Healthy Soil = Healthy Plants Right Plant - Right Place
How does Organic Gardening differ from Conventional Gardening? Organic gardening feeds the soil. Traditional relies solely on chemicals. Traditional gardening uses chemical fertilizers produced with inorganic salts and recycled industrial waste products. This approach deadens the soil, killing the beneficial microbes (Mycorrhizae). The plants are then dependent upon receiving the fertilizers as it sole means of capturing nutrients. Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungus that lives on the roots helping the plant break down nutrients in a symbiotic relationship. 90% of terrestrial plants use mycorrhizae- exceptions aquatic plants, epiphytes and orchids. Below are the 6 steps to a Natural Garden!
1. Healthy Soil = Healthy Plants
Fertilizer 101 “NPK” The 3 main macro-nutrient sources Nitrogen – Phosphorus – Potassium
Nitrogen – The most used nutrient, stimulates vegetative growth. Involved with protein metabolism, chlorophyll production and genetic material regulation. Nitrogen is made my soil microbes and added from sources like manures. Deficiency: yellow leaves, stunted new growth.
Phosphorus- Important for flower, seed, root and fruit growth. Essential for membrane formation, genetic material and energy exchange. Works best in soil PH 6-7. Deficiency: Red/purple leaves, stunted growth, burned tips on new growth. Excess restricts Zinc, Manganese & Iron
Potassium- Improves plants overall vigor and disease resistance. Encourages root growth and fruit quality. Used for many cellular processes and regulates absorption of Calcium, Sodium and Nitrogen. Helps promote strong roots to grow into compacted soils. Deficiency: marginal chlorosis starting from bottom leaves progressing upwards. Excess blocks Magnesium and Boron absorption.
Other Micronutrients- Boron, Calcium, Chlorine, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Magnesium, Sulfur, Zinc
NPK number should add up to about 15-20 to be considered “organic”. The larger the numbers, the faster it is released into the soil while lower numbers stays in the soil longer.
Mulching Helps plants by choking out weeds, retain moisture and provides winter protection for plant roots. Avoid using plastic underneath mulch-instead use a breathable weed barrier material. Best mulch- compost, cocoa shells or other organic leafy material/hay. Bark robs the soil of nutrients.
Composting Make your own or buy commercially bagged or in bulk. Takes a long time to make your own. Try a “worm bin”. Use a container to house earthworms, feed kitchen scraps and use the castings.
Watering Proper watering is crucial! Longer deeper drinks make longer stronger root systems. Container plants need more water especially during hot, sunny weather.
2. Right Plant = Right Place Plant Types, Zones, Plant Tags
Read Plant tags and research before planting. Hardy Plants- can survive our winters. Tender or Tropical Plants- needs winter protection or treat as an annual. Annual=One Season; Perennial=more than 2 seasons
3. Create Balanced Ecosystem
Companion Planting Has intrigued humans for thousands of years. The idea that plants assist each other to grow well, help repel insects, and are a benefit to each other.
- Mixed plantings vs monoculture give better insect and weed control.
- Many types of groups of companions. Best to look up what grows better with what.
4. Attract Beneficials-Repel Pests
Beneficial Insects Use “hardy” insects for your area. Be cautious of chemical sprays that can harm your beneficial’s. Release them according to the directions.
- Lady Bugs- cute and most popular. They eat soft body insects and mites.
- Green Lacewings- pretty bug. Eats soft bodied insects and mites. More reliable than lady bugs.
- Nematodes- soil scavengers eat bad nematodes and larvae
Help, My Plant is Sick! What to do when you are having problems…..Determine if is:
1.Environmental- lack of water, mulch, compost or chemical burn, wrong plant wrong place, PH/soil problems.
2.Nutrient Deficiency- stunted growth, leaf chlorosis, poor flower/fruit production
3.Pests / Disease- pests on plants, chewed or holes in leaves, mold/mildew/spots on leaves.
4.Diagnosis Problem- take a sample to a local nursery, extension service, experienced Horticulturist to help with diagnosis of the problem.
5.Treat Condition- Use appropriate treatment, follow direction, wear protection.
6.Use Pesticides Sparingly- Use least toxic method first, use stronger only if needed.
6. Think Twice Before Applying
Pesticides 101 Always use the least toxic remedy first. Then try more extreme methods. Use “Caution” marked products vs “Danger” or “Warning”. Use proper protective safety gear. Avoid spraying on windy days. Avoid all bodies of water (fish and pond life sensitive to chemicals). Read the directions before applying!
- Use homemade remedies, Right Plant Right Place Rule, Companion Planting & Beneficial Insects
- Many Pesticides-according to numerous studies- can cause many negative health issues, birth defects, cancer, nervous system issues & toxicity overload to name a few.