I have been an organic gardener for years and firmly believe that this is the best way to plants and grow a garden, without chemicals. The chemicals stay on the produce and get into the soil and water.
These chemicals also affect the health of birds, butterflies, bees and so many other native wildlife species.
Below is an article in its entire original form written by David Nicholson and published on dailypress.com on February 22, 2008.
New products make an organic garden even easier to achieve
For optimistic gardeners, spring is always just around the corner. They’re starting to prepare their lawns and beds for the months ahead, and many are considering organic alternatives. These choices treat your garden more gently and are kinder to yourself and the environment.
Finding organic products has gotten easier, says Bill Garlette, an organic gardener living in Newport News. “It’s easy being green,” he says, since retailers such as McDonald Garden Center, Anderson’s Home & Garden Showplace and others have started stocking more organic products. Large manufacturers such as Scotts are getting into the organic business. Garlette also orders organic products from Seven Springs Farm in Floyd County.
“I do it for my health and my desire to see the human race continue,” says Garlette, who went organic six years ago.
Ensuring you’re getting truly organic fertilizers and other products requires more than grabbing a box labeled “natural,” says Scott Meyer, editor of Organic Gardening magazine.
“The USDA regulates the use of the term ‘organic’ in the areas of food and clothing but not for gardening products,” says Meyer. “Products that are labeled ‘natural’ or ‘eco-friendly’ don’t have any certification behind them.”
Meyer is fond of saying that using chemicals is like “putting your yard on steroids.” Lawns and plants will show dramatic growth, he says, but ultimately these products will weaken the lawn and make the plants susceptible to disease.
Only 5 percent of homeowners opt for all-organic lawns and gardens, according to a survey last year by the National Gardening Association and Organic Gardening magazine. But there are signs that the percentage will increase in future seasons. Organic product lines are improving their packaging to attract more consumers.
Eric Bailey, nursery manager at Anderson’s garden center in Newport News, says the trend has been toward an increase in more organically safe products.
“We live along the Bay, and we all need to be more cognizant of what we’re putting in our yards,” says Bailey. “The prices are a little higher but I hope people are willing to pay a little more because it’s safer.”
Garlette and Meyer recommend a few simple things to cut through the confusion.
When choosing an organic fertilizer, the primary concern is checking to see where the source of nitrogen comes from.
“You don’t want ammonium nitrate or urea because it’s not organic,” says Meyer. “Instead you want a nitrogen source that comes from fish or feather meal.” Organically based product lines such as Espoma and Nature’s Creation are manure-based.
Also, when you see the phrase “slow release” on the package, it’s a good indication that the product may be organic. These products have a natural predilection to nourish plants slowly as they decompose into the soil.
Bailey says now is a good time to begin introducing these slow-release products into the soil.
Look for products that incorporate an ingredient called “corn gluten meal.” The substance was developed by Iowa State University in the 1990s and is touted as the first effective organic herbicide.
“It inhibits seeds from germinating,” says Meyer. “Spread it on your lawn and it will stop weeds from coming up.”
Corn gluten meal is sold under a number of names such as Concern-Weed Prevention Plus. It’s recommended you not use it in an area where you’ve just spread grass seed. It works best on established lawns and in perennial beds.
Garlette spread corn gluten meal last week. He recommends waiting six weeks before putting any grass seed down.
Organic pesticides are safer to use, says Garlette, and can be just as effective as the chemical pesticides.
If you must use chemical pesticides, Meyer says avoid those designed to treat a broad spectrum of plants. It’s better to choose one that targets a specific plant.
For organic options, look for a group of products with a bacteria called BT (basillus thuringiensis) that targets caterpillars and mosquitoes. Garlette says there are many more organic pesticides that are derived from other bacteria and biological extracts that treat different pests.
You can also use insecticidal soap, but you must spray the pest with it. Dishwashing detergent also will work. Meyer recommends using one tablespoon of detergent to a quart of water, then adding a few drops of vegetable oil to help the soap stick to the target.
Other nontoxic methods include using insect traps and planting flowers near your garden to draw the pests away from your vegetables. Garlette also recommends enriching the soil with compost to develop healthy bacteria.
Garlette says choosing organic is “no longer debatable. Most land-grant universities are now doing the research” into organic farming.
“We’ve only been doing chemical additives since the 1940s,” he says. “Farming and agriculture did absolutely fine ‘b.c.’ — before chemicals.” Here is the link to the original story: http://www.dailypress.com/features/home/garden/dp-gl_organic_0224feb24,0,5392626.story
*Try organic gardening this year. It’s a lot easier than you think. I have noticed since I went organic my crops produce better and each year my pests reduce in number. I think the garden soil gets tainted from the chemicals enough that it affects your plants and actually creates weak and diseased plants. This in turn attracts insects