Organic gardening is distinguished here from organic farming by size and purpose. Organic gardening, as we are using the term, is family-scaled gardening with no, or little, commercial intent. It is the type of activity in which any homeowner or community plot gardener could engage for the joy of growing plants and providing a large portion of grocery needs.

The Basic Book of Organic Gardening, a pamphlet by the editors of Organic Gardening Magazine, provides a good review of essential components.

Organic gardening, at base, is intended to harmonize with nature and imitate nature's processes of life, death and renewal. It strives for optimum soil and plant health, maximum garden productivity, efficient use of space and
recycling of waste.

The building block of organic gardening is the soil and much of an organic gardener's time is spent looking for ways to keep it porous, crumbly and fertile, with the right mix of sand, silt, clay and organic matter. The development and addition of compost is essential to this process.

Organic gardeners are also cognizant of the importance of soil organisms, especially earthworms that mix the soil, improve its structure, increase nutrients and help with texture. In addition to earthworms, microorganisms assist in release of nutrients to plants and control soil pathogens. The use of synthetic chemicals in fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides destroys earthworms and microorganisms.

The question inevitably arises that if we can't use chemical applications, how do we keep our crop from being destroyed by insects and diseases. In reality, there are many techniques to draw on. Cultivation of soil to expose larvae, rotating crops, hand-picking pests, placing barriers and traps, planting resistant vegetables, interplanting vegetables with flowers and herbs, and companion planting are some of the more familiar ways. More sophisticated means are special sprays and powders, sex attractants and introduction of insect diseases and predators.

A healthy garden will have diversity and many habitat niches. There will be predators and prey. Some level of plant damage and insect presence may be tolerated. It is important to use control techniques that do not harm the beneficial insects, birds, worms, toads and other creatures. The key is to know the enemy of your garden's enemies and provide the best possible habitat for them.

Organic gardening puts the grower in touch with nature and natural processes. It demands attention to soil, weather, site orientation, cycling of energy, ecology, plant associations, and many other items. Its rewards are found in observation and learning how gardens work and can be made to work better, and in a wealth of healthy, chemical- free produce.



Organic Gardening