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the intent of creating beauty.” - Tina James, 1999 Introduction The average homeowner may use dozens of potentially harmful chemicals in the garden to treat pests and diseases and to fertilize plants. However, there is a growing awareness that many of the chemicals we use in our yards over the long run may negatively affect the health of our loved ones, pets, and neighbors. Additionally, these chemicals can degrade the environment and generally do nothing to contribute to the overall health of our plants. This website is designed as an introduction to organic gardening for the average homeowner. We recognize that many gardeners simply don’t have the time, money, or energy to invest in a fully organic garden. Organic gardens can take time to establish and require a certain amount of dedication. However, you can have big impacts on the environment and the health of your family and neighbors by using even just a few organic gardening techniques at home. We also hope that once you start using organic gardening techniques, you will find that they are actually easier and more effective than you ever imagined. If you do have the time and energy to go organic and stop using chemicals in your yard, we feel that this is the best way to ensure a healthy yard, a healthy family, and a healthy environment. However, if you even take just a few of these basic steps to reduce your use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, you’ll be making a significant impact on your health and on the environment. What’s Wrong with the Way We Garden
Plants have of course grown naturally in the wild for millions of years without the use of harmful chemicals or help from humans. we can utilize more natural processes instead of chemicals to keep our gardens healthy. chemical fertilizers can build up in the soil and eventually reduce the overall productivity of the soil. Our plants become weaker and weaker in the process. and a healthier family. inappropriate plant selection. Conventional garden care can also negatively affect wildlife. natural gardens mean cleaner water. what exactly happens when we manage our yards using the techniques and chemicals that we’ve become accustomed to using? The following list will give you an idea of the severity of the situation and what happens to our health and to the environment due to the use of chemicals in our yards and gardens. including the death of beneficial soil organisms. Additionally.Unfortunately. Healthy. contaminate water sources. So. most gardeners use chemicals to fertilize plants and to fight pests and diseases. Organic gardening is an alternative to this common gardening practice. while not recognizing the fact that the ecosystem is basically failing. cleaner neighborhoods. If we simply look to nature for ideas on how to grow healthy plants. Organic gardening is broadly defined as a way to create a natural balance of healthy soil and healthy plants in your garden. Many of these chemicals actually contribute to destroying helpful soil organisms and can damage a plant’s natural ability to fend off pests and diseases. and can end up utilizing excessive amounts of water. create unnecessary solid waste in the form of grass clippings and garden debris. and over-watering can contribute to an unhealthy yard. Chemicals. making more chemical treatments necessary just to keep them alive. This means that we apply more and more chemicals to our plants. .
The phosphorus often comes from chemical fertilizers used for yard and garden care. Children may be especially affected. and garden debris treated with chemicals are an additional source of pollutants in the environment. These chemicals can eventually make their way into local water sources. • Urban runoff contributes to high-levels of phosphorus in rivers. Because our lives are so convenient. lakes. Is there another way? . Sure. But we all know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy. • • Excess nutrients from chemical fertilizers cause algae blooms in rivers and streams which use up oxygen needed by fish and other aquatic life. and increased levels of stress are now considered the norm. This is an unfortunate situation. Epidemiological studies report the possibility of higher numbers of cancer and other health problems reported among families that use chemical pesticides for lawn care. • Various scientific studies have shown that the use of chemicals in our yards reduces the diversity of beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms. cancer. and streams. organic gardening does initially require a bit more work on the gardener’s part. Sadly. and we live daily with unhealthy air and polluted water. What we really have to ask ourselves is what good is all this convenience doing us? Our environment is increasingly full of chemicals. • High use of chemicals can contribute to acidification of the soil and soil compaction. many gardeners resist switching to organic gardening techniques simply because they are accustomed to the ease of using chemicals and getting quick results. Grass clippings and garden waste overload landfills. obesity.• Some studies report that over 50% of people living in urban areas use chemicals on their lawns and gardens. • • Some scientific studies have actually found higher amounts of pesticides in urban areas than in agricultural areas.
our plants will generally be stronger and more resistant to pests and diseases. and uses the laws of nature to produce healthy plants that are resistant to diseases and pests.” Companion planting recognizes that plants grown together in thoughtful combinations will benefit the entire garden-ecosystem. by Louise Riotte. to herb gardens. We must recognize that pathogens generally attack weak plants that are not properly adapted to their environment and that live in poor soil. you’ll keep most pests away.html) One of the great things about basic organic gardening techniques is that they are applicable to any kind of garden you grow. Roses and garlic are a good example.org/farm_library/paydirt/paydirt_ToC. Therefore. Roses Love Garlic. Organic gardening focuses on building up the soil. using native plants and plants appropriate for your garden. to your vegetable garden.amazon. If you grow garlic close to your roses. and looking for a natural balance in your garden. (link to: http://journeytoforever.com/gp/product/1580170285/002-34287065858458?v=glance&n=283155) is a classic book on companion planting that discusses specific plants you can use in your garden to strengthen the ecosystem and prevent attacks by garden pests and diseases. if we work our soil and encourage the presence of beneficial soil organisms. from flower gardens. Another useful concept in organic gardening is known as “Companion Planting. Please see this website with information on composting and organic gardening written by Sir Albert Howard back in 1946. (link to: http://www.I. Organic gardening looks at your garden as a living ecosystem. .Basic Concepts of Organic Gardening J. Rodale and Sir Albert Howard are considered the modern pioneers of organic gardening.
when we grow plants in our garden. Plants then use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide and other raw materials into carbohydrates that the plants use for growing.attra. such as: • • • • • Water Sunlight Air Nutrients Soil A plant is always looking for a balance of these elements. plants have evolved over thousands of years to find this perfect balance. Plants need a few basic things to grow.compostguide. In the wild.html) Finding Balance in the Garden When you go out to your garden. etc. If there is an attack by a disease or a . Likewise. think about how your plants grow and survive. Composting and mulching are two examples.com) A plant’s roots absorb water and nutrients. The carbohydrates are stored in the stems. producing flowers.You can also see this site from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service for more information on companion planting concepts and specific plant combinations to try in your garden: (link to: http://www.org/attrapub/complant. We may also need to look to recreate things that occur naturally in an undisturbed ecosystem. we as humans often need to restore this balance or correct the conditions so that our plants can thrive. However. mutually benefiting each other in their natural settings. (link to www. branches and leaves of the plant. certain plants have learned to grow in harmony together.
loam. The soil types that gardeners generally refer to are clay. or if it gets too much or too little sunlight. minerals. if you keep the soil healthy. your plants’ roots will be healthier. the plant is generally healthier and able to repel pathogens. and peat. Soils can also vary in organic matter. Limestone is an example of a very alkaline mineral. Acidic soils have smaller pH numbers and alkaline substances have larger pH numbers. Sulfur is an example of a very acidic mineral. When a plant has a healthy root system. and other factors. large and small rocks. it is more susceptible to a pathogenic attack. and organic matter to be good soil. Most gardeners consider soil that has a combination of sand. silt. or it is not getting enough water. Soil organisms such as earthworms and fungi help provide additional nutrients to plants. Thus. stored carbohydrates are used during periods of new growth. the higher the number of hydrogen ions in a solution. sand. . Soil: the Basis of a Healthy Garden Soil can be divided into several categories. These nutrients are absorbed through the roots. you will strengthen a plant’s immune system. there are virtually thousands of soil varieties based on combinations of the above soil types. pH. and the plants’ immune system will be stronger.wikipedia. When a plant is unable to absorb the nutrients it needs. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14.org/wiki/Soil_pH ). However. the plant uses these stored reserves to deal with the problem. Likewise. Another important factor in how well your plants will grow is pH (link to http://en. Arid regions of the country tend to have alkaline soils and parts of the country with heavy rainfall tend to have acidic soils. clay. silt.pest. The lower the pH number. If you can restore this balance and equilibrium in your garden.
cleanairgardening. A pH of 6.com/soiltester. and a pH of 10 is a thousand times more alkaline than a neutral 7. and total combined potash. You will also see a variety of trees. Get a sense of what pH levels they require. you will find a thick layer of hummus on the ground and plenty of beneficial critters in the soil. potassium and the trace minerals that plants need to grow are most easily available to your plants. A pH of 5 is a hundred times more acid than a neutral 7. An Introduction to Organic Gardening Techniques When you start planning how to reduce the use of chemicals in your garden.The pH scale is a logarithmic scale that is designed to measure large differences in soil quality. Also. For example.com/phtester.html). Likewise.html) and correct the soil pH when necessary. In a primary forest. light intensity.5 is considered the point where nitrogen. A primary forest typically hasn’t seen the . If your soil pH is dramatically different from the requirements of the plants. including earthworms and fungi. Check your soil frequently with a pH kit (insert link to http://www. phosphorous and nitrogen levels. imagine how a primary forest grows. These kits are relatively inexpensive and will test soil pH. and a pH of 4 is a thousand times more acid than a neutral 7. When choosing plants for your garden. your garden plants may suffer from more problems with pests and diseases. a pH of 7 is neutral. phosphorous. but a pH of 6 is ten times more acid than a neutral 7. shrubs.cleanairgardening. a pH of 8 is ten times more alkaline than a neutral 7. consider testing the soil with an Electric Garden Soil Testing Kit. A pH of 9 is a hundred times more alkaline than a neutral 7. (Insert link to: http://www. and groundcovers that have grown together in mutually beneficial tiers.
potassium. . as beneficial soil organisms will naturally produce nitrogen. (link to: http://www. and phosphorus Reduce the amount of water you use. simply add more organic compost to restore the balance. In these cases.html) 1. Here are some basic things you can do to grow a healthier garden with stronger plants. healthy soil is the key to growing healthy plants.com/2006/05/secrets_from_an_organic_gar den_1. By adding compost to your garden soil. If we keep the imagine of a primary forest in our heads when we garden. Work the Soil As mentioned above. so that you can use less chemicals when gardening. often times creating a challenging environment for the gardener.introduction of non-native and often invasive species that may shift an ecosystem out of balance. as organic compost helps retain moisture in the soil Soils may become too acid if you live in an area with heavy rains or if your soils have been treated over the years with high doses of N-P-K fertilizers. most of our created urban landscapes are overrun with non-natives. Composting garden waste and kitchen scraps is one of the best ways to improve your soil. we can use the following techniques to boost our garden’s ecosystem so that it functions more like a natural forest. Unfortunately. Also check out this site with tips from a working organic farm.practicalenvironmentalist. you can: • • • • • • Add needed nutrients to the soil Improve soil drainage Boost your plants’ immune systems Encourage the presence of beneficial soil organisms and earth worms Reduce the need for artificial fertilizers.
While you don’t have to grow a garden entirely of native plants.org/) Grow Native is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting the use of native plants for landscaping.com/ and http://store. Thus. Use Native Plants Another technique you can implement in your garden to reduce your use of chemical pesticides. If you notice water pooling in any areas of the garden. around 16 inches deep.com/) 2. Mix the soil you removed with compost. 3. and you will be amazed how carefree your garden will become. and fill it back in. try planting at least a few. Mixing in compost is one of the best ways to improve drainage. (Link to http://www. Mulch Using a thick layer of organic mulch to cover your garden beds will help your garden retain water. Mulch will also cool the soil and encourage the presence of beneficial soil organisms. and placing a layer of fine gravel at the bottom. and will contribute added nutrients to your soil. Please check out the Compost Guide and the Compost Guide Store for information and composting products. You can also try digging out a good quantity of the soil. prevent weeds from growing. (http://www. use less water. .grownative. and fertilizers is to use more native plants in your garden. herbicides. There are many wonderful native plants out there to try.compostguide. and are more resistant to pests and diseases. your plants may suffer from root rot or other problems. Plants native to your area are a good pick for your garden because they are naturally adapted to your region.compostguide. See this website from Grow Native for more information on using native plants in your garden. they are hardy.Soil drainage is also critical to organic gardening.
com/fertilizer. They are also better for your grass and easy on the environment. and nematodes go to work on this humus and break it down. you reduce stress on your local municipal landfills.com/mulch. critters in the soil such as bacteria. wood chips. Try to maintain a 3-4 inch layer of organic mulch in all your garden beds. you also save time and energy in bagging them up.wikipedia.html). Grass-cycling will help you reduce the need for chemical fertilizers for your lawn. For more information on mulching. and cuts down on weeds.Organic mulch basically functions like humus (link to: http://en. adding nutrients to the soil. Your mulch will work best when you add this natural fertilizer over the entire garden bed to gradually strengthen your plants over time. Then. An option to grass-cycling is to simply place the grass .cleanairgardening. You should periodically check the layers of mulch in your garden and add more as it breaks down. please see this website on mulching from Clean Air Gardening.html) is an ideal tool for grasscycling. Grass-Cycling Grass-cycling simply means leaving grass clippings on your lawn after you mow. Additionally. as mulch in your garden.cleanairgardening.com/reelmowers. fungi. (link to: http://www. This adds nutrients to the soil. shredded bark. When you simply leave the grass clippings on your lawn. earthworms. You can use a variety of organic materials such as hay. The grass clippings work as a natural compost and eventually break down. prevents erosion.org/wiki/Humus) does on a forest floor. in addition to other benefits. etc.html ) 4. A manual reel-mower (link to http://www. Nothing in a forest really ever goes to waste.cleanairgardening. The leaves and dead branches that fall from trees and shrubs form a thick layer of organic material on the forest floor. You can further stimulate and support your soil by adding a dose of organic fertilizer (link to http://www.
if you grow a high diversity of species. Biodiversity and the Proper Placement of Plants Biodiversity is a concept that applies to ecologically and biology.attra. The presence of a variety of flowers including bee balm will bring more pollinating bees to your garden. (link to: http://www. squash bugs.com/accessories. it is a well known fact that if you plant a monoculture of one single crop on your farm. Thus. Nasturtiums protect squash and tomatoes from a variety of pests including aphids. For example. . Companion Planting As mentioned above. • • • • • • Marigolds will benefit pumpkins and other plants in your garden. Here is a basic list of plants that you can grow together in your garden that will benefit the garden ecosystem. Beans planted in your garden will help fix nitrogen in the soil.html) 5. an attack by diseases or pests can be catastrophic.clippings in your compost bin.html) Check out this great government website on the benefits of grass-cycling and how best to do it.phila.org/attrapub/complant.html) 6. See this website from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service for more information on companion planting: (link to: http://www. (link to: http://www. Some varieties of chrysanthemums will kill off harmful nematodes. “companion planting” can be a useful tool to help us create a more natural garden and reduce the use of chemicals in our yards and homes. Catnip keeps away aphids and other pests. it is very applicable to gardening and farming. However. and white flies.gov/streets/grass-cycling.cleanairgardening.
org/nationalwildlife/article. or do they grow among grasses and other plants? Keep in mind that insects are a valuable part of your garden community. The shade also cools the soil and provides a better environment for earthworms and other critters.nwf. These diverse habitats can attract lady bugs. take a look at some of the natural plant communities in your area. your garden will be better for it. For example. insects. grow sun loving plants where there is plenty of sun. Additionally. Your best bet is to group plants together based on the amount of sunlight . praying mantis. When thinking about how to grow a biodiverse garden. and beneficial soil organisms that are attracted to your garden. Grow shade loving plants where there is shade. Stronger plants mean that they are less susceptible to diseases and pests. Check out this website from the National Wildlife Federation for more information on biodiversity. If you grow trees and shrubs in your yard. pollinators. However. And never grow plants with radically different needs next to each other. If your encourage the presence of beneficial insects.cfm?issueID=104&articleID=1312) The more plants you and vertical layers you have in your garden. (link to: http://www. biodiversity means that you create a range of habitats for plants and insects. Do they grow alone. and certain species of wasps that kill off pests. What plants like to grow in the cool shade of trees and shrubs? What are the tallest trees in these communities? Observe the wildflowers from your region. keep in mind that you’ll need to select your plants carefully and plant them in the proper place in your yard. Placing your plants properly in your garden simply means observing what each plant needs to grow best. Why? Because a diversity of plants means a diversity of birds. the better.you’ll end up strengthening your plants’ immune systems and creating an overall healthier environment. Observe the different layers of plants and how they relate to each other. you can also grow shade loving plants.
You can minimize this problem by growing plants native to your region. Some plants can survive in soils with poor drainage. Recommended Natural Products for Organic Gardening 1.iastate. Ectomycorrhiza.cleanairgardening. others will die off quickly if the soil stays too wet for too long. Mycor Root Builder contains Endomycorrhiza.htm) 2. remember that soil is a critical factor for plants. Find out the facts before you use vinegar on your weeds. Kelp.cleanairgardening. You can use it directly on your new transplants or use a coring drill or auger to penetrate deeper into the soil for established plants. Vinegar: Some gardeners recommend vinegar as a way to naturally control weeds. harmless critters that attach themselves to plant roots and actually help plants to make use of organic chemicals in the soil. Mycor Root Builders: http://www.com/insectkiller. Check out this excellent study from Iowa State University on the use of vinegar in the garden. Natural Insecticides: http://www. Additionally. 3. However.com/mycorrhizae.weeds.html It’s a fact of life that your plants will attract pests. (Link to: http://www. while others prefer alkaline soils. These plants are typically more resistant . Scleroderma. Zeolite.edu/weednews/vinegar. vinegar has actually gotten mixed results under scientific studies.and water they need.html Mycorrhizal fungi are tiny. including turf grass. It will work on all the plants in your garden. You can stimulate the growth of Mycorrhizal fungi and get them to work more efficiently with a Mycor Root Builder. Some plants prefer acidic soils. and Humate.
slugs. However.html . flea beetles.com/batguano. aphids. 4. If it sounds like you’re going to be turning your vegetable patch into a salsa factory. mites. These products kill a variety of pests. Japanese beetles.organicgardentips. without any spicy residue. leafhoppers.com/repellent. They just need a good washing and they’re ready to eat! 5. gophers. and hedgehogs. Gardeners all over the world have found that natural citrus-based insecticides will kill off most of the pests you’re likely to see in your garden. scales. It works to repel most insects and animals such as squirrels. and adult whiteflies. The spray lightly adheres to the plants with a natural food grade wax.cleanairgardening. rose chafers. mealybugs. and therefore won’t run off when you water your plants or after a heavy rain.html ) is another solution for fighting off bugs.html Another way to keep insects and even animals out of your garden is with a Hot Pepper Wax spray. caterpillars.to pests.com/vegetable_gardening. They are generally even safe enough to use indoors if you happen to have houseplants that you’d like to treat. Bat Guano: http://www. Companion planting (link to: http://www. even with these simple techniques. Animals and insects are instantly repelled by the strong cayenne pepper oils. This is especially important if you have a lot of edible crops to protect. Hot Pepper Wax Natural Bug and Critter Spray: http://www. snails.cleanairgardening. bean beetles. including cut worms. you’re still likely to have problems with pests at some point in your gardening experience. earwigs. cabbage loopers. not to worry! You can harvest your vegetables and eat them on the same day you spray your plants. chipmunks.
Moreover. flying mammals). kitchen. you know how painful it can be! A natural fire ant killer should put an end to these pesky critters. 6. This means it’s a great place to harvest high quality bat guano. most manufacturers of bat guano products make sure not to harm any bats during the harvest.000. It wasn’t until recently that inorganic fertilizers have become popular enough for people to forget that there is a natural option that works just as well! Additionally. if you’ve ever felt the sting of a fire ant. Why bat guano? It has a high humus content and works great as a soil builder and fertilizer. is a major problem for many gardeners. fire ants can get into your compost pile. They usually follow the high standards of Bat Conservation International. You just need to apply it to each mound and wait. Farmers and gardeners have used bat guano for hundreds of years. They make big nests that can uproot turf and affect your mowing. Once they get established.html The red imported fire ant.cleanairgardening. and contain enough fire ant killer to treat a dozen or more mounds. Many natural products to kill fire ants come in a shaker. and even your electrical equipment.The Bracken Bat Cave in Texas is famous for being the cave with the highest population of bats on the planet (roughly 20.000 of these fanged.com/fireantkiller. Organic Natural Fire Ant Killer: http://www. Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). vegetable garden. so you can feel good about buying this natural garden and bat-friendly fertilizer. You can also sprinkle it in your flower beds and around the outside of your home to keep the ants from coming inside. It’s also 100% natural. These fire ant killers are a synergistic blend . which is an ideal natural fertilizer.
com/organiclawn. you many not have the energy to manually weed your garden. You can use them to quickly . 8.com/fireant.cleanairgardening.cleanairgardening. You can use a fire ant killer as step one of the Texas A&M developed Texas Two Step fire ant control method (link to http://www.html When you’ve got a serious weed problem or time constraints.html). These products will stimulate the beneficial soil organisms that live under your grass. instead of grabbing a bottle of harsh chemicals to kill off those weeds. Step two involves using a citrus-based liquid insecticide (link to: http://www. While perennial weeds may need a couple treatments. and Humate Liquid Humus. Look for products that are a combination of lawn food supplements.com/fireants.html For a nice. Organic Liquid Lawn Fertilizer: http://www.cleanairgardening. Citrus and Vinegar-Based Natural Organic Weed Killers: http://www. There are citrus and vinegar-based liquids available that you can use that will cause the weeds to wilt and die within minutes. 7. try out a natural weed killer. most annuals will be gone after the first application. Look for products with ingredients that have been approved by the FDA as food additives. However.html) that will help keep the ants from coming back. If you have grass that’s growing into your garden beds or onto your patio. so they are safe even if you have children or pets.com/weedkiller. it will also work to kill it off for easy removal. natural soil activators. try out an organic liquid lawn fertilizer. lush yard without chemicals.cleanairgardening.of natural plant oils.
By simply investing in a rain barrel and using stored rainwater to water your garden instead of water from the tap. and spray. Also.cleanairgardening. soil. chlorine.com/80gararaba. Rainwater from Rain Barrels: http://www. most garden plants typically prefer naturally “soft” rainwater.html Horticultural cornmeal is an organic way of controlling harmful soil fungi and problems with plant roots. In fact. which is also free of chemicals. 9. minerals. You don’t have to worry about over applying this product. However. it actually strengthens beneficial fungi such as Trichoderma. Horticultural Corn Meal http://www.cleanairgardening. They typically work a lot like other lawn fertilizers. if you have a pond. which will benefit all the plants in your garden. and fluoride. Simply mix the fertilizer. and all your flowerbeds. The water coming from your tap has been treated as drinking water for human consumption. you can use it to remove algae. After all. which will fight off the harmful fungi that can attack your plants. you may be familiar with these soil related fungal problems.green up your lawn. When you apply horticultural corn meal to the soil. attach it to your hose. read the instructions . Apply it directly to grass. rainwater is what plants have been thriving on for thousands of years! 10. from spring to fall.com/cornmeal. If you’ve got vegetable crops.html Water is a precious and expensive resource these days. as it will in no way harm your plants. which your plants don’t necessarily need. It also helps build up the quality of the soil. you can save money and grow happier plants.
Nick Christians' University of Iowa Corn Gluten research page (link to: http://www. Please visit Dr. it has the added benefit of helping to fertilize the soil.edu/) for more information on the benefits of corn gluten meal. 12.iastate. They promptly drown in a glass or specially designed slug and snail trap when it’s filled with beer. Beer (link to http://www. However.com/corngluten. 11.carefully on the package when you use it in your pond.cleanairgardening. as applying too much can cause oxygen depletion problems.html) Beer attracts slugs and snails. Corn Gluten Meal (link to: http://www.cleanairgardening. .html) Corn gluten meal is a natural herbicide.gluten.com/gardenslugtrap.
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