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Explore the world of organic gardening. Learn what makes something organic, and find out what you need to start your own organic vegetable garden.
The term “organic” describes farming and cultivation practices that enrich the soil, manage and prevent pests and disease without the use of synthetic chemicals and protect heirloom plant varieties. Organic gardeners consider the entire ecosystem as they grow their plants, working in harmony with the water supply, wildlife, insects and local community. Organic gardeners strive to enrich the soil with compost and choose plants suited to the local environment instead of exotic varieties.
Gardeners using organic practices are enthusiastic about green living and environmental protection, and many people believe that organic fruits and vegetables contain more essential nutrients than conventionally-grown produce. When you eat organically-grown food, you avoid exposure to pesticides, fertilizers, preservatives and other synthetic chemicals.
The satisfaction of growing organic fruits and vegetables in your yard includes a greater connection to the plants’ natural processes. Because you won’t be working with potentially dangerous chemicals, you can feel good about letting your kids work with you in your garden, and you don’t have to worry about your pets coming into contact with pesticides.
For a fruit or vegetable seed to be labeled “organic,” it must be approved by the USDA through a robust testing process. Look for the USDA Organic label to make sure you’re getting organic seeds.
Organic seeds are produced through green farming practices. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering can’t be used. Many people believe these practices are healthier, and they are popular with folks who are more earth-conscious. These seeds can be a little more expensive, though, because of the extra care it takes to grow organically.
If you’re going to spend the extra cash to get organic seeds, it makes sense to continue to use organic methods to grow your crops. The seeds will grow with synthetic fertilizer and non-organic soil, but you’ll enjoy the satisfaction of knowing your fruits and veggies are 100% organic. Ask your local Lowe’s associate where to find the best organic soils, fertilizers, seeds and more.
Organic gardeners work with the natural environment instead of against it, so if you are beginning an organic garden, learn about beneficial insects. Bees and other pollinators are crucial to spreading pollen in your garden. You can encourage bees in your garden by planting flowers that attract them, providing a source of shallow water for them to drink and leaving a bit of bare ground for them to make nests.
Spiders are also beneficial because they catch and eat other bugs that might eat your plants. While some beetles can be pests in the garden, others, such as lady bugs, are useful because they feed on aphids and mites.
Protect these insects by avoiding pesticides or other toxic sprays. Even organic pesticides can harm beneficial insects, so only use them when your crops are being attacked and only on specific plants. Your best option is always to hand-pick insects that are on your plants.
There are organic alternatives to fighting weeds. Be vigilant to pull weeds when they emerge to prevent them from leaving seeds. It's easier to pull weeds when it's been wet for a few days, so wait until after you water or a rainfall to make it a no-fuss process.
You can use compost or other organic mulch to keep the weeds from seeing the light of day, which will kill them. Cover the bases of your plants with a 1 to 3 inch layer of compost, which will also serve as an excellent organic fertilizer.
Research which plants will choke out weeds. If you are fighting off pigweed, for instance, growing a combination of squash and buckwheat can overtake the pigweed. Strawberries and other runners are also good at covering the ground and preventing weeds from emerging.
You can also target specific weeds with white vinegar, or look for organic alternatives at your local Lowe's Garden Center.