What Exactly Does Organic Mean?
There are many different descriptions and elements that go into organic gardening.
According to the Missouri University Extension Service:
In agriculture, the word organic has come to mean "foodstuff grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides or hormones."
According to the USDA National Organic Standard Board:
- is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity;
There is no question that organic gardening does indeed promote and enhance biodiversity as well as offer the benefits of growing healthy, tasty plants. Organic gardening isn't hard. To be a successful organic gardener, there are a few simple principles to follow:
Plan your garden
- Have your soil tested for nutrients and pH levels. This is very important for growing vegetables. Most vegetables prefer a soil pH that is a bit more acidic (5.5 to 6.5). Our soil here in the St. Louis area tends to be more alkaline (7.0 and up). Plants also need a fair amount of nitrogen as well as other levels of nutrients.
- to repel harmful insects
- to attract useful or "beneficial" insects
- or to enhance the growth rate and flavor of other plants.
For example: plant Marigolds among your tomatoes to ward off nematodes; plant basil with tomatoes to enhance flavor; plant garlic with your roses as it repels aphids. There are many resources on the web with lists that describe the relationships of companion plants. The most famous companion planting known, is "The Three Sisters Garden." It is a great Iroquois gardening lesson that works!
- Prepare your soil. This is one of, if not the most important step in organic vegetable gardening. Consider creating your own compost. Composting keeps vegetables, egg shells, leaves and grass clippings out of the trash and landfills, but it provides great organic matter for the soil. If home composting isn't an option, purchase good bagged organic matter such as worm castings, cotton burr or composted leaves. All of these will help to loosen the soil and add nutrients. When you say you have a black thumb, that's a good thing!
If you can practice these few things, the probability for success at organic gardening is great! Remember, gardeners love to talk about gardening. Your local garden centers have experienced horticulturists and gardeners that are happy to answer any questions you may have. Search the web for credible sources.