11 Steps to Successful Organic Growing

If you are planning to use herbs in medicines, cosmetics, aromatherapy or food, it makes sense to ensure they are grown organically. In addition, when working with children or other vulnerable client groups there is an added incentive for choosing organic growing, removing any potential for exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.

Projects with environmental or conservation goals will also wish to adhere to organic growing principles.

Central tenets of organic growing:

  1. The soil and growing environment are treated as a resource to be cared for and improved for future generations, rather than stripped for short-term gain.
  2. Organic gardeners are keen to providing plants with a balanced food supply by using organic composts, manures and other organic materials. This also encourages a rich, healthy community of soil dwelling creatures, such as worms.
  3. Organic gardeners choose renewable resources where possible, thereby creating a sustainable future.
  4. The organic approach aims to reduce pollution of the environment, by recycling garden, household and other wastes, rather than dumping or burning them.
  5. Organic growing combats pests and diseases without using pesticides that may prove harmful to human health and that of domestic and wild animals.
  6. Organic growing encourages and protects wildlife, by creating suitable habitats and by minimising use of harmful pesticides. A healthy wild population, in turn, helps to provide natural pest control.
  7. Organic growing creates a safe and pleasant environment in which to work and play.
  8. Organic gardeners are keen to take new scientific discoveries and ideas on board, combining them with the best traditional knowledge.
  9. Organic growing is based on good horticultural practices.
  10. Organic growing recognises the importance of genetic diversity and hence the preservation of threatened plant varieties.
  11. Organic growing takes account of the whole garden – flowers, trees, shrubs and lawns, as well fruit and vegetables.

In other words, organic gardeners treat the garden as a complete ecosystem, and also as part of a much larger environment. They realise that the best results are achieved by working in harmony with nature not against her. Here are some key factors in effective organic growing:

Healthy Soil

The most important factor in producing healthy, tasty crops is to build up the fertility of the soil. Where chemical growers use a range of laboratory chemicals to feed the plants, organic growers feed the soil with organic matter – manure, compost and other organic material. These will not only feed the soil, they will also encourage worms and other micro-organisms.

The value of worms can’t be emphasised enough. Worms live on the organic matter in your garden; they process it for you by eating it and then providing worm casts to nourish the soil. At the same time they aerate and break up the soil as they tunnel around looking for food. So if you give them plenty of organic matter to eat you’ll have numerous worms and therefore productive soil.

Jeff Stanton

Compost

Compost is invaluable to the organic grower. With a good compost, an organic gardener will not need any other fertiliser.

Any organic matter, material which was once living, will break down. The nutrients from the material are transferred to the compost and are thus recycled to use in nourishing other plants; so compost gives the grower a never-ending circular supply of all the nourishment the soil will need to grow strong and healthy vegetables. However, weed seeds and diseased plants should never be added to the compost pile.

Mulching

Mulching is an excellent way of controlling weeds and clearing ground. It works because it deprives weeds of light. Without it they cannot grow.

Mulches are placed on the surface of the soil and vary from light excluding membranes to loose shredded prunings. To ensure success it is important to use the appropriate mulch for your particular situation.

Careful Selection of Plants

Organic growers can give themselves a head start by using seeds from healthy, vigorous parent plants.

Encouraging Natural Pest Control

Many insects and other animals will eat garden pests. Creatures to encourage include: lady birds, insect-eating birds, frogs, toads, hedgehogs. This can be achieve by, for instance, providing log piles and a small pond or wetland area, to create a home for these invaluable creatures.