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Nothing in nature exists in isolation from anything, but rests within an interlocking web of related levels of life and matter. Life is full of relationships, and good relationships bring about positive results. This is as much true for one’s personal life as it is for the lives of our garden plants. With this in mind, we utilize organic methods to respect these relationships.
According to Wikipedia, “In 1939, Lord Northbourne coined the term organic farming in his book Look to the Land (1940), out of his conception of ‘the farm as organism,’ to describe a holistic, ecologically-balanced approach to farming—in contrast to what he called chemical farming, which relied on ‘imported fertility’ and ‘cannot be self-sufficient nor an organic whole.'”
Organic farming takes into account the delicate relationships that exist in our environment and attempts to build good relationships that bring about healthy conditions for plants to perform their best. This all begins with building healthy soil, for the soil is the medium of growth for all important members of the ecosystem, including fungi, bacteria, protozoa, nematodes, worms, animals and finally, the plants we want to grow to produce food.
Non-organic (now called “conventional grown”) methods of farming introduce synthetic chemicals into the soil, either to fertilize plants or keep them safe from pests or disease. Use of these chemicals destroys the relationships inherent in the soil and disrupts the balance of every level of the soil’s ecosystem, eventually stripping the soil of its nutrients. Synthetic chemicals do not stay in the soil, but leech out in excess quantities to pollute ground water. Soil that is stripped of nutrients does not support life, so more fertilizers are needed to make the plants grow, which further compounds the problem. Also, soil devoid of nutrients leads to stressed living conditions for the plants, increasing their susceptibility to disease and insects. To combat this, insecticides and fungicides are used to kill life indiscriminately, even those insects and fungi that are beneficial for building soil texture, retention of nutrients and increasing the biodynamics of the soil.
Organic methods rely on nature to do the job it has been doing since time began and attempts to cultivate in a manner in harmony with nature.
In our garden, we fertilize with natural, organic products like compost, compost tea and worm castings. These products contain readily available nutrients for immediate absorption, organic matter for long-term release of nutrients, and help build soil texture by inviting bacteria, fungi and protozoa which help in decomposition of matter, aeration of soil and even assist the plants in the absorption of nutrients. The occasional addition of products like bone and blood meals provide increased levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and trace minerals when the plants need them. Bat guano is also used to introduce beneficial microorganisms to the soil.
In addition, we fight weeds and bugs the old-fashioned way – due diligence and hand-picking/pulling. There are also a number of organic, all-natural products made at home that will help in weed and bug control. We utilize high-acidity vinegar, baking soda, corn grits, and soap/garlic/cayenne sprays. We also incorporate flowering/native plants that serve as a natural deterrent so certain pests, and which attract beneficial bugs that prey upon harmful ones. This is what is meant by using nature to do the job, and what organic gardening means to me.