have got you covered.

Further Reading: Composting 101: How To Create Compost That Works Like Rocket Fuel For Your Garden

3. Recycle Your Eggshells

Eggs aren’t just the perfect food for people. Plants love them too! Instead of throwing away the shells the next time you cook eggs, feed them to your plants. Learn all about cleaning and preparing shells for use in the garden, which plants benefit most from the nutrients they provide, and more great tips for up-cycling in this post: 6 Convincing Reasons You Should Start Using Eggshells In Your Garden

4. Just Add Salt (Epsom, That Is)

If you’re no stranger to natural living, you’ve probably already heard of our 20 Mind Blowing Reasons Why Epsom Salt Should Be In Every Home, but did you know that this incredible natural mineral is also a powerful force in the garden? Whether your passion is herbs, fruit, vegetables, or flowers, this is one organic gardening helper that you simply can’t pass up. Learn all about how Epsom salt can help your garden grow from feeding your seedlings and reducing transplant shock to encouraging more plentiful produce and even deterring garden pests in this post: 10 Incredible Uses for Epsom Salt in the Garden!

5. Put Your Essential Oils to Work

Essential oils have a wide variety of physical, mental, and emotional health benefits for the human body. However, it doesn’t have to stop there! Take your collection of oils outside and put them to work in the garden repelling pests, preventing plant diseases, and turning your garden into a relaxing green getaway. Read more in: 9 Clever Ways To Use Essential Oils In The Garden.

6. Get the Most Out of Your Harvest

Growing your own organic herbs can be a fun and exciting way to improve your health and that of your loved ones. While it is possible to get by with just the basics – sunlight, fertilizer, and water – there are a handful of simple steps which can turn your casual herb garden into a beautiful and bountiful natural health sanctuary! Brush up on your techniques, including the one-third rule, best harvesting times, pruning practices, how to preserve your herbs, and much more with these 11 Tips for Harvesting and Preserving Fresh Herbs.

Plus, continue your herbal journey and explore Top 20 Most Under-Rated Healing Herbs You Need To Grow In Your Garden

7. Naturally Manage Weeds

Anyone who has ever tried organic gardening knows that controlling weeds can be a huge pain (literally!) The good news is – there’s an easier way. Before you don your gloves in preparation for an afternoon of tedious pulling, peruse these 8 Natural Ways To Kill Garden Weeds and pick up a few great tips that can save you both time and energy.

8. Creepy Crawly… Cohorts?

For most people, insect pest-control comes in at a close second to weeding when it comes to organic gardening frustrations, but it doesn’t have to be. One of the easiest and most effective ways to keep those six-legged nastiest at bay is to fight fire with fire by introducing natural predators into the mix. Learn how to make friends with a whole host of critters who will not only devour the bad bugs before they can make a meal out of your crops, but also give you a hand (or six) with pollination in the 10 Ways To Attract Beneficial Insects To Your Garden.

9. Control Aphid Populations

Of all of the insects that can destroy a garden, aphids are in a class of their own. Boasting around four thousand different crop-chomping, plant-pulverizing species, aphids are among the most efficient, prominent, and destructive garden pests in the world. With a hard waxy coating that protects them from most organic pesticides and an ultra-fast rate of reproduction, they can also be one of the hardest to get rid of. Prepare yourself and protect your garden with these 12 Organic Ways To Get Rid Of Aphids which include warning signs to look out for, natural repellents to keep them away, removal techniques, and more!

10. Repel Flies and Other Biting Insects

For a lot of us, gardening is an escape and our outdoor spaces are a relaxing haven where we go to unwind. That said, nothing quite spoils the tranquil mood of gardening like a swarm of buzzing, biting, flying insects. Be ready to ward them off and save yourself some frustration this spring and summer by planting a few of these 6 Fragrant Herbs & Plants That Repel Flies in and around your beloved garden. Also be sure to check out these incredibly popular 11 Plants That Repel Mosquitoes and give your fly swatter a break!

Many gardeners end up asking themselves…”what is organic gardening exactly?” as they start their gardens. What makes a garden organic, and what would disqualify a garden from being organic? Fortunately there are a few key guidelines that organic gardening follows which you can use to distinguish it from conventional gardening.

What Is Organic Gardening?

The term organic gardening is used to differentiate from conventional gardening. To most gardeners, the main difference between organic gardening and conventional gardening is that organic gardening relies on natural systems and materials while conventional gardening requires man-made synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Organic gardening respects the complex relationships between living organisms in the soil and among the plants, while conventional gardening views the soil and ecosystem as a sterile medium in which to produce food for humans.

Plants in an organic garden are considered in the context of the entire ecosystem surrounding them. All aspects of the garden are connected through a complex system of inputs and outputs. Everything has a purpose and an important role in the ecosystem.

In organic gardening, soil provides not only a growing medium, but also a thriving, biodiverse ecosystem of life which supports the plants in the garden. The plants that grow in the soil provide food and habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and other garden critters. Some of these critters work to pollinate plants, producing food for humans to eat. Everything works together to create a balanced ecosystem which enriches and supports the garden.

Where Did Organic Gardening Come From

Organic gardening is based on emulating nature. Before synthetic chemicals and pesticides were created, all backyard gardens would have been “organic” by today’s standards. It’s only since the introduction of man-made chemicals that a distinction must be made between organic gardening and conventional gardening.

The term “organic” was popularized by J.I. Rodale in the mid-twentieth century to describe growing methods that avoided use of synthetic chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Rodale was a publisher, inventor, and avid reader who turned his focus toward natural methods of growing food as a way of promoting a healthy lifestyle. Although organic gardening didn’t catch on immediately, it is now certainly returning to the mainstream.

Why It’s So Important to Choose Organic Gardening

There are countless reasons to choose organic gardening over conventional gardening. Here are a few of the most important reasons that gardeners choose to go organic:

  • Grow healthy food which is free of synthetic chemicals (and avoid chemical residue);
  • Support pollinators by providing safe sources of food and shelter for them;
  • Learn about and emulate nature’s processes rather than upsetting the balance of the ecosystem;
  • Keep pesticides and fertilizers out of your home (brought in with air, dirt, flowers, or veggies);
  • Reduce pollution by eliminating pesticide and fertilizer transfer off your property;
  • Create habitat for local critters by growing native plants;
  • Support healthy soil biodiversity rather than contaminating soil with chemicals.

How Does Organic Gardening Work?

There are lots of questions that come up when deciding to create an organic garden instead of a conventional garden. How do you control pests without pesticides? How do you feed crops without fertilizer? With all of the different gardening products for sale, it can be hard to figure out what is safe for organic gardening and what isn’t.

A good part of the success of an organic garden depends on observing and emulating nature. Plants are able to grow in nature without anyone fertilizing them, pruning them, or watering them. The system does all of this on it’s own, creating a vibrant ecosystem with no one tending to it. Having a successful organic garden depends on learning from and mimicking nature.

Fortunately, the field of organic gardening is not new, and there are lots of great resources to create a healthy organic garden. Focusing on soil health, choosing organic methods of feeding plants, and managing pests in a wholistic manner can all help create a thriving garden.

What is Organic Gardening? It All Begins With Soil

Organic methods of growing food was originally created to preserve the biodiversity of agriculural soil. Organic gardening works with the natural life in soil rather than considering it a sterile medium in which to install plants. There are countless important micro-organisms that live in the upper soil horizons, which are encouraged and supported by organic gardening methods.

Organic gardening uses methods such as crop rotation, nutrient replacement (green manure, compost), and no-till methods to support healthy soil. These methods do not disturb the soil matrix or the micro-organisms that call the soil home.

Be aware that sometimes chemicals can sneak into organic garden soil without the gardener’s knowledge. Check out this list of ways that unwanted chemicals and contaminants can end up in unsuspecting gardens.

Planning Your Garden

Planning an organic garden is a key part of growing a successful garden. Organic gardeners tend to choose plants suited to the climate and other environmental conditions, rather than trying to force plants which just don’t suit the climate. Choosing the right plant for the right place will lead to success far faster than forcing a certain plant to grow somewhere that it won’t naturally grow.

Organic gardening focuses on mimicking nature, not overriding it. There are also advanced methods of garden planning which use organic gardening, such as permaculture, which take the process of mimicking nature to the next level.

If you’re planning your garden and would like to do so organically, check out this article about how to start a garden which includes a free printable garden planner for you to use!

Organic Plant Food

When nutrient-rich materials are removed from the garden for humans to eat or to put into the compost, these nutrients must be replenished for future crops. Nutrients can be replenished by adding organic matter back into the garden.

Feeding your plants organically is possible by using organic soil ammendments rather than synthetically-produced chemicals. One of the best organic plant foods is homemade compost, made from composted shredded fall leaves and other kitchen and garden trimmings. Keep the organic matter your yard produces on-site, and compost it into yummy plant food for your garden! Compost can be applied directly to your garden as a mulch or even made into “compost tea” to provide a boost of nutrients.

Other options for feeding your organic garden include cover cropping, growing nitrogen-accumulating plants, or purchasing organic plant food. Cover cropping, or green manure, involves planting a healthy cover crop during the off-season which is then tilled into the soil to add back nutrients. Purchasing organic plant food usually means looking for the OMRI-approved label. OMRI (the Organic Materials Review Institute) is an independent organization that reviews products to create a list of products which are approved for use in organic growing. Look for the OMRI approved label on any plant food you purchase.

Organic Pest Control

In organic gardening, pests are controlled by the simplest method possible. For instance, aphids are simply sprayed off with a sharp stream of water. If the aphids continue to return, a simple spray can be made from kitchen ingredients to keep them under control.

The significant presence of a pest in a garden usually means that the ecosystem is not in balance. In organic gardens, gardeners expect to observe some pests here are there throughout the year, but not in quantities large enough to harm plants. Additionally, healthy plants that have not been stressed by chemical fertilizers or pesticides are more able to withstand and defend against pest attacks.

Organic gardening encourages beneficial insects and critters, including pollinators and pest predators. Pest predators like birds, spiders, and bats can keep pest levels under control without the use of harmful chemicals.

What You Can Do About Pests

Anyone wondering about what is organic gardening will likely have questions about organic methods of pest control. Non-chemical methods of pest control are used in organic gardening, including floating row covers and sticky traps to keep out flying pests and plant stem collars to deter ground pests. If insects must be sprayed, there are many recipes for homemade pesticide sprays with ingredients like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and castile soap which can safer for use around the garden than some of the chemical sprays available. If you do purchase a pest-control product, look for the OMRI-approved label to indicate it is safe for organic use.

Organic gardeners are also careful to safely dispose of pests. Pests can be sprayed off of plants with sharp streams of water. Infected plants can be hot composted or incinerated. Crops can be rotated to different areas of the garden each year.

Organic gardens also generally include some sort of interplanting. By mixing crops up together, pests cannot easily jump from plant to plant and destroy all of one crop. Mixing crops together can confuse pests and make it less likely for them to find and destroy a crop.

Starting Your Organic Garden

Organic gardening is not difficult…it simply requires the observation and emulation of what’s already happening in nature. Learning to garden organically teaches a mindful appreciation of the ecosystem that’s already developing in the backyard, while also providing a consistent source of healthy food.

Choosing organic gardening over conventional gardening is a great way to connect with nature while also taking up a productive hobby. If you’d like to save this article for later, here is a pin for to save on Pinterest:

Do you practice organic gardening, or are you considering switching? Do you feel comfortable explaining the answer to “what is organic gardening”? Are some aspects of your garden organic, while others are conventional? Share your stories and experiences in the comments section below.

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What is Organic Gardening?

The soaring cost of many basic food items, coupled with a general downturn in the economy, is enough to make the idea of growing your own food look appealing. For some, it can become a real necessity. For others, homegrown vegetables simply taste better.

At the same time, there are simple lessons to be learned before you can become a successful gardener. They are not complicated, for the most part, and can be mastered with a little care and attention. These lessons are the focus of this series.

For many years there has been considerable discussion, even among those claiming to be organic gardeners, as to exactly what constitutes organic gardening. In general, organic gardening differs from traditional gardening in two important ways: use of agricultural chemicals and use of artificial or processed fertilizers.

Organic gardening rejects the use of all artificial agricultural chemicals, including pesticides used to control insects, diseases and weeds. Organic gardeners differ concerning which, if any, naturally derived pesticides are permissible and when and how they may be used.

Most organic gardeners consider soils to be a living system and reject artificial chemical fertilizers as harmful to the soil and the environment. Organic gardeners emphasize building soil organic matter and then rely on natural sources of supplemental nutrients. Many people garden organically because of concern over pesticide residues on food.

Organic gardeners are usually willing to tolerate some damage that traditional agriculture perceives as reducing quality to the product. Organic gardeners generally feel occasional insect or disease injury or reduced color and shelf stability is worth the environmental benefits of growing vegetables organically.

There is little doubt that organic gardening improves soils because of the emphasis on increasing soil organic matter. Increased soil organic matter improves soil tilth and structure, improves water retention and evens out nutrient release.

Insect and disease control can be an issue. Some pest problems are easily controlled by organic alternatives. Others are controlled only with difficulty or have no reliable organic controls. Some crops must be avoided by organic gardeners or these gardeners must be willing to risk significant losses from pests.

Careful timing of plantings is an excellent way to reduce the severity of some problems. Cutworms for example, tend to be more severe early in the spring, but decline as temperatures increase and rainfall decreases.

Several types of barriers can be used to prevent cutworms from reaching a plant or plants. Small paper or plastic cups with the bottoms removed, for example, can be pushed into the ground around young transplants to protect them from cutworms. Aluminum foil wrapped around young plants will serve the same purpose.

Exploring what nature is doing to your garden each day is the best way to prevent small problems from turning into big problems.

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