Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Thinking of Growing Your Own? Go Organic!

With all of the talk about the rising cost of food and the support of locally grown, sustainable food coming from the Obama Administration, i.e., the groundbreaking on the People's Garden at the USDA and the possibility of an organic food garden at the White House you might be thinking about jumping on the bandwagon and growing your own.

Since spring is just around the corner, it makes it an even better time to get started on your own fruit and vegetable garden. However, if you've never grown your own you might be wondering where to start and worrying that gardening might be bad for the environment.

A solution to both of these issues is to grow organically. But what exactly is organic gardening? As with anything that becomes trendy, the term organic has come to mean different things to different people. There are those people who define it in very narrow terms and for some people this may make it seem hard, if not impossible, to go organic.

Organic Gardening magazine offers a very simple definition. It defines organic gardeners as those who "don’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides on their plants and that think of plants as part of a whole system within nature that starts in the soil and includes the water supply, people, wildlife, and even insects."

Basically, if you begin with the premise that gardening is part of a whole system, your goal as a gardener is to minimize the disruption of the natural system and to continually replenish any resources the garden uses.

The most fundamental way to do this is to practice good, basic gardening methods. The most important of these is "feeding" the soil, by providing fertility to the soil using natural sources of nutrients whenever possible. In organic gardening, soil is the most important component. It is the source of the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables.

For those who interpret organic gardening in its most literal sense, this means adding organic matter or decaying plants wastes like grass clippings, leaves, and vegetable scraps from the lawn, garden, or kitchen in the form of compost. While compost is considered the ideal organic matter for garden soil, it's not for everybody. Organic soil amendments and fertilizers are available at local nurseries.

Another important component is to use plants that are best suited to the site you are planting them in. Choose plants that are adapted to your climate such as native plants because they are not heavily dependent on fertilizer or lots of water and are adapted to your climate.

Other key components of organic gardening include making sure to use healthy plants because are they are less susceptible to disease, mulching, using the right irrigation system, and weeding.

Organic gardening also involves the use of natural, safe methods of pest control including crop rotation, companion planting, and introducing beneficial insects.

It's become easier to go organic because many garden supply companies are now providing more nontoxic, natural controls for pests and disease for the organic gardener. Gardeners can also find an increased number of disease-resistance plants at local nurseries.

You will also find that organic gardening is not only better for the garden and the environment, it also means less work for you.

(Originally published on,

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