If you are already engaged in growing your own garden, consider the benefits of organic gardening. Basically this means avoiding man-made synthethic compounds, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides in favor of using naturally-occurring materials. For fertilizer and soil enrichment, use compost and well-aged animal manures. Control pests by good cultural practices, by using naturally-occurring pesticides and encouraging natural control agents of pests.
You don’t have to use herbicides to control weeds around your garden plants. Instead, use mulches that both keep weed seeds from germinating and keep the plant roots moister and cooler. When you are done gardening for the year, turn the mulch over into the soil to help enrich it with organic matter. Inventive gardeners use many types of organic mulches, from straw to grass clippings to chipped plant material. Some gardeners use layers of newspaper.
Prevent persistent garden pests by educating yourself on their habits and natural control measures. For instance, slugs can be controlled by using traps baited with beer or iron phosphate products, by eliminating their hiding places, and by using various barriers around plants slugs prefer to eat. Barriers are drying agents that dehydrate slugs such as diatomaceous earth, sand or crushed egg shells. Copper tape also provides an effective barrier. Study up on whatever is a problem in your garden, be it leaf-eating beetles, aphids, or caterpillars, and find out alternative methods of controlling them.
Probably the single most important factor in successful organic gardening is the quality of soil you have to work with. Gradually build up your garden soil every year by adding a layer of well-aged compost at the end of the growing season and digging it in. You can also incorporate organic fertilizers such as bone meal and blood meal. Aged animal manure is a rich source of both plant nutrients and organic material. You are aiming for a humus-rich non-compacting soil that provides good support for roots yet easy root penetration and lots of organic substrates for molecules of plant nutrients to bind to so they are available for uptake by root hairs.
For organic fertilizer to use as your plants are growing, use liquid fertilizer you can make by straining water through a container of aged compost from your compost pile. Your can also make manure tea in this fashion. Dilute it down so it isn’t too strong for your plants. More frequent dilute fertilization is better for plant growth than less frequent stronger applications. Fish fertilizer is another good organic product.
A good cultural method to avoid buildup of high populations of pest insects is to have a large variety of plants rather than a large single-species planting. Don’t grow all your cucurbits in one area, you should spread them around. Grow companion plants such as marigold or garlic near plants susceptible to aphid infestation. Alternate from year to year the areas that you grow specific kinds of plants in. Grow corn on one spot, then the next year plant peas there. If plant pests have been a problem, clean up all the garden litter from that crop and dispose of it by burning or by putting it in the trash rather than composting it. This will eliminate the areas where overwintering eggs, pupae or adults would be.
Organic gardening gives great satisfaction because you know you are providing your family with great quality food that is safe to eat. You will also notice a difference in the size, vigor and health of your plants. Many people say that their organic produce has better flavor than non-organically grown produce. Organic gardening presents a few more challenges to find natural ways to nourish and protect plants, but that is intellectually rewarding. Not only will your garden flourish, but your gardening knowledge will grow as well.