By Jane Milliman
Intimidated by the idea of organic gardening? Don’t be. Look back in history. Just a short time ago, all gardening was organic. “Organic” simply means “coming from living things.”
In modern times we have stretched that definition to include minerals such as vermiculite or perlite. But the gist is organic gardeners don’t use artificial chemicals. The results can be just as good as or better than with traditional methods. Just look at this bouquet of organically grown flowers I picked up last month at our local public market.
One of the tenets of organic gardening is tolerance. A plant may not look exactly perfect. It may have been nibbled by a hungry caterpillar or even a slug. But by not spraying it with artificial pesticides, you have made it more inviting for good bugs. By the way, if you have problems with slugs or snails, try circling the plant with diatomaceous earth or a copper ring, or baiting the creatures with a shallow saucer of beer.
Speaking of good bugs, one of the best ways to attract them is to grow companion plants such as Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota), a close relative of the carrot. The Queen Anne’s lace acts as a host for the green lacewing, which feasts on any aphids it finds.
Good soil is the foundation of a healthy organic garden. Along with adding soil amendments, such as compost, consider an occasional cover crop. A cover crop is sown on a plot that would otherwise go unused because of the season (think winter wheat) or because you let the plot rest. When the crop completes its life cycle, you till it into the soil, adding organic matter. Clover, popular with farmers, “fixes” nitrogen in the soil; the nitrogen is available to whatever you plant next.
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