Organic Gardening 101
By: Julie Day
Beneficial insects are affected by pesticides, too.
Rule #3: Embrace the Ecosystem
Our gardens were naturally full of life long before we started digging in them! Nature has quite an effective system for maintaining itself which is often destroyed when we use chemicals and sprays to try and create an unnatural, artificial environment. Organic gardens restore this balance by encouraging a wide range of plant and animal life, which in turn creates a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Ways to boost your garden’s ecosystem include:
- Plant Smart: Practice companion planting and crop rotation to reduce disease and pests. For instance, lining the perimeter of your garden with garlic and onions will help discourage nibbling critters. Moving tomato plants from year to year will keep early blight on the run.
- Encourage Pollinators: Include a variety of flowering plants in your vegetable garden to attract birds, bees, and wasps. They in turn will pollinate your plants and feast on the grubs and insects that threaten fruits and vegetables.
- Tend the “Microherd:” Healthy soil is full of beneficial microbes that break down and transfer nutrients to the roots of your plants. Those microbes also serve as an underground immune system against plant diseases. Soil rich in organic matter and free of chemicals promotes a healthy microherd that is naturally disease-resistant.
- Go Native: Grow native plants that are well suited to your climate, rainfall, and soil type. They’re also more disease resistant and will be more attractive to beneficial insects.
- Outsmart Pests: Practice organic insect control using row covers, plant collars, natural predators, plant oils, and natural soaps – not to mention old fashioned trapping and squishing! If a particular insect threatens your harvest, choose an organic control product that specifically targets that pest, rather than applying chemicals that kill indiscriminately.
- Reduce Weeds: Keep weeds under control using organic mulches and regular cultivation. Choose natural weed killers such as vinegar, boiling water, and solarization.
- Welcome Creepy-Crawlies: Make peace with frogs, snakes, praying mantises, wasps, and spiders – they’re feasting on a buffet of plant destroying pests!
- Stay Vigilant: Many insect and disease problems can be nipped in the bud if caught early.
- Embrace Imperfection: Organic gardens don’t have to be messy, but they’re often less pristine than a chemically altered landscape. However, the occasional worm in your tomato, dead leaf, or nibbled plant are only a small nuisance if your ecosystem is functioning properly.
Think of your garden as an interconnected web of life that sustains itself.
- The Debate over Organic vs. Chemical Fertilizers (article)
- Using Predator Insects to Control Garden Pests (article)
- Environmentally Friendly Landscaping for Your Home (video)
- How to Make Compost for Your Garden (video)