Organic gardening and landscaping starts with a healthy soil.
It’s too expensive. It is a lot of work. I will have to go and buy strange products. I will end up with weeds, or bugs, or brown grass, or spots on my flowers or vegetables. Is this what you think about an organic garden?
In fact, there are many misconceptions about organic gardens like they are smelly, they don’t work, or they are hard to maintain. There are definite advantages- as well as disadvantages- to having an organic garden. But until you are fully educated about the differences between an organic garden, and a “conventional” one, you cant truly decide which one is best for you.
If you think organic gardening sounds daunting, consider all the inputs, expense and risks of a conventional garden vs. something that works with natural systems, and perhaps you will reconsider. To begin, a conventional garden requires numerous different applications. You will need to apply lime , you will apply fertilizer four or five times during the growing season. You will apply pesticides and herbicides every single year to keep your lawn weed and disease free and finally you will water the lawn and garden daily.
You wouldn’t take a prescription medicine without first being prescribed by a doctor. The same rule applies to a lawn or organic garden. Without knowing what a plant needs, how are we supposed to know how much lime or fertilizer is needed? Do you follow the 4-step fertilize and pesticide program advertised by some landscaping companies? How do the conventional lawn companies know the kind of products your plant needs?
The improper use of fertilizers and pesticides leads to a great deal of wasted product, time and money, and it contributes to a significant increase in chemical pollution. Conventional gardening struggles to control nature by feeding the plants instead of the soil. Conventional applications of chemical fertilizers and chemical pesticides and herbicides are design to help the plant maintain its vigor. Once the application stops, the whole system fails and the plants can no longer out compete with the diseases.
Organic gardening and landscaping is all about the soil. You take care of the soil. You feed the soil, and in return, the microorganisms in the soil will feed the plants. It’s as simple as that. First, you start by testing the soil. Like a doctor’s physical, the soil test reveals the condition of the soil under the surface, and identifies particular elements which are out of balance. Following the test recommendations, applications of different products will be applied as necessary. Some of the products used in a natural garden program can include the use of compost, compost tea (concentrated micro-organisms and nutrients), and corn gluten meal.
Under an organic gardening program, water use can be reduced by 50%. In the long-run, the cost of maintaining your yard is drastically reduced, from the unnecessary applications of pesticides to the reduction of water use and fertilizer use, or by recycling grass clippings back into the soil. A healthy organic garden is self-sufficient and most of the time doesn’t require any kind of fertilizer or pesticide applications.
Aesthetically, a conventional garden can look good. However, once the application from chemical pesticides and petroleum based fertilizers stops, the whole garden is most likely to collapse and weeds and pests will take over. An organic garden can look as good as or even better than a chemically-treated garden. In periods of drought the garden will look far better than the chemical yard, and the organic yard is using less water.
What’s the trick? By watering deeply and less often, the root system of the plants grow deeply into the soil. A chemically-maintained lawn is watered daily for short periods of time making the root system of the plants shallow. In times when the water is not available at the surface and the soil is dry, the plants suffer, making them susceptible to diseases and pests.
Another difference between a conventional garden and an organic garden is the risk involved from the use of chemicals—specifically pesticides and herbicides. Did you know that pesticides used on your lawn or your neighbor’s can end up inside your home? Pesticide residues are brought indoors by family members and pets. Our homes have almost none of the biological mechanisms—such as sunlight or water—that degrade pesticides outdoors. Many chemicals that degrade in days outside survive for a year indoors.
One example is 2-4 D, a common ingredient in commercial weed killers. According to the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, in addition to the potential harm herbicides containing 2,4-D can cause to humans, a type of blood cancer called canine lymphoma was observed in dogs whose owner’ lawns were frequently treated with 2,4-D.
People with conventional gardens are more interested in having a perfect garden regardless of the cost. They are concerned about aesthetics and generally don’t pay attention to the risks involved in using pesticides. With an organic yard you choose safety first, then aesthetics, and lastly cost. But again, once you get going, you’ll see that the labor and inputs required of an organic garden can be significantly lower.
I have personally used organic products for many years with excellent results. Some lawns and gardens have better results than others depending on how severe the micro biology of the soil suffered under a chemical treatment, either by using petroleum based fertilizers or by applying herbicide or pesticides.
A combination of compost, compost tea, organic fertilizer, good cultural practices, and a little bit of patience are the basic ingredients for a safe, healthy and great-looking lawn or garden.
Although a transition from a chemical treated yard to one that is 100% organic can happen in one season, many people expect instant results. The change to a healthy system can take time, and this is the main sources of discouragement for most people.One thing I see all too often is that people think, “oh, I can apply just a little bit of chemical and still be organic.” Not so. Once
The professional oath organic landscapers take starts this way: First, do no harm. Organic gardening encourages beneficial insects to flourish and eat pests. An organic garden also sustains and maintains beneficial microorganisms in the soil. Those micro organisms are taking care of the plants by feeding them and fighting diseases.
Conventional landscaping struggles to control nature. The Organic approach tries to work within nature’s system. When using pesticides, the soil is depleted of the beneficial microorganisms creating optimal conditions for pathogens. In addition, plants need a constant application of synthetic fertilizers to survive. They also need several pesticides and herbicide applications every season in order to fight pathogens and diseases. The end result is a garden addicted to synthetic chemicals and synthetic fertilizers, and an unsafe place for people and pets to enjoy the outdoors.
What does your common sense say? I believe organic works. I believe it is healthier for the plants, gardens, and everybody who enjoys it. I believe it is less resource-intensive, and it creates sustainable landscapes. It saves you money. It is the right thing to do.