Discover the truth about organic gardening, and learn how to apply some easy methods to your routine.
By Melinda Myers, Contributing Editor
Ball Horticulture Company
Organic. Eco-friendly. Natural. Green.
We're seeing words like these a lot nowadays. But what do they really mean? Organic, for instance, is a big buzzword in the horticulture world. By definition, gardening organically is using natural (non-synthetic) fertilizers and pesticides when growing plants. But there's a lot of gray area here, so it can leave gardeners with a lot of questions.
Don't let this scare you away from "green gardening." I truly believe we all want to do what is best for our family, community and environment. But sometimes we forget our good intentions due to time, energy and limited resources.
By having a garden, you are already "going green," in a sense. You may just want to incorporate or adjust a few of your gardening techniques to be more organic. From improving your soil with organic matter to practicing chemical-free pest control, here are a few easy methods you can incorporate into your yard.
Start from the Ground Up.
You can't have a healthy garden without healthy soil. You can easily increase the quality of your soil by adding compost and organic matter to your garden on a regular basis. This will help with drainage, increase the soil's capacity to hold water, and create a healthy ecosystem for plants and beneficial insects and organisms.
Make the Right Choices.
Select plants suited to your growing conditions. Hardy plants that thrive in the existing light, moisture and soil will be more resistant to pests and environmental stress. Plus, they require less care. To find out what plants are best, look for regional gardening books or shop for native plants at your local garden center.
Practice Good Plant Care.
Check plant labels, Extension publications and reliable gardening books for plant care. Many gardeners often kill their plants with kindness-too much water, fertilizer or pruning. Instead, keep it simple. Water thoroughly, but only as needed. Mulch the soil to keep roots moist. And suppress weeds for the overall health of the plants.
Check Your Plants Often.
Early detection can mean the difference between handpicking a couple of insects off a plant and enlisting a more labor-intensive strategy. It's much easier to tackle a small problem early rather than a big one in the middle of the growing season.
Get Help Diagnosing the Problem.
Don't always assume the worst and try to self-treat your plants. Get advice on the lumps and bumps you see on plant leaves or stems. Many are not a detriment to the overall health of a plant and could simply be an aesthetic problem.
Manage Pests with Care.
If you do have pests that need to be managed, look for the most eco-friendly method that fits your gardening style. Handpicking pests off plants works for small populations. Or try spraying plants with a strong blast of water. This often is enough to keep them under control. Also try traps and barriers. For example, a yellow bowl with soapy water will attract and eliminate aphids, and beer-filled cans control slugs.
Don't forget that nature has been handling problems for eons. Parasitic wasps, lady beetles, lacewings, birds and toads are always helping keep the pest populations down.
The bottom line for all these practices is that it's your garden, so you choose what works best for you. Even if you don't do everything "green," every little bit helps. So try bringing a little organic gardening to your backyard.