What is organic gardening?
Organic gardening is a hot trend this year. In a nutshell, organic gardening is the simple practice of nourishing soil and the plants that grow in it with living microorganisms.
Organic gardeners recognize that soil is a living part of the garden and add organic matter through the application of compost, mulch, manure, etc. These ingredients feed microbes and earthworms living in the soil, creating an environment rich with water, air and other nutrients essential for growth.
Soil that is not cared for with organic materials will ultimately die. It becomes depleted of nutrients and unable to support plant growth.
Why Should I Garden Organically?
There are numerous environmental benefits to gardening naturally:
- Reduction of chemical waste left behind in the environment
- Safer yards for kids and pets to play in
- Insects and birds are not exposed to harmful chemicals
- Less need for chemical pesticides because plants are naturally healthier and disease resistant
- Organically rich soil resists erosion and is less effected by drought
- Grass clippings and leaves can be recycled in the garden
How Do I Start Gardening Organically?
If you want to make the switch from chemical to organic fertilizing methods, there are a few important points to consider.
First and foremost, understand that initially your plants or lawn may not appear as beautiful as you’d imagine. If the garden has been treated with chemical fertilizers, the soil is not in optimal condition. After a year or two of organic gardening, your plants will flourish, but you will need to be patient while the soil gets healthy.
- Start is with a soil test. Soil test kits are widely available and fairly inexpensive. A good test will indicate levels of pH, phosphorous, potassium, and organic matter to name a few. Feel free to bring the results to your local nursery for help interpreting the information. Once you know what your soil lacks, you can add the correct materials to resolve any issues and plant vegetation suitable for that soil environment. This is a win-win situation -- – your plants will thrive and you’ll experience more reward with less effort.
- Add organic matter to your garden or lawn. Spring is a perfect time to add a thin layer of organic compost to lawns. Microbes will work themselves deep into the soil and your lawn will get a great boost early in the growing season. When planting in containers, flower beds or vegetable gardens, mix organic compost and organic potting soil together, and mix or till‚ them into the garden.
Throughout the season, there are many natural practices you can adopt to keep your lawn and gardens weed-free and healthy:
- Water infrequently (every 7 days) and deep. This promotes deep root growth and your plants will be less affected by drought.
- Cut your lawn high. Mow grass to a height of 3-4”. This prevents sunlight from germinating any weed seeds resting there.
- Handpick harmful pests such as grubs and Japanese beetles from plants and place them in a bucket of soapy water.
- Collect rainwater in buckets and use that to water.
- Compost dead leaves, grass clippings and healthy vegetation that’s pruned – these decompose into great organic matter that can be added back into your soil. For more information on how to start a compost pile, visit our website at www.skillins.com/composting.html.
If you encounter a problem that needs aggressive attention, keep in mind that there are all natural pesticide options available which are less damaging to the environment. But remember, organic or not, they are still pesticides and need to be used according to the label and treated with respect.
Organic gardening is a great way to maximize the beauty of your garden while protecting our planet.
For more information, call or visit Skillins Greenhouse at 422 Bath Road, Brunswick, 442-8111.