What is organic gardening?
In nature, all living things eventually decompose and return their nutrients to the soil. Over time, soils become richer and deeper. Organic gardening attempts to duplicate this process by adding decomposed organic matter to soil instead of chemical fertilizers. It also avoids pesticides, which are toxic to the environment.
What is compost?
Compost is a collection of garden refuse, kitchen scraps, dried leaves, weeds, wood chips, etc. that is piled up, kept moist, and turned occasionally until it becomes a dark brown, crumbly, rich soil amendment. It improves soil’s structure and increases fertility. It is a beautiful thing.
What is mulch?
Anything that is spread over the soil can be called mulch, but we use the word to refer to the wood chips that are donated to the garden by local tree trimmers. We spread it on the pathways to keep weeds down and conserve water. It eventually decomposes and enriches the soil. Raw mulch should not be added to your garden plot because it will pull nutrients out of the soil in the first stages of decomposition. It should be composted first, and then added to your garden.
Why not use chemical fertilizers?
Most synthetic fertilizers do nothing to improve the soil. They deliver major nutrients, but lack the trace elements that plants also need. They are petroleum-based and release carbon into the air and water. Conventional agriculture using chemical fertilizers depletes soil over the long run, requiring more and more fertilizer. In contrast, organic agriculture creates richer soil over time. It also takes carbon from the atmosphere and returns it to the soil
What about bugs?
Most insects are beneficial to the soil and to your plants. When you use an insecticide, you kill all the insects, including the beneficial ones that eat the harmful ones. When the harmful insects return, there are no predators to eat them, so they flourish, requiring more and more insecticide. It is far better in the long run to live with a balance of insects, using gentler methods to control the harmful bugs. Aphids can be squirted off, or sprayed with a soap solution. B.t., a bacterial spray, will kill caterpillars and tomato worms without harming any other organisms. Sow bugs will hide under half a potato, and snails can be picked by hand when they’re active early in the morning.
Any other benefits?
Flavor! Fruits and vegetables that are grown in rich organic soil are loaded with taste and nutrients. You will taste the difference. They are also free of chemical residue. Gardening without chemicals also means less exposure to harmful substances while working in the garden, and polluting our environment less. Diverting organic waste such as wood chips and grass clippings into a compost heap keeps it out of landfills, where it would eventually produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. It’s a win-win situation, and besides, it’s practically free.