Organic Gardening

organic gardeningThe most basic definition of organic gardening is avoiding the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and replace them with organic gardening fertilizer, organic insect control and organic weed control.

The theory and practice of organic gardening encompasses far more than that simple concept, however.

Growing flowers, food, and landscapes organically represents a devotion to a sustainable way of living in harmony with nature.

For many, organic gardening is a way of life.

The way we use or misuse the earth, air, and water affects the health and habitats of animals, birds, insects, plants, and humans.

Organic gardening is a kind of stewardship of the land which adopts techniques that are designed to improve the health and fertility of the soil, minimize erosion, adopt an organic garden pest control posture, and reduce the proliferation of diseases with natural biological processes.

It encourages plant and animal diversity in the landscape. It requires an understanding of one’s environment and the role the garden will play in it.

Understanding the role of the garden in the ecosystem begins with carefully observing the natural environment by watching weather patterns and taking note of periodic events such as frosts, bird migration, and insect emergence. This practice allows the organic gardener to select the most appropriate means of cultivating the vegetables and flowers in their garden. Organic gardening relies heavily on preventative means of mitigating soil loss and weed and pest control, and these measures are grounded in a thorough understanding of environmental cues.

Plants and animals live in ecosystems, which include all the living and nonliving factors in an environment. Ecosystems that are in balance allow each plant and animal to occupy an environmental niche that interacts with the others in a healthy manner. A balanced ecosystem is reliant on healthy interactions between all its parts; if one part becomes too scarce, the other plants and animals that are reliant on it fall out of balance as well, often in a domino effect. For example, if honeybees disappeared, pollination of flowering plants would largely cease, and those plants wouldn’t be able to produce seeds. If predators, such as ladybugs, become too scarce, the prey they feed on – aphids – would overwhelm the plants that they in turn feed on, severely threatening the health of the entire ecosystem.

Nonliving factors such as sunlight, water, and soil nutrients are important to ecosystem health as well. If any one of these factors falls out of balance – for example, through flooding or drought, or if nutrients are leached from the soil – it will have profound effects on the health of the system. Taking from the soil without replacing what is lost effects nutrient levels and can cause erosion, which will cause a decline in the overall health of the local ecosystem.

In this guide, filled with organic gardening information, I begin by discussing the basics of organic gardening, and explain design of the garden and how to build healthy soil. I then talk about how to plan the garden and the importance of promoting biodiversity within it. Next I discuss how to plant the garden in a sustainable way, and finish with a section on organic garden maintenance.

1. The Basics of Organic Gardening

the basics of organic gardeningLike any successful garden, a sustainable organic garden is rooted in two areas: careful design and building healthy soil. An organic garden can be ornamental plants and flowers only, edible fruits and vegetables only, or a dynamic mixture of the two. Regardless, it should be designed with an appreciation of the ecosystem it resides in and an understanding of how it will enhance and improve it. But it should also be functionally efficient, so that once it’s established, it isn’t unduly difficult to maintain. Sustainability is as much about the gardener’s abilities and limitations as it is about the garden’s diversity and health. Finally, its design should be aesthetically pleasing in terms of spatial juxtaposition of individual plants and the overall flow of the garden.

Establishing healthy soil when the garden is first planted will help ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the garden. Soil quality is one of the most important aspects of the garden, and building a nutrient-rich, balanced soil will keep the plants happy and healthy without synthetic fertilizers.

1a. Designing the Organic Garden

Garden design is a twofold process: it combines form and function to create spaces that are both useful and attractive. Design has much more to do with space, and how it is arranged for us to interact with it, than it does with individual plants. Organic design involves the basic principle of gardening where you are. This means that the garden should be at home in its environment. Take time to learn about the natural history of the area you will be organic gardening in. Learn what plants are native and which exotic plants are invasive. Local libraries, horticultural societies, and botanic gardens all have useful resources for this.

Functionally speaking, there are some basic considerations for the design of a garden. The daily sunlight the garden receives will influence what can be planted there. Some areas of the garden may receive more sun than others. The garden should be located near a water source. The grade of the land needs to be considered: is it on a steep hill? Are there hillocks or basins? If so, the garden design should attempt to incorporate these features.

An important functional aspect of garden design is the size of individual beds. Beds should not be so wide that you cannot reach the center without stepping on the soil, unless you intend to plant ornamentals that don’t require a great deal of weeding, such as a mix of native wildflower seeds. This is especially true for vegetable beds: they should be easily reached for pruning, weeding, and harvesting.

There are a number of aesthetic considerations that go into the design of the garden. The garden should have clear boundaries that are defined either with fences or low plantings. It should have clear points of entrance and egress. The entry, whether a trellis in the fence or simply an opening between beds, should be welcoming without revealing the whole garden at once. The garden should have a sense of flow: paths, either well-defined or suggested, move through the garden to lead the eye and feet to seating areas or individual beds. Finally, it has a sense of place: in organic gardens, this means it reflects the local habitat by incorporating native plants and their relationships.

It is helpful to consider the possibilities of the space available to you on paper, especially when it is drawn to scale. This allows you to imagine beds in a number of different arrangements before you ever pick up your spade. The best ideas from various brainstorming sessions can be incorporated into a final design. It may be best to start small, with only two or three beds, and gradually grow the garden to fill the space over several years. A garden is a dynamic thing, and this can be used to your advantage. Be creative, and avoid overextending yourself.

1b. Building Healthy Organic Gardening Soil

Organic soil is a dynamic and complex ecosystem in its own right, containing microorganisms, insects and worms, all of whom contribute to the health of the garden. Creating a sustainable organic garden begins with building healthy organic soil in which these organisms can thrive. It is also important to build soil that is rich with nutrients essential to plants’ growth, and to garden in a manner that prevents the loss of these nutrients.

Soil is made up of clay, silt, and sand particles, which differ in size and shape. Loam, the ideal mixture of these particles, consists of approximately 40 percent sand, 40 percent silt, and 20 percent clay, as well as a healthy amount of decomposed organic matter – compost, humus, or manure. The importance of ensuring healthy soil quality in the organic garden cannot be overstressed. There are two major steps to doing this: testing the soil, and building it up.

1c. Steps for Soil Testing

For many years, the soil and the land have been misused by humans. As a result of this, vital nutrients have been leached from the soil, and often the lack of nutrients has been mitigated with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The result is a dead soil that in some cases is polluted with synthetic and chemical products. An organic garden will have healthy nutrient quantities, plenty of earthworms, and be free of pollutants. The first step in achieving this is testing the soil.

A home kit that provides a pH reading and estimation of the primary nutrients in the soil can be obtained at most garden centers or ordered online, and they vary in their complexity and expense. More elaborate tests cost more, but will provide more accurate results. If the pH of the garden is to acidic (low), raise it by adding lime to the garden. Till lime into the soil and add a sprinkling to the top as well.

You can also send a soil sample to a lab for testing. These laboratories can be found online, and most offer comprehensive nutrient and pH reports for around ten dollars. Lab reports also offer specific recommendations for soil improvement. For an additional cost, many labs can provide a report on pollutants in the soil – a key measure for gardens that want to be certified organic. Contaminated soil can be made whole by planting cover crops and ornamentals that draw pollutants from the soil, a process that takes years. Alternately contaminated soil can be replaced with organic soil and compost, but this can be labor-intensive.

The earthworm population in the soil can be assessed by digging a section of ground about 12 inches (30 cm) on each side and six inches (15 cm) deep, and slowly sift it into a bucket or wheelbarrow. Count the number of earthworms found: healthy soil should have between six and ten medium sized earthworms at minimum. Earthworms are essential to aerating the soil, and also produce castings, which enrich the nutrients of the soil. A lot of big, healthy looking earthworms in the soil is a good indicator about the overall health of the garden.

1d. Creating a healthy “floor

The organic bed should be built from below the ground up in order to create a robust, healthy soil structure. This is accomplished primarily by adding organic matter in a process called double digging. Dig a trench about a foot (15 cm) wide and deep that runs the length of the garden bed. Then, using a garden fork, break up and aerate the deeper layer to a depth of twelve inches (15 cm) more, and work compost and manure into it. Dig a second trench next to the first, filling in the first trench with the soil from the second, and till that one the same way. Repeat until the entire bed has been double dug, filling in the last trench with the soil from the first. Take care not to walk on the double-dug areas, as this will compact the soil.

The upper layers of the organic garden bed should have a structure that resembles a deciduous forest floor. Forest floors are covered in layers of detritus – decaying organic plant matter – which constantly replenish nutrients to the soil and will help retain water and minimize weeds in the organic garden.

The top 2 – 4 inches (2.5 – 5 cm) of the natural floor are made up of mulch: large pieces of dead plant matter and manure. Beneath this are 1 – 2 inches (1.25 – 2.5 cm) of humus or compost. Below that is the loam that makes up the majority of the garden bed. After double digging the bed, spread a layer of humus or compost followed by a layer of mulch mixed with manure.

If you haven’t already, start a compost bin in your garden. Continually composting will provide you with healthy organic matter to add to your beds year round. The compost bin should be about a 2-to-1 ratio of green matter (kitchen scraps, lawn clippings) to brown matter (plant detritus such as fallen leaves, pruned woody material). The compost must be mixed regularly. You can purchase a bin at garden centers, or build your own with chicken wire and wooden stakes.

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2. Planning the Organic Garden

planning the organic gardenAfter designing the garden and establishing healthy organic beds, the next step is planning what to plant. You may choose to go with all ornamental flowers, all vegetables, or a combination of the two. Whichever you choose, it is important for several reasons to plant them in a dynamic mixture. It’s also important to incorporate a number of native plants into the assortment you choose. In this section, I examine the importance of biodiversity in the organic garden, and discuss the benefits of including a number of different kinds of plants.

2a. The importance of biodiversity

Biodiversity refers to the variety of organisms on the entire Earth and in local environments, as well as the genetic variation between individuals or populations within a species. A species’ evolution is dependent on this variation, as are ecosystems’ sustainability. The farm or garden is a small ecosystem in its own right, and is therefore dependent on biodiversity. Before the Green Revolution of the 1950s, most farms were small operations that grew a mix of crops, which were typically rotated to ensure the health of the soil: many of these farms were essentially organic operations.

After diesel-powered farm combines and tractors were invented, along with crops bred for intensive farming and the development of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, this changed. The typical farm today is an operation that grows only one or two kinds of crops – a process called monoculture. In order to remain viable, these farms are increasingly reliant on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, because of a lack of biodiversity that would otherwise sustain and protect their crops. The result is increasing runoff of chemicals into water tables and rivers, with detrimental consequences for whole regions.

Another casualty of this kind of agriculture is the loss of heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables from what were once dozens or even hundreds of each kind to only a few. Seed saving is an important part of maintaining biodiversity: once a strain goes extinct and all seeds are gone, it is lost forever. This is unfortunate for our own enjoyment of fruit and vegetables, but also reduces genetic diversity within species, resulting in plants that are increasingly dependent on humans for survival, and less likely to adapt to environmental or climate changes.

The maintenance of biodiversity in the organic garden is therefore important not only to the health of the individual garden but of the entire ecosystem. Biodiversity is an important part of the philosophy of stewardship. You can encourage biodiversity by planting a dynamic assortment of the following plants.

2b. Ornamentals

You may choose to plant only ornamental plants in your garden, or establish certain beds that are only for ornamentals. It can be useful to plant hardy ornamentals in areas where the soil is contaminated with chemical pollutants that you do not wish to risk consuming. This process is called “phytoremediation.” Showy phytoremediators include sunflowers and thrifts; for a more subdued aesthetic, plant blue fescue or pennycress. Phytoremediation is limited to the depth reached by the plants’ roots, does not prevent pollutants from leaching into groundwater, and takes years, but it is an inexpensive, natural means of restoring soil.

Ornamentals are one of two good areas in which to find native plants that can help incorporate the organic garden into the regional ecosystem. Depending on the region in which you’re organic gardening, they can run the gamut from hardy succulents to ornamental grasses, with any number of flowering plants in between. Native ornamentals will be beneficial to native plants and animals that have evolved to consume them or use them for cover or as host plants for larva. Their addition to the garden will encourage native butterfly caterpillars to build cocoons in the garden, and will attract local pollinators and migratory and nesting birds. All of these visitors will add to the enjoyment the garden provides as Ill as enhance the local environment. Finally, the proliferation of native plants will to some extent slow the spread of invasive exotics. Many invasive exotics in the American South (such as kudzu), were originally introduced as garden ornamentals. Organic gardens should avoid plants like this in favor of native ornamentals.

2c. Fruits & Vegetables

Organic fruit gardening and organic vegetable gardening can be successfully achieved, particularly if the garden follows the keys of double digging, planting raised beds, companion planting, and intensive spacing. Organic vegetable beds should be double dug as described in the above section on creating a healthy “floor.” Most vegetables should be planted in beds that receive eight to twelve hours of full sun per day.

If you use my organic gardening tips to start vegetable garden the right way, vegetables will benefit considerably from being planted in raised beds. Add eight to twelve inches (20 – 30 cm) of healthy soil to the top of beds in order to give vegetable roots plenty of room to grow. Raised beds can simply be raked and mounded in between footpaths, or be more permanently established by building wooden planters or squaring the beds off with cinderblock walls.

Companion planting is important to consider when planting vegetables organically. Companion planting is the practice of planting complimentary plants in proximity with one another. Plants may be complimentary for a variety of reasons. For example, marigolds and nasturtiums can be an effective organic pest deterrent, and should be planted near vegetables and greens to draw aphids and caterpillars away from them. This process is called “trap planting.Beans, which host nitrogen-fixing bacteria near their roots, are complimentary to a variety of vegetables that draw nitrogen from the soil, such as corn, spinach, and carrots. The corn in turn can provide a natural trellis for the beans. Growing tomatoes and basil in proximity can increase tomato yields. Companion planting guides are available online and should be consulted when planting organic vegetable beds.

Vegetables should be spaced so that when they are fully grown their leaves just brush against one another. This practice creates natural mulch that limits weed growth and retains moisture in the soil. This will reduce the amount of maintenance and watering the garden needs.

2d. Herbs

Herbs have been grown for centuries for their culinary and medicinal uses, but more recently they have also become popular for landscaping. Most herbs are fairly hardy and drought tolerant, will grow in almost any well-drained soil, and provide color, texture, fragrance, and flavor. They can also help with pest control and are wonderful companion plants for vegetables and ornamentals.

There is a wide variety of herbs, such as bushy plants like salvia, lavender, and rosemary; ground covers like oregano, lamb’s ear, and pennyroyal mint; lovely flowering varieties like yarrow and Texas tarragon, and even trees like gingko and redbud.

Herbs should be planted in the organic garden with considerations for their aesthetic qualities, their complimentary function for other vegetables, and their use in the kitchen. They will generally do best in well-drained beds made up of a mix of compost and native soil. The best location for herbs is one that receives full sun in the morning and some protection from the hot afternoon sun.

2e. Wildflowers

Wildflowers are also becoming more popular in private gardens, and they are a welcome addition to the organic garden. Wildflowers add vibrant color to the garden and attract native pollinators such as birds, bees, and butterflies. They are generally hardy and fairly easy to grow, but care should be taken to properly plant them.

Wildflower seeds can be planted in late fall or early spring. Planting in the fall mimics the natural process of dropping seed, and will result in an earlier bloom for the garden. They should be planted after the first frost, roughly around the same time as tulip bulbs would be planted. Spring planting has the advantage of allowing the gardener to prepare the bed and remove any weeds before sowing seed.

Soil should be gently raked to a depth of one inch (2.5 cm) and the seeds should be sown in a broadcast fashion. The soil should then be generously watered to encourage germination. Once they are established they do not require very frequent watering.

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3. Planting the Organic Garden

planting the organic gardenThe success of an organic garden is largely influenced by how carefully it is planted. Once it has been designed with an eye to form and function, and you have determined what you wish to plant, the next step is to establish the beds and begin planting.

3a. Timing

Depending on what you are going to be growing, and what season you are starting your project in, you may wish to take certain timing aspects into consideration. When possible, it can be useful to begin establishing the garden beds in the fall, in order to lessen the workload in the spring. Laying out and digging beds in the fall will also allow you to plant bulbs, if you are growing any; planting crocuses, tulips, and other bulbs that begin in early spring will extend the life of the garden and allow its character to evolve throughout the growing season.

You may also consider starting certain plants indoors eight to twelve weeks before the last frost. Starting vegetables and certain ornamentals indoors has several benefits. It extends the life of the garden, and helps ornamentals flower sooner – and, if cut back properly, more frequently – and allows vegetables to begin producing sooner. Furthermore planting established seedlings will ensure a higher probability of success.

3b. Drainage considerations

Compacted soil will cause poor drainage, result in waterlogged soil in some cases, and cause poor percolation and lack of water reaching the root system in other cases. Healthy soil should be loose and rich in beneficial microorganisms and organic matter. It drains well but retains moisture for extended periods of time. When soil becomes compacted, the air spaces between the particles are so small that very little water can be retained for use by plant roots.

Poor drainage results in a lack of oxygen in the soil. Water pushes oxygen out, and when roots do not have adequate levels of oxygen, root respiration will slow or stop, and therefore cell growth in the roots stops as well. Acids and hydrogen sulfide will build up in the anaerobic conditions that result, and roots can die. The damage to root systems will typically manifest itself in foliage as wilt, die-back, disease, and pest problems.

Soil compaction is best prevented by thoroughly double digging the beds before planting. It is important that after you have double dug the beds, you do not walk or kneel on them, as doing so repeatedly will compact the soil over time. Periodically tilling compost and other organic matter into the upper layers of the soil will also improve soil compaction and drainage by increasing the microorganism population and activity. Intercropping plants with deep root systems among plants with shallow root systems will also help somewhat to keep the soil from compacting at lower layers.

Ensuring a healthy level of earthworms is also important to maintaining good soil drainage. You can sample the earthworm population as described in the section on the basics of organic gardening. If it seems there is a lack of earthworms in the soil, add more. Nightcrawlers are best for deeper layers of soil (below 12 inches/30 cm) and red wigglers are best for layers above that. They can be acquired online or purchased at sporting goods stores and bait shops. If you find that certain beds are rich in worms and others are lacking, move some from one to the other.

3c. Raised Beds

As I mentioned earlier, I highly recommend constructing raised beds in your garden. Not only are they an attractive method of defining the garden’s footpaths and structure, they also increase the volume of soil available to root systems. If you are growing vegetables and the existing topsoil in your lot is contaminated, raised beds allow you to establish an organic soil structure above the ground, thus circumventing labor-intensive and costly soil remediation procedures.

The simplest means of constructing a raised bed is accomplished by mounding soil in rows 8 inches (20 cm) high and up to 3 feet (1m) wide. If done along with double digging, this will achieve beds of about 18 inches (45 cm) of loosened soil. This technique is recommended if the topsoil is not contaminated.

Beds can be built in planters constructed from a variety of materials. A raised bed of 18 inches may be built by stacking concrete blocks in walls that are two blocks high to create a simple box, and then filling it with layers of compost and soil. A more permanent planter can be built from wooden planks that are 12 inches (30 cm) wide and screwed together at the corners. They can be reinforced with corner supports staked into the ground and screwed into the corners as well. The topsoil should be double dug to a depth of one foot (30 cm) and the planter filled with a mix of topsoil and compost. This raised bed will be very healthy and extremely productive, and is recommended especially for organic vegetable beds.

3d. Vegetable planting

The majority of vegetables benefit from being started indoors and planted as seedlings, and I highly recommend this technique. Seedlings will enjoy a higher probability of success after planting, and the gardener will know immediately which seedlings are his own and which are weeds establishing an early foothold. Vegetables that are started indoors will produce edible produce sooner in the season, often allowing the garden to yield a late bumper crop.

Most fruiting vegetables should be planted in an area that receives full sun for at least eight hours a day, although certain cold season and root vegetables, such as lettuce, radishes, and carrots will tolerate shade. Vegetables require deep, raised beds and should be watered early in the morning or late in the afternoon, as water droplets on foliage during midday can concentrate the sun’s rays and result in burned leaves.

Vegetables benefit from being irregularly planted with complementary plants (see companion planting in the Planning section). Staggering the vegetables among one another will also mitigate the spread of disease and pests.

3e. Ground cover and ornamental planting

Ground cover plants can be an attractive, low-maintenance landscaping alternative, and if planted with care, will thrive when left to their own devices. The first step to successfully planting ground cover is determining which plants do best in the available conditions. Certain hardy ground covers prefer full sun and do not mind drought conditions, whereas others require indirect sun or shade and need occasional watering. Ground cover plants can be classified as either creeping or clumping spreaders. Creepers will spread via rhizomes to cover an area fairly quickly, while clumping spreaders will gradually increase in size and spread mainly in the spring. Ground cover that spreads via rhizomes will need to be planted as seedlings. Consider what you want out of ground cover and the conditions where it will be planted when deciding what to plant.

Ornamentals will have a wide variety of needs when planting, depending on whether they are perennials or annuals, bulbs or corms, and single stalks or bushier varieties. Certain annuals do best when planted as seedlings; bulbs thrive when planted in the fall; wildflowers may be planted as seeds. Likewise ornamentals have a broad range of conditions and requirements. Consult with your garden center or a more extensive guide on planting ornamentals when determining what to plant where.

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4. Maintenance: Weeds and Pests

organic maintenance weeds and pestsThe single area that separates organic gardening methods from non-organic methods is that of maintenance. Non-organic methods rely heavily on synthetic and chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides to maintain the garden. These methods not only introduce pollutants to the environment, they also decrease the health of the soil and weaken the health of the garden and adaptability of the plants in it. Chemical insecticides typically do not (and cannot) discriminate between beneficial and harmful insects, and the same is true for synthetic weed killers. The use of chemicals in the garden results in an unsustainable garden that is out of harmony with the local ecosystem.

4a. Weeds

No gardener should need synthetic herbicides to keep weeds at bay. Although not every weed can ever be completely eradicated, there are steps that can reduce their spread and lessen the amount of time spent pulling them. The best way to keep weeds down is to surround your plants with a deep layer of healthy mulch. This will inhibit sunlight from reaching weeds and prevent them from establishing seedlings. Any seedlings that do make it through the mulch should be pulled immediately. When pulling weeds, be sure to get the entire root as well as the stalk, as most weeds have adapted to simply having the stalk removed due to millennia of grazing.

Intensive planting will also act as a tiered mulching system. Plant vegetables and ornamentals so that when they are fully grown, their leaves will brush against each other, further shading the ground and preventing sunlight from reaching weeds.

4b. Pests

There is a battery of organic techniques that can be mustered to prevent and eradicate insects. Insects typically will keep one another in check in a balanced ecosystem, and this is the end result the organic garden seeks to achieve. Even the harmful insects, in low concentrations, help to keep the balance by attacking weakened or stressed plants, assisting in the survival of the fittest. Heavy infestations of harmful bugs can be controlled by two main techniques: organic insecticides and repellents, and predatory insects.

Organic insecticides should be used as a last resort, as even they cannot discriminate between “good” and “bad” insects. They should be chosen depending on what is infesting your plants. Soap and water can be used to control aphids, spider mites, and other small pests. Tougher pests like beetles and caterpillars can be controlled with pyrethrum, rotenone, and other horticultural oils. Garlic spray and cayenne pepper spray act as mild repellents to insects as well as mammalian herbivores.

Diatomaceous earth is available at garden centers, and it consists of the remains of ancient phytoplankton. Although it appears to be dust to the naked eye, it is in fact composed of thousands of razor-sharp diatom remains. The sharp edges lacerate insects’ exoskeletons and dry out their body fluids, causing them to dry from dehydration. Be sure to wear a dust mask when applying diatomaceous earth to the garden. To reiterate, like any insecticide it is nonselective, and will kill beneficial insects as well as pests.

The insects that act as the organic gardener’s local police force should be protected and replenished when necessary. The organic garden should provide conditions that attract and sustain these predators, but a newly established garden may require their introduction. These beneficial insects include ladybugs, lacewings, praying mantises, spiders, dragonflies, and damselflies. Many of them can be acquired from online providers, and are generally inexpensive.

Spring is the very best time to release beneficial insects, as it is the time when seedlings are most vulnerable to aphids and other pests. Aphids are best controlled by ladybugs, which are available from retailers by the thousand. Read reviews about retailers to make sure you are buying from a trusted provider. Ladybugs should be released directly onto plants at dusk.

Green lacewings control a wide variety of pests, including aphids, thrips, spider mites, and caterpillars. They can be purchased as eggs or larvae, and should be released during the cooler part of the day, preferably at dusk. The larvae are voracious predators. Lacewings should be released several times during the growing season to establish a natural population.

Every garden should have at least one or two praying mantises patrolling it. These beautiful creatures will eat any insect they come across, and especially like to feed on caterpillars, beetles, and grasshoppers. Praying mantis egg cases can be purchased online; they should be placed in the garden at dusk to hatch when ready.

With a balanced regiment of top predators policing the garden, you should not need to apply insecticides, natural or otherwise, to your beds. Ideally, they will multiply to spread throughout the local ecosystem as well, improving the organic quality of the environment around it.

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5. Final Word

organic gardeningI hope this guide proved enjoyable and instructive for your questions surrounding organic gardening. It is important to remember that there are no hard and fast rules surrounding organic gardening. Instead, organic gardening is a group of techniques that grow out of a larger philosophy about our place on the Earth and our responsibility to it. Organic gardening celebrates the development of a respect and appreciation for the ecosystems we inhabit, and attempts to incorporate that into a lifelong practice of sustainability in all aspects of our lives, and especially in our gardens.

By understanding and appreciating the natural dynamics and native flora and fauna in the ecosystem a garden inhabits, we are able to incorporate the garden into its environment, which is beneficial to the success of the garden, our own health and well-being, and the Earth. A garden that is seamlessly placed in its environment will be more aesthetically pleasing, easier to maintain, and more productive. This is the kind of garden we should strive to create, as well as the kind of life we should strive to live. If our own lives are likewise incorporated into the natural world, we will better practice and celebrate sustainability on a daily basis… And following my organic gardening tips is one step to do just that!