Sunday, October 6, 2013

Why Organic Garden?

It is very easy for gardeners to not see their gardens as they truly are.  Some tend to see them as they imagine them to be, not looking beyond the limits of their own yard to see the vastness of the gardening world or the effect they have on it.  Others, like myself, tend to be full of next years. The garden is an ongoing process, maybe something did not turn out as planned, is in the process of filling in, or there is another plan waiting to commence.  I look in my garden and have to make a special effort to see what did well rather than what needs doing.  Working in others' gardens helps to keep things in perspective, but this year that has been limited.  The first half was spent caring for my dying Grandma, the second half mostly spent recovering.  Lots of heat, no rain, some things thrived, others not so much, lots of planning of what to do better and dreaming of next year. I knew the garden overall looked decent, but there was so much that did not meet my expectations, and like a pimple on your face, you assume that is all everyone else sees, too.

A glimpse of my garden in early October.
Then I went on one of the first jobs in months and perspective was regained. Despite the hard year and many things already being finished and cut back for the year, my garden is shifting into a fall display.  The garden I worked in, though well established, was shutting down for the season. Many of the plants we had in common were either finished blooming or were nowhere near as lush in her garden.  I came home, and seeing my garden in a different light, was amazed.  Why the difference?  She watered more than I did, fertilized and sprayed for insects and fungus and I did not.  What did I do that she did not?  Instead of focusing mainly on plant care, I also focus on soil care and organic gardening.  Healthy soil equals healthy plants.  Chemicals do not.  I have written on this before, but it is so important that I am going to do so again because I cannot stress it enough.

Think of it this way ... If you feed your kids a diet of candy bars and potato chips, they are going to get big, maybe even look healthy for awhile.  However, they will not be getting the nutrients they need to remain healthy and their bodies will struggle.  Eventually they will get sick with something that their body cannot handle and be given an antibiotic.  The antibiotic kills most of the bad bacteria, but the good bacteria are sacrificed as well and the system is thrown out of balance, creating the perfect environment for a fungal infection and health is still not obtained.  A healthy diet provides the nutrition needed for a strong immune system whereas overuse of antibiotics and antifungals lead to superbugs that everyone has to deal with.

The same is true in the garden.  Plants fed a diet of chemical fertilizers do not get the nutrients they need to be healthy, only to grow big fast.  New growth is attractive to insects who move in to feast and infect the plant with disease.  Fungal spores are introduced by various means.  Roots struggle to grow in compacted soil, using up more of the plant's energy reserve. The plant struggles and sprays are used, killing beneficial insects, further throwing off Nature's balance and creating superbugs that effect everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear.  There has to be a better way.  Forests, jungles and grassy plains have remained for thousands of years without, or until man's involvement.

Back to the soil.  Beautiful, nutrient laden, soil.  Full of organic matter, maybe even a nice, sandy loam. It does not happen by accident and it must be maintained as organic matter breaks down, but when it is present, plants thrive.  Roots easily grow deep in the loose, moisture retentive soil, taking in the micronutrients needed for health and saving energy for fighting pathogens.  Less water is needed.  Weeds that compete with the plants are easily pulled.  Bugs will come, both good and bad, but the plants will be strong enough to hold their own until the good overpower the bad.  Fungus may appear, but a healthy plant can usually handle it.  Planting a wide variety of plants attracts different beneficial insects and prevents bad bugs, fungus and diseases from easily jumping from plant to susceptible plant.  Balance is maintained.  Of course, some plants have been highly hybridized into something that Nature never intended, something that would never survive in Nature, and no matter what the care, are so finicky they will struggle.  One must then make the decision to risk the balance of the entire garden for the one plant, or replace the plant for the good of the garden ... and Nature.

Also see Wait! Don't Grab That Spray!

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