Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Organic Principles

Organic fruit and vegetable gardens contain no disruptive chemicals or artificial fertilisers. The purely organic soil supports a host of important micro and macro-organisms such as worms that are all doing their bit to aerate, condition and fertilise. Good soil is balanced and seething with life, but how do you fertilise organic plants? The answer is don’t feed the plants, feed the soil so the plants can take up nutrients as they require them. Home-made compost is the gentlest and best of all the fertilisers. Other types such as mushroom compost are also excellent for enriching and conditioning the soil. You can also use any type of well-rotted animal manure. Manure is composed primarily of organic matter but also has some vital nutrients. Blood and bone is fantastic because it is slow release and full of valuable minerals. First add manure to the soil surface, spread it out and cover it with compost. The more variety you add the better, so sprinkle some blood and bone on top, lightly mix it in to the other materials and cover it all with straw to speed up decomposition. This treatment acts like a mini-compost heap releasing nutrients slowly into the soil and keeping in moisture at the same time. Nothing goes to waste in an organic garden because all the debris is recycled back into the soil via compost.

Organic gardens control pests and diseases in a number of ways. A good method is to employ crop rotation, which means cycling plants to a new bed every year, such that they are never in the same bed for 2 years running. Companion planting is another good method because these plants grow well together and protect one another. A good example is planting carrots, black salsify and members of the onion family alongside one another. Their different smells, colours and shapes confuse and deter insects. The same is true for sweetcorn, pumpkins, cucumbers and squash. Organic gardens are not free of pests, in fact they are full of them, but because no chemicals have been used, they are also full of predators which control pest numbers. Organic gardeners avoid using sprays by removing pest-infected fruit or shoots. For example, by removing young apples that were infected with coddling moth, the number of moths was lower the next year and fruit yield much greater.

There are many different types of organic gardens, not just fruit and vegetable but ornamentals as well. The plants in organic ornamental gardens have been nourished with rich organic matter and are therefore vigorous and healthy because they are strong enough to cope with and deter pests. Remember that organic gardening is not always easy or pretty, pests often nibble things but you will be better off for it in the long run. For example, Pete shows us a cabbage whose outer leaves have been chewed, but inside is a perfect cabbage that is very healthy because it has never been sprayed.

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