Interest in home gardening, sustainable use of natural resources, and organic practices continues to rise with increasing concern about the health and safety of families, pets, and the environment. Generally, organic gardeners focus on practices that enhance soil health and plant nutrition, as well as suppress weeds. Organic gardeners manage weeds and other pests (including disease organisms) without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. Organic and conventional gardening share many similarities, so other chapters in this manual provide more in-depth information on many of the topics included here.
Soil amendments are used to improve soil health and condition. Incorporating organic matter into tight clay, for example, lowers soil bulk density, creates pore spaces for air and water, and improves soil structure and tilth, allowing expansion of roots. Adding organic matter to sandy soil improves water-holding and nutrient-holding capacity, feeds soil microbes, and improves soil structure.
In the warmer North Carolina piedmont and coastal plain, higher temperatures lead to faster rates of decomposition, and soils can require up to twice as much organic material compared to cooler environments. If practical, it is a good idea to mulch areas after adding organic matter. Mulch is material layered over the soil surface to reduce evaporation and keep roots cool. Mulch also reduces weed emergence, soil compaction, and erosion. In the case of plant-based mulches, the addition of mulch further contributes to soil organic matter content.
Rather than relying primarily on applied fertilizers, many organic gardeners seek to build a nutrient reservoir in the soil through the periodic addition of organic soil amendments and the use of green manures (cover crops that are incorporated back into the bed). As with any gardening project, start with a soil analysis to determine initial nutrient and pH levels, and monitor with follow-up sampling at least every three years.
Cultivation is best done one or two days after watering when the soil is still damp, but not wet. Working wet soil degrades soil structure, especially that of heavy soils. When the soil is too dry, weeds are hard to pull and hoeing is difficult. Weeds that have been pulled, but have not yet gone to seed, can be used to return organic matter to the soil. Hand-pulled weeds may be laid on top of the soil to dry out, with the exception of rhizomatous grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, Canada bluegrass, and creeping red fescue. Succulent weeds, such as purslane, and weeds that have gone to seed, which may inadvertently reestablish, should be completely removed from the garden. Reducing weed growth in the surrounding yard by mowing or other means also helps prevent the spread of weeds in the garden.
Pulling weeds by hand is a necessary part of maintaining any garden, organic or not. As with tillage, pulling weeds is easiest when the soil is slightly moist and when the weeds are young and small. Scouting beds on a weekly basis makes this routine chore easier.
Select the type of mulch based on availability, cost, aesthetics, and personal preference. Examples include shredded hardwood, pine straw, pine bark, and cedar. Maximum weed management benefits can be seen with 3 inches to 4 inches of organic mulch. In general, 1 cubic yard covers 100 square feet to a depth of 3 inches.
Vinegar (acetic acid), salts of fatty acids, the soap-based herbicide ammonium nonanoate, lemongrass oil, eugenol oil (clove oil), cinnamon oil, and corn gluten are examples of chemical organic weed managment.
In summary, home organic gardeners are not certified and so are not required to adhere to the NOP guidelines. Many gardeners fall somewhere on the spectrum between conventional gardening and organic gardening.
Chemical management. All pesticides are chemical (whether they are categorized as botanical, inorganic, microbial, or petroleum-based). Chemical controls can be integrated into a management plan if garden pests are out of balance and overwhelming other management options.
Organic pesticides are not necessarily safer than synthetic insecticides, either to the user or the environment. For instance, products containing rotenone or pyrethrins are extremely toxic to fish. Insecticidal soaps are phytotoxic to some crops, and many organic pesticides are harmful to some beneficial insects. All pesticides, natural or synthetic, are toxins designed to kill pests, and should be treated as poisons. Read the label carefully and use the product only as directed.
The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) is a nonprofit organization that provides independent reviews of products based on organic standards. It provides the results for organic certifiers, growers, manufacturers, and suppliers. If the products pass the review, they are OMRI Listed. OMRI also provides technical support and training for professionals.
Organic gardeners strive for a biologically balanced ecological system containing diverse insects, microorganisms, animals, and plants. By carefully nurturing the soil environment with proper cultural practices, enhancing biodiversity, and managing problematic weeds, insects, and diseases, organic gardeners maintain thriving and attractive landscapes. These healthy landscapes have a minimized need for the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
The transition from conventional to organic and sustainable practices includes learning to read the soil environment to identify if a site requires more frequent irrigation, soil amendments, mulching, or other practices. Selecting disease-resistant, climate-adapted cultivars and being aware of appropriate planting times further boost plant health. A final recommendation is to become familiar with common insect pests and diseases for the plants in the garden to stay a step ahead of potential problems.
Gardeners have various levels of commitment when gardening organically. Initially, it may require greater inputs of time to learn how to identify and address the needs of the landscape in new ways. Take time and set reasonable goals to avoid becoming overwhelmed. After a yearly organic maintenance routine is established, a successful and thriving organic garden is the reward.
Smother the grass by laying wet, uncoated cardboard or several layers of newspaper on the ground, making sure to overlap any seams. On top of the cardboard or newspaper start layering organic material, such as compost, straw, leaf mulch, shredded paper, sawdust, or other organic material. Plant your seedlings by placing potting mix in the planting holes. Or if seeding crops, put a 1-inch to 2-inch layer of potting soil on top of your beds. Another option is to wait for the bed to compost over the next year and then plant directly in the amended soil.
For a container garden, use potting mix designed for containers. It's lighter and drains better than garden soil, allowing water and nutrients to easily reach the plant's roots. Miracle-Gro Performance Organics All Purpose Container Mix does just that, plus it contains lots of organic matter in the form of aged compost. Make sure your pots have drainage holes, too, because few vegetables or herbs like having \"wet feet.\"
Selecting plants native to your region or bred specifically for your climate helps create a healthy, low maintenance organic garden, which is especially important if you're new to organic gardening. All of the Bonnie Organics varieties you'll find at your local garden shop or home improvement store have been chosen because they grow well in your area. (They're also certified as USDA Organic.) For example, you may see short-season tomatoes perfect for colder northern climates, or tomatoes that withstand high temperatures and humidity for southern regions. Don't dismiss disease-resistant hybrid plants, either, as they can also create less work and greater harvests in the garden. Plus, plant a variety of flowers and flowering herbs to attract pollinators and other beneficial insects that will help keep pests away and your plants happy. (Find out where to buy Bonnie Organics in your area.)
Too much water can be just as bad for your plants as not enough, so always check the soil before watering. Stick your finger one inch down into the soil. If the soil feels moist, leave it alone, but if it's dry, it's time to water. Be sure to water the soil surrounding the base of the plants so the roots absorb the moisture. Not only is watering the leaves wasteful, but it can also create an environment that invites disease. Drip irrigation, a highly targeted watering method, is a good choice for organic gardens.
One of the best ways to protect your organic garden is to use a time-tested method called \"crop rotation,\" which simply means moving plant types to different locations each year. Here's why it's important: When members of the same crop family (such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants, all members of the nightshade family) are always planted in the same place year after year, pests and diseases that attack that particular kind of plant can build up and overwinter in the soil. Then they're ready to attack the next time that plant is planted. By mixing up your garden plan and moving plants to different beds or areas in the garden, you'll avoid pests and diseases that may lurk in the soil.
Are you thinking of starting a garden, but doing it the old fashioned way with no pesticides Organic Gardening can be an extremely fun experience, but there are some specific steps you'll want to take before getting started. In this article, organic gardening expert Logan Hailey walks through what you can expect.
Tiptoeing out to my organic garden on a cool summer evening, I cut an emerald zucchini from the squash patch, pull handfuls of crisp sugar snap peas from their vines, snip some rosemary and thyme from the herb gardens, and pull some kale for a delicious homegrown Italian meal. 59ce067264