Ready to Garden? Try Organic!
Whether you weather the inevitable seasonal battles with the lawn, the garden, or both, consider the non-chemical route for a healthier environment close to home. Your loved ones, neighborhood animals and plants will thank you for it, guaranteed.
It’s no question that synthetic fertilizers give quick, tangible results with generally lower costs up front, providing plants with a chemical concoction of all the macro-nutrients they need to make them grow, and to make them grow reasonably well. Corporate science dictates synthetic pesticides work too; they are developed in laboratories to solve specific problems of pestilence that plague the homeowner and farmer. But these innovations only help on the surface, so it seems.
Imagine if, when you were a kid, you never had to work for food. You never even had to ask for it when you were hungry– a butler just found you at the same times every single day and fed you exactly what your body needed to survive, and more. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well, imagine one day, into your late teenage years, that service just stops. You go hungry, because you never learned to shop for groceries, to prepare a meal, or to feed yourself. The same is true with synthetic fertilizers, which pamper the plants they feed and make them dependent on quick release, easily available nutrients. And that could be fine, if you never plan to take them off the inorganic regiment for the remainder of their lives. The results of such feedings are shallow, weak roots and plants that are both susceptible to environmental stress, and incapable of thriving on their own. Not to mention the salt build up in the soil, which tends to have a sterilizing effect over time, and a void of beneficial microbial and fungal life that don’t get along with such conditions.
Wouldn’t it be better to make the plants work a little bit for the nutrients they take up, strengthening them in the process? Roots will reach deeper and branch out more into the healthier soil, meaning more surface area contact with available nutrients from naturally decaying organic matter. These are the results that last. Your soil is an investment– you should always be adding quality to it in the form of structure and nutrients. Your reward, you ask? Better yields for sure, a more diverse guild of pollinators to help your plants breed for generations to come and a rich soil that teems with beneficial life.
So instead of buying bags labeled “Ammonical Nitrogen,” and “Super Phosphate,” try compost, earthworm castings, bat guano, cottonseed, alfalfa, blood, and bone meals, and the like. You’ll be building up colonies of “good bugs” and enhancing plants’ natural abilities to ward off the not-so-good ones.
The same natural philosophy goes with pesticides, a term that includes both herbicides and insecticides. Every year, a multitude of new toxic chemicals is released onto the shelves to kill the baddest bugs around, but what they are actually doing is perpetuating the cycle of making bad bugs even badder. Let us explain. Many chemicals are so short-lived in retail because “pests” (i.e. weeds and bugs) develop resistances to their ubiquitous use via natural selection (the chemical kills the pests it was intended to, except for the mutant variations, which go on to reproduce and make many more pests, now genetically resistant to the original chemical). What happens as a result is an arms race of sorts, where scientists try and keep up with the evolution of pests they themselves have created and are continuing to create.
But that’s just the way it is, you say. It’s been going on for so long, what can I do about it?
We can change, and it’s about time we did. We, as homeowners and farmers, got lost somewhere along the way in a deluge of chemicals and convenience, all bottled up and marketed to the American homeowner for a quick fix with minimal effort. Think twice before falling for it. Could the people who push these chemicals be in it for simple capital gain? Do they care about the cumulative effects of their compounds on soil and groundwater, their harboring of super pests?
Yes, it’s time for a change, and that may require a change in the way you think about maintaining your growing spaces.
Consider this, for example: are dandelions all that bad? They are one of the best food sources for pollinators, and actually healthy if harvested for consumption. But, if you really can’t stand them popping up around the yard, try pulling the ones you see and apply corn gluten to the rest of the lawn to prevent the next round’s seeds from germinating. How about re-thinking grass, America’s most irrigated crop? Imagine replacing a portion of the grass with raised beds to grow your own food.
To inspire change in others, start with you. Start with your own lawn and garden. Join the burgeoning movement of natural and organic growers, and you’ll be happy you did. You’ll see results as good or better than synthetic options, and the type of results that last.