Discovering Organic Gardening
Organic gardening involves an attitude of mind which views plants and their place in the garden as an eco-system, and excludes man-made chemicals.
Organic gardening makes use of animal and vegetable manures, and some concentrated fertilizers of animal and vegetable origin —going back, in other words, to the fundamentals of plant culture without any short-cuts in the way of man-made chemicals.
Organic gardening also implies the total removal of chemicals from the garden scene unless they are of organic origin – that is, unless they come from plants or animals. Even then, the use of any chemical to control a pest, disease or weed or to control or improve cropping qualities is thought to be an admission of defeat, since it upsets the natural balance. Rather than using chemicals, you should ensure that the soil, light, moisture and other environmental conditions are at their best so that plants grow to the limit of their potential. Where possible, you should grow plants naturally resistant to pests and diseases.
The organic ‘school’ maintains that the addition of concentrated manufactured fertilizers, such as sulphate of ammonia or Grow-more, is wasteful and expensive. Much of their nutrient content is leached through the soil before it is absorbed.
Some concentrated fertilizers are acceptable, but only of organic rather than mineral origin. Hoof and horn, and bone-meal are examples — they break down slowly and remain within reach of the roots for some time. The result is a better plant.
So-called ground minerals — except those of animal origin — are allowed, such as rock phosphate, which is not processed but simply supplements the minerals which may be in the soil already but in short supply. In the average garden, however, real nutrient deficiencies are rare and such fertilizers, even organic ones, seldom need to be added.
Many organic gardening notions — using natural manures, and taking measures to deter pests and diseases rather than simply destroying them with chemicals — are perfectly normal to all gardeners. But gardening organically involves looking at the garden as a whole. It takes into account, too, the condition of the soil and the weather, and evaluates all these together. Decisions can then be made as to the need for improving some aspects and altering others to produce the best possible plants.
If your approach to gardening has always been the one in which you buy weedkillers to destroy weeds, chemical insecticides to spray on greenfly and other pests, and fungicides to get rid of diseases, or if you have relied on fertilizers such as Growmore to feed plants, it takes quite a shift in outlook to attempt gardening without them.
Similarly, organic gardening may not be entirely successful at first. Indeed, in some gardens it may be essential to use chemicals to begin with in order to clean the ground and plants. If you want to try organic gardening and have never done it before, it is perhaps best to work into it a step at a time. In this way you can discover how to manage your own garden organically in the way which suits it best.
Organic gardening affects three main areas of gardening management — pest, disease and weed control; soil treatment; and cultural practices. Companion planting, in which one plant species is thought to benefit another growing alongside, is a fourth element.