Just like people, plants need good quality food to be healthy. And just like people, when plants are healthy they have healthy immune systems which flight off diseases naturally, without the need for intervention. Organic gardening methods focus on building strong, healthy plants that can flurish in the most natural ways possible by giving them only what they need and none of what they don't need.
What plants need: fertilizers which contain nutrients soluble by microorganisms and in the natural percentages and amounts found only in nature, not labs.
What they don't need: synthetic fertilizers which contain salt as the inert ingredient (or carrier), are harmful to the soils beneficial microorganisms, interfere with the natural nutrient availability and uptake, and throw off the plants natural disease protection. Synthetic fertilizers and amendments also wash away into the aquifers, wasting money and polluting our ground water. Additionally, these amendments tend to be shorter-lived, requiring more frequent applications, costing you more time and money. Finally, the amounts of nutrients found in synthetic fertilizers cause plants to grow at rates that are too fast to be sustainable, creating a dangerous dependence on constant fertilizing.
The Natural Gardener, a plant nursery in Austin, Texas renowned for its promotion of organic gardening practices, recommends a 7-step guide to organic gardening. Here are the 7 steps:
- Start with Compost- Compost improves soil texture, permeability, drainage, and water-holding capacity. High quality compost also adds nutrients and beneficial microorganisms. These microbes make nutrients available to plants and can help prevent diseases.
- Use only organic fertilizers, amendments, and supplements - Studies conducted by the Texas A&M University, with the City of Austin Grow Green Program, proved that organic fertilizers outperformed others in producing better "color and density." It was proven also that organic fertilizers do not pollute our groundwater as synthetics do. Liquid Soil Amendments stimulate microbes, improve soil texture, and help remove salt and toxin build-up. Seaweed contains trace minerals and plant hormones. Drench new transplants to stimulate rooting. Foliar feed tomatoes to promote flowering and fruit set. Drench and/or foliar feed any plant to improve cold hardiness, increase heat tolerance, and help prevent diseases and pests.
- Mulch bare soil - Mulching at least 3 inches deep helps to prevent weeds, conserves moisture, regulates soil temperate, and helps prevent diseases. Avoid piling mulch onto the stems of plants.
- Choose native and well-adapted plants - Native and well-adapted plants are easier to maintain, use less water, and are less prone to disease and insect attack. Edible Walls' gardens are naturally efficient and sustainable. You don't need to limit yourself to the plants native to the area, but you should pay attention to the light, size, and water requirements.
- Water carefully - In general, it is better to water deeply and less frequently than shallowly and often.
- Control weeds organically - Most weeds grow best in poor soil. Improving soil texture and fertility and adding manure compost can thwart weeds. Also, weeds can't get a foothold if bare soil is mulched.
- Preserve beneficial organisms - Beneficial soil microorganisms, as well as visible critters like earthworms, support vigorous plant growth and can even ward off diseases. Beneficial insects and other wildlife, like ladybugs, lacewings, ground beetles, spiders, lizards, birds, wasps, and garden snakes, help to keep pest insect populations in check. Learn to identify garden allies and protect them. Do this by avoiding chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and using even organic pesticides sparingly, if at all.