Introduction to Organic Gardening - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Introduction to Organic Gardening

Changing from synthetic fertilizers to organic is a great first step towards achieving nutrient rich soil.  © istockphoto.com/Lise Gagne Changing from synthetic fertilizers to organic is a great first step towards achieving nutrient rich soil. © istockphoto.com/Lise Gagne

By Lauren Brown
Provided by WorldNow

If you cultivate your own garden you are in an apt position to consider the possibilities of going organic. 

A gardener by nature is already conscious of his environment, nature's bounty, and his role as purveyor.  Organic gardening can be extremely rewarding because you are more actively participating in the ecosystem and cultivating plants on their own terms.  Rather than interfering with natural processes for an end goal that will only benefit you, you are able to give something back to the earth.

It is important to keep in mind that organic gardening can take some time and effort.   Before you examine the options of organic gardening I would suggest that you consider a few basic things:

  1. Why do I garden?
  2. What do I want to grow?
  3. How much time am I willing to devote to my garden?
  4. Do I have the resources to maintain my garden?
  5. How much space do I plan on devoting to my garden?
  6. What type of climate do I live in? What types of plants are indigenous to my locale?
  7. Am I willing to compost?
  8. What type of fertilizer will I use?

While you take some time to ponder these things, let's begin with an introduction to some of the basics of organic gardening.  

In organic gardening an important element to maintaining healthy plants and soil is to let your garden be.  Instead of becoming crazy about pests and weeds, you should accept that these things occur and they will work themselves out to a certain extent.  Pests often eat each other and weeds are just a natural part of plant life. 

Do your planting according to your climate and location.  A plant that is native to the West Coast will do much better in its warm, sunny climate than if it is transported to snowy New England.   Once you've selected the appropriate plants, you can focus on growing them.

The key to healthy thriving plants lies in the soil.  The makeup of the soil is integral to the growth of microorganisms and fungi that break down organic matter into its essential components.  Once organic matter is broken down it is able to serve as the basic nutrients that your plants need to survive.  There are a number of things you can do in order to promote fertile soil.

One of the best ways to achieve rich soil is to add a fertilizer.  Changing from synthetic fertilizers to organic is a great first step:  while synthetic fertilizers can be harmful to our health and the environment, organic fertilizers are derived from naturally occurring materials such as plant and animal matter. 

Along with composition, organic and inorganic fertilizers also differ in how they work. 

Synthetic fertilizers are ready to release their nutrients right away as opposed to organic fertilizers that require some time for natural processes to occur before they break down.  Organic fertilizers can last longer but are slower and will not run the risk of leaching out into the waterways if the plant is not ready to absorb them.  

Synthetic fertilizers must be bought while you can make your own organic fertilizers or obtain them for free (ie animal waste, home compost).  If you find making your own unpleasant or unwieldy to transport, you can also buy some organic versions at the store.

There are four main categories of organic fertilizers:  plant, animal, mineral or compost. 

  • Plant fertilizers are nitrogen rich matter such as alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, or corn gluten meal.  
  • Animal based organic fertilizers can be derived from waste in the meat, dairy or fish industry.  Some examples are bone meal, blood meal, and fish emulsion. 
  • Mineral fertilizers include Chilean nitrate, rock phosphate, greensand, and sulfate of potash magnesia. 
  • Composting is the form of fertilizer preferred by The National Gardening Association.  Compost can be made from a variety of substances but end up with similar proportions of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  Composts can be purchased or home made and if you choose to maintain your own compost you will also find a great way to recycle yard and kitchen waste from your home. 

Apart from producing healthy plants in a more natural way, organic gardening allows you to directly contribute to the health of the ecosystem.  Rather than just viewing the environment as a pool of resources for the taking, you too, can be in service to the earth. 

If you choose to have compost you are taking care of the waste in your home in a responsible way and cutting down on the already overcrowded landfills.  If you decide to grow a vegetable garden, you know exactly what is going into the food that you are cultivating. 

You can rest assured that your children and their children will inherit a safer earth that is not polluted with pesticides and chemicals.  And by switching to a more sustainable lifestyle you will help your children learn how to take care of their environment

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