Organic Gardening

The philosophy behind organic gardening


Everyone agrees that organic gardening means avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. But the philosophy and practice of organic gardening go far beyond that simple concept. Growing organic food, flowers, and landscapes represents a commitment to a sustainable system of living in harmony with nature. For many people, organic gardening is a way of life. Area of this website deals with the fundamentals of organic growing, including the philosophy behind organic gardening and the specific techniques that lead to success.

Defining Organic Gardening

The ways that people use soil, water, and air affect the lives and habitats of plants, insects, birds, fish, and animals, as well as humans. Organic gardening is all about preventing and treating problems in the least obtrusive, most nontoxic ways. Dedicated organic gardeners adopt methods that use cultural and natural biological processes to do the following:

✓ Improve soil health and fertility: Organic gardeners nurture the soil ecosystem by adding organic matter, such as compost, and avoiding pesticides that can harm soil life. In turn, soil organisms consume and break down the organic matter, making the nutrients it contains available to plants.

✓ Decrease erosion: Exposed soil is vulnerable to erosion by rain and wind. By covering soil with mulch, cover crops, or other protective materials, organic gardeners preserve the integrity of this precious resource.

✓ Reduce pests and diseases: Organic gardeners minimize pest problems and reduce the need for pesticides by relying on cultural techniques, such as proper pruning, removing unhealthy plant material, and using row covers.

✓ Encourage plant and animal diversity: Through diverse plantings and judicious use of pesticides — even organic ones — organic gardeners promote healthy ecosystems that invite beneficial organisms, including pollinators and predators of garden pests, to take up residence.

Cues from nature

Organic gardeners take their cues from nature. Instead of relying on the spray schedules promoted by pesticide manufacturers, organic gardeners observe what’s going on in their gardens and intervene to prevent pest problems. When you see white butterflies fluttering around your garden, for example, you know it’s time to protect your cabbages, broccoli, and cauliflower from cabbage worm. Instead of sprinkling on a pesticide after the caterpillars hatch, you can cover the plants with a special fabric to prevent the butterflies from laying eggs in the first place.

Organic growers view their gardens as living ecosystems and work with nature to produce beautiful landscapes and healthy foods. No matter what plants you’re growing — vegetables, fruits, herbs, trees, flowers, grasses — the same basic techniques apply, as the following sections show.

Depleting soil fertility, damaging and polluting ecosystems, and consuming excess water threaten the future of Earth’s safe and abundant food supply. The ways that farmers and individual gardeners and homeowners choose to farm, garden, and maintain their landscapes make a difference in whether the land can continue to house, feed, and clothe us. Gardeners around the globe have adopted organic gardening techniques to help nurture the health of the
Earth and all its inhabitants.

Building Soil

Just as a durable house needs a strong foundation, healthy plants require soil that can provide their roots with nutrients, water, and air. Few gardeners are blessed with perfect soil, and even if they were, keeping soil healthy and able to support plants is an ongoing process. Building and maintaining healthy soil is the single most important thing you can do to ensure the success of
your garden and landscape plants.

Building soil means providing soil life — microbes, worms, fungi — with the materials and environment they need to do their jobs. Taking from the soil without giving anything back breaks the natural cycle. Harvesting crops, bagging lawn clippings, and raking fallen leaves removes organic material that’s ordinarily destined for the soil on which it falls. If the organic material isn’t
replenished, soil health declines. Substituting synthetic chemical fertilizers for naturally occurring nutrients may feed plants, but it starves the soil.

Adding organic matter is the most common — and most important — part of building soil. Compost is a perfect source of organic matter; other sources include aged manures and crop residues. Maintaining proper soil pH (a measure of acidity/alkalinity) is also vital, because it affects soil life and the ability of plants to use nutrients.

Avoiding things that damage soil is just as important. Compaction from heavy foot or vehicle traffic and misapplied fertilizer and pesticides, for example, can harm the soil’s ability to support plant life. Part II tells you everything you need to know about your soil and how to improve it in an organically sound way.

Desertification, both natural and man made is serious problem faced by most of the countries particularly tropical development countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. One of the most common and recognized strategy to check desertification is to undertake extensive tree planting programmes. Nowadays there has been an increasing awareness among the people about the role played by trees in controlling most of the environment issues. Unfortunately raising tree seedlings and its plantations are one of the most important problems in most parts of the country, mainly due to lack of knowledge and expertise. Although there is a broad recognition of the need of tree plantations in the country, the availability of suitable planting materials in large quantities at correct time is the biggest snag in executing afforestation programme. 

The importance of nursery raised seedlings for the success of tree plantations can hardly be over stressed. Raising nurseries is the first step in any commercial forestry programmes particularly in agroforestry and farm forestry practices and in afforestation programmes in restoring ecological balance and in contributing to socio-economic development of rural areas. 

Raising of seedlings in a nursery can be described as the growing of planting stock from a propagule to the physical size and physiological condition that will enable satisfactory growth of the plants when planted in the main field. Selection of good quality propagule like seed, graft, budding or layer is very important in any type of scientific tree planting programme. Successful afforestation is highly dependent upon the site characteristics, genetic quality of the stock and the physiological mechanism of establishment and survival. Growth and survival of seedlings are the functions of initial vigour, growth rate and the resistance to environmental stress and pest and disease infestations. The proper cultural treatments and pre and post planting care may solicit more effective responses than treatments during any other stage of growth and life of trees and this will definitely be manifested later on the growth of mature trees. Thus, in order to maximize the success towards the final product, it is essential to raise seedlings in nurseries with proper care and management. A thorough and scientific knowledge of various aspects of raising tree seedlings of commercial forest tree species is very essential for a viable afforestation programme. It need not be over emphasized that the success of afforestation depends on the quality of the planting stock. 

To meet the increased seedling production projected for the next decade, new nurseries have to be started and existing nurseries should be expanded with scientific management. Raising of seedling in a nursery can be described as the growing of planting stock from a propagule to the physical size and physiological condition that will enable satisfactory growth in the field when planted. The propagule may consist of a seed cutting, a graft, a layer or a bud wood. In nursery the seed is made to germinate, cutting or graft or layer is rooted and these are cultured to the appropriate size with quality. No matter what type of propagule is used and what its genetic quality maybe, the cost of each product will be almost the same. Interestingly, the seed from an inferior tree will cost the same to grow as the seed from the orchard or from genetically superior trees. The facilities and the cultural steps for each will be almost the same and hence the cost will not vary much. However, the productivity of the tree will be greatly affected by the quality of propagule. Thus, there is a need to propagate an improved stock under strict supervision and modern scientific management.