Organic gardening is more popular than ever, but there’s a lot of misinformation about how to do it properly. How can you give plants the nutrients they require to survive? What are your options for dealing with insects and plant diseases? Is it too difficult to produce some plants organically in our climate? Some of the answers to these questions may astound you.
The Organic Obstacle
Organic gardening is defined as gardening without the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. However, organic farming entails much more than merely substituting natural chemicals for man-made chemicals. It is a gardening philosophy that promotes the overall health of the system. Rather than merely growing plants, an organically maintained yard or vegetable garden focuses on building an ecosystem that supports and nourishes plants, soil bacteria, and beneficial insects.
Improving the soil is the first step in creating this environment. By mixing compost into the soil, you may improve the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients, as well as support beneficial bacteria that are necessary for good plant growth. Compost can be manufactured at home with grass clippings, leaves, yard trash, and kitchen leftovers, or it can be purchased at garden centres and mulch suppliers. Turkey compost is the most commonly available commercially made compost in our region, thanks to the many turkey farms in southeastern North Carolina. Growing cover crops and turning them into the soil just as they begin to flower is another approach to add organic matter to the soil. Buckwheat, cowpeas, millet, and soybeans are examples of cover crops that can be planted in the spring.
Fertilizers Made from Organic Ingredients
While compost and organic matter improve the ability of your soil to hold nutrients, they do not provide enough nutrients to meet the demands of most plants in sandy soils. Organic gardeners can use fertilisers obtained from natural sources like animal manures and byproducts, natural deposits like rock phosphate, and plant products like seaweed and wood ash to fill in the nutrient gap. Organic fertilisers, which are commonly identifiable by their earthy odour, are available at most gardening supply stores.
Agricultural lime is another natural substance that is frequently applied to soil. If your soil is overly acidic, lime, which is made from naturally existing limestone, is used to raise the pH. In coastal North Carolina, soil pH values vary greatly, and many soils near the ocean do not require liming. Send samples to the NC Department of Agriculture’s soil testing lab to see if your soil requires more lime to support healthy plant growth. Your local Extension centre can provide you with boxes and forms.
Pest Control Using Natural Ingredients
When it comes to insects and diseases, organic gardeners have realistic expectations. They don’t make an effort to get rid of all pests in their yard or garden. Instead, they strive to keep pest populations at a minimum. Encourage thriving populations of beneficial insects and pest predators, such as spiders, bats, birds, lizards, and toads, as one of the key techniques for maintaining pest populations below destructive levels. Planting a diverse range of plants and flowers, as well as avoiding synthetic pesticides, which are more hazardous to pollinators and beneficial insects than pests, are the two most critical things you can do in your yard to promote these beneficial species.
Another approach of organic pest management is to maintain adequate hygiene. Pest populations can be reduced by removing diseased leaves or plants, rotating crops so that the same type is not grown in the same area year after year, and handpicking insect pests and eggs.
Organic gardeners utilise sprays in addition to cultural management measures to handle plant pests. Local garden centres sell a variety of natural insecticides that manage insects and diseases. Neem oil, insecticidal soaps and oils, and minerals like copper and sulphur are all natural pest management products. The product you use will be determined by the nature of your problem, so make sure any plant problem is correctly diagnosed before treating it.