By John Valentino, of John & Bob’s Smart Soil Solutions
Whether it’s lockdown motivating us to try a new hobby or an eco-conscious mindset urging us to be more self-sufficient, gardening is skyrocketing in popularity — but should there be a greater focus on looking after the earth and doing things more organically?
Organic gardening offers a better, more sustainable way to care for our plants and vegetables without falling back on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that come with a host of undesirable side-effects. Read on as we explore exactly what this means and why it’s important you get involved.
What is organic gardening?
Organic gardening is the practice of cultivating systems while only utilizing naturally occurring pesticides and fertilizers, or none at all. Adopting this philosophy is especially appealing to those who care for the environment and grow food with the aim of becoming more sustainable or self-sufficient.
What challenges will you face when organic gardening?
In order to garden “organically”, you need to avoid using synthetic products, which in itself brings many new challenges to overcome.
Here are a few examples of roadblocks you might encounter on your journey, alongside advice on how to maintain a healthy garden the organic way:
Maintaining fertile soil
Organic gardening is about treating soil so it produces healthy nutrients, as opposed to directly feeding plants with chemical supplements.
From adapting your usual routine to dealing with particularly tricky environments, you should be looking to overcome challenges and develop the fertility of your garden using more natural, organic solutions.
Here are some general methods of maintaining fertile soil the organic way:
- Garden compost: an eco-friendly way to deal with kitchen and garden waste, plus it’s a great basis for feeding soil.
- Green manuring: fast-growing plants used to cover barren soil, which return valuable nutrients for growing vegetables.
- Liming: a natural way to reduce soil acidity levels using garden lime dust to increase the pH level so plants can thrive.
Some of you might also come across patches of clay soil in your garden, which appears cracked and very slow to drain. For many home gardeners, such dense soil is notoriously difficult to work with, especially without using synthetic products to break up the particles.
Using John and Bob’s guidance you can learn how to amend clay soil without the use of such products. These organic gardening experts suggest you should be using a natural soil conditioner made up of live bacteria, fungi, and protozoa to soften the clay — this makes the ground more liveable for colourful flowers and tasty vegetables.
Pests and disease
When it comes to controlling pests and diseases, organic gardeners don’t have the luxury of using pesticides to deal with the problem. Instead, you need to pay special attention to the plants growing conditions and adapt to the ever-changing environment.
While maintaining fertile soil plays an essential role in this process — Clubroot thrives in acid heavy soil for example — you should also stay on top of numerous other strategies to keep the pests at bay:
- Raise plants in pots/cells: to promote rapid growth and establishment
- Insect-proof mesh: to establish a physical barrier between plants and pests
- Careful plant spacing: to improve airflow and chance of spreading disease
- Timely sowing: to avoid seasonal insect activity like egg-laying periods
If you’re looking for pest controls to deal with an existing problem then some materials are deemed acceptable for organic gardening, such as those with low toxicity to birds and other animals — but do your research first.
When you spot weeds in your garden it’s all too tempting to spray them down with a bottle of weed killer, but this isn’t an option for those of you practising organic gardening.
The active ingredients of most common weed killers, while of course being very effective at killing weeds, are also harmful to soil bacteria, worms and insects, incredibly harmful to frogs and other endangered groups of animals, and hazardous to human health.
As such, it’s important you find a suitable, more eco-friendly way to deal with your weed infestation. Here are some simple, organic solutions you might find effective:
- Regular mulching: prevents annual weed growth
- Companion planting: maximises strong growth by matching beneficial plants
- Careful cultivation: destroys perennial weeds
- Biodegradable coverings: protects your garden from seed dispersal
Lacking a weed killer to solve your issue instantly (albeit with rather destructive force), it’s vital you get your hands dirty and tackle the problem at its roots before the infestations have time to develop.
Benefits of organic gardening
Nature knows best — this is the mantra of organic gardening.
While there are many challenges you’ll face when getting to grips with your garden without the help of manufactured pesticides or fertilizers, equally the upsides of adopting such a philosophy can be appealing to you and how you see your place in the modern world.
By rejecting manufactured supplements and materials, you open your garden up to these great benefits:
- Create habitats and welcome wildlife into your garden ✅
- Reduce your carbon footprint with a green thumb ✅
- Encourage a self-sufficient diet without the risk of synthetic pesticides ✅
Organic gardening means you can live healthier and cleaner while doing your bit for the environment. Plus, after putting the effort in, your bite into the first ripe crop of the season is that much more rewarding.
Developed a green thumb over lockdown and looking to become more self-sufficient? By practising organic gardening you can achieve great results without damaging the environment or destroying your soil.
John has worked for over 40 years in various landscaping roles. He considers his career not so much work, as it is a welcome opportunity to improve everyday lives by creating special places with an emphasis on health and productivity.