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Introduction to Organics

An Introduction to Organic Gardening and Yard Care

Today's average homeowner has become accustomed to using dozens of potentially harmful chemicals to treat plant pests and diseases in the yard and garden. Many gardeners also rely on chemical fertilizers and pesticides to grow their grass, flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

Unlike large scale farms, which tend to measure and use fertilizers and pesticides as they are intended, many homeowners overuse pesticides and fertilizers, hoping that if a little bit is good, then more must be better.

According to the National Academy of Sciences, even though farmers uses pesticides more widely, homeowners uses 10 times more per acre.

Chemicals we use in our yards can, over the long run, negatively affect the environment and the health of our loved ones, neighbors, and pets. Particularly if they are used incorrectly.

Also, many of the chemical fertilizers and pesticides can degrade the health of our soil, garden plants, lawns, and trees over time, making the use of strong chemicals even more necessary just to keep our plants alive.

Once you kill off all the beneficial organisms, then you are stuck with sterile, dead dirt and chemicals instead of rich, organic soil.

With that in mind, we hope to introduce you to some organic gardening techniques and products that apply to the average homeowner who isn't necessarily a gardening or yard care professional or fanatic.

Organic gardening can serve as a healthy alternative to the use of chemicals in the yard and garden.

Perhaps you don't think that itís entirely necessary or practical for you to stop using all chemical pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides completely in your yard. By adding a few environmentally friendly techniques and products in your daily gardening routine, you can save money by reducing the amounts of chemicals and pesticides that you need.

If you plan on continuing with chemicals, please follow the instructions and don't overuse them! It doesn't help to use more than recommended, and it can definitely hurt you and your lawn.

Even if you adopt just a few of these garden practices, you can have big impacts on your yard, the environment and the health of your family and neighbors.

And by using these organic gardening techniques, you will over time create a stronger, healthier garden that will require less maintenance.

After a few gardening seasons, you might find that organic gardening techniques are easier and more effective than you ever imagined.

Whatís Wrong with Chemical Gardening Products?

While most chemical gardening products pose limited risk if used correctly, many of these products actually kill helpful insects and soil organisms and can damage a plantís natural ability to fend off pests and diseases.

Chemical fertilizers can also build up in the soil and eventually reduce productivity. As the soil quality gradually declines, more fertilizer is necessary to replace vital nutrients that should be naturally present in your garden soil.

Additionally, chemicals used in the lawn and garden have been scrutinized by a variety of academic and scientific studies. The results donít exactly inspire confidence in the pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers many of us routinely use in our yards. These products have been linked to birth defects, cancer, and environmental degradation.

Check out this website from Environment and Human Health for some interesting facts about the environmental and health effects of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers.

Organic Gardening as an Alternative to Chemicals

Organic gardening is a method of gardening that has existed for centuries. It wasnít until the advent of chemical gardening products that organic gardening began to be pushed aside as an "alternative" or "luxury" form of gardening. As this happened, those who practiced organic gardening had to redefine themselves.

Some of the pioneers of modern organic gardening include J.I. Rodale and Sir Albert Howard. You can read a sample of Sir Albert Howardís work at the Journey to Forever website.

Gardeners generally define organic gardening as working to create a natural balance of healthy soil and healthy plants in the garden. We can look to nature for ideas on how to grow healthy plants and how to utilize more natural processes instead of chemicals to keep our gardens healthy.

Organic gardening focuses on building up the soil, using native plants and plants appropriate for your garden, and looking for a natural balance in your garden. Pathogens generally attack weak plants that are not properly adapted to their environment, and those that live in poor soil.

So, if we work our soil and encourage the presence of beneficial soil organisms, our plants will generally be stronger and more resistant to pests and diseases. When we integrate organic techniques into our gardening, weíll help to ensure cleaner neighborhoods, cleaner water, and healthier families.

Recommended Gardening Products and Techniques

Organic gardening methods are constantly evolving. New technologies and new techniques are coming out every day. Weíve selected some of the most basic and effective organic gardening techniques in this article.

Remember that one of the great things about organic gardening techniques is that they apply to any kind of garden you grow, from flower gardens, to herb gardens, to your vegetable garden.

For more organic gardening tips, please check out some of these sites:

Organic Gardening Tips from Chispas Farms.

Organic Gardening Tips Web Site.

Organic Gardening Concepts and Techniques

  • Composting

  • Composting is one of the best ways to build up the soil, attract beneficial soil organisms, improve soil drainage, and provide your plants the nutrients that they need to thrive. Please check out the Compost Guide and our Composting section for information and composting products.

  • Mulching

  • Mulch reduces evaporation rates, adds nutrients to the soil, keeps weeds at bay, and protects your soil from erosion. A 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch is ideal for your garden beds. Replace the mulch as needed.

  • Grasscycling

  • Leaving grass clippings on your lawn will actually improve the health of your turfgrass. Read all about grasscycling at this government website. If you like to collect your grass clippings because you don't like the way they look on the lawn, be sure to keep them and add them to your compost pile. Don't throw them away!

  • Native Plants

  • Native plants are naturally adapted to your area, which means that they need less water and less maintenance. They are also more resistant to native pests. Try and use at least a few native plants in your garden. Learn more about native plants here.

  • Biodiversity

  • A diverse garden is a happy garden. Using a wide variety of plants in your garden means a higher number of beneficial insects and soil organisms. Biodiversity also means that pests are less likely to eat up all your plants! Read more about biodiversity here.

  • Companion Planting

  • Companion planting is the concept of using certain plants in combinations to keep pests away or otherwise strengthen plants. This website from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service has more details on companion planting.

    Recommended Organic Gardening Products

    Mycor Root Builders

    This product stimulates the growth of beneficial Mycorrhizal fungi in the soil. It works with vegetables, ornamentals, grass, etc.

    Organic Insecticides

    Natural citrus-based insecticides are popular with many gardeners and are effective at killing off most of the pests youíre likely to see in your garden. Itís safe enough to use indoors. Beer is also a natural way to kill off slugs and snails, which are attracted to the scent and then drown in a glass or specially designed slug and snail trap.

    Hot Pepper Wax

    Hot Pepper Wax sprays help to keep both animals and insects away from edible crops. A food grade wax helps the oils stay on your plants, without leaving a spicy residue.

    Bat Guano

    Bat guano has a high humus content and works great as a soil builder and fertilizer. Itís also 100 percent natural, from the butts of bats. Look for bat guano that meets the standards of Bat Conservation International.

    Organic Fire Ant Killer

    Red imported fire ants can be a serious problem in the yard and garden. Try out a natural fire ant killer to put an end to these pesky critters. You can use a fire ant killer as step one of the Texas A&M developed Texas Two Step fire ant control method

    Citrus and Vinegar-Based Organic Weed Killers

    Natural citrus and vinegar-based liquids are very effective weed killers and cause the weeds to wilt and die within minutes. You may need a couple treatments for tough perennial weeds.

    Organic Liquid Lawn Fertilizer

    For a nice, lush yard without chemicals, try out an organic liquid lawn fertilizer. Look for products that are a combination of lawn food supplements, natural soil activators, and Humate Liquid Humus.

    Horticultural Corn Meal

    Horticultural cornmeal is an organic way of controlling harmful soil fungi and problems with plant roots. This is especially important for vegetable crops.

    Corn Gluten Meal

    Corn gluten meal is a natural herbicide that also fertilizes the soil. Please visit Dr. Nick Christians' University of Iowa Corn Gluten research page for more information on the benefits of corn gluten meal.

    Still looking for more good information? Keep reading, with our Buyer's Guide for Organic Pest Control.

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