Here at Gardening Know How we get lots of questions, and our goal is to provide answers to those inquiries to the best of our knowledge. Organic gardens are popular these days and the topic of many inquiries. Whether it pertains to growing a particular plant, getting rid of weeds or even how to keep pests out of the garden, we are here to help. Below you will find 10 of the most commonly asked questions about organic gardening practices.
While things like fertilizer and pesticides need to be taken into consideration with organic gardening, there’s really no need to worry about the containers you grow your food in, as most commercial containers, even plastic ones, do not leach into the soil on a timeframe that’s going to affect your plants. If you’re concerned, opt for untreated lumber or stone. One material you should avoid is treated lumber, as this contains chemicals that will leach out into the soil quickly.
All manure is organic, so you needn’t be worried on that front. Rabbit manure is actually a very good option, since it is dry, odorless, and easily transported in its natural pellet form. Also, rabbits are herbivores, which bypasses the problems with parasites that often crop up with manure from meat eating animals. Like all manure, rabbit manure is most effective if it’s been composted. If you want your compost to remain organic, be sure to add organic material, like untreated wood shavings and grass clippings, as well as organic kitchen scraps.
When a plant is marked as organic, it can mean one (or both) of two things. Especially if it is a seedling or a plant start, it might mean that its parent plant (the plant that provided the seeds or cuttings from which it was grown) was raised using organic practices. It might also mean that this plant has been raised using organic practices – indicating the soil and fertilizer it’s grown with are organic, and only organic pest control methods have been used on it.
Believe it or not, the best way to get rid of snails (organic or not) is to put out a dish of beer in your garden. Snails and slugs love beer. They come to it from far and wide, crawl in, get drunk, and drown. The morning after you put it out, you can just empty your dish full of beer and dead snails. Another easy organic option is to put out melon rinds. The snails will flock to them, over-stuff themselves, and lie around digesting until you come along in the morning to dispose of the whole thing, snails and all.
Too much of anything is bad, even if it’s organic. A common symptom of over fertilization is tip burn, and it has nothing to do with chemicals, per se. It’s actually caused by a buildup of salts, which are just as present inorganic fertilizers. When over applied, these salts will leach the moisture out of a plant and result in that burned appearance on the leaves and, in extreme cases, plant death. Similarly, excess nitrogen, which can come from applying too much compost, can lead to plant burning and even death. Everything in moderation…even if it’s organic!
Hands down the best way to organically enrich soil is compost. Not only is it packed with nutrients, it has a structure that breaks up the uniformity of soil to create a better environment for roots. If your soil is too sandy and draining too quickly, compost will help retain some of that moisture. On the other side of the coin, if your soil is too heavy, clay-like and not draining fast enough, compost will add much needed air and help the water to run out quicker. And it’s organic!
There are plenty of organic fertilizers on the market. But if you want to do it yourself and get extra natural, you really can’t go wrong with compost or manure. Both are all natural, and they’re filled with nutrients plants need. Some other good organic soil amendments are eggshells, coffee grounds, lawn clippings, and straw. Wood ashes are a good addition, provided they come from wood that hasn’t been chemically treated.
It can be hard knowing exactly where everything comes from in a commercial product, especially something like potting soil, which may be made up of a lot of different things. An excellent resource for this can be found on omri.org. It’s put together by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), and they’re really invested in what they’re doing. Another good option is to make your own potting soil – that way you’ll have complete control over what goes into it, and there won’t be any non-organic surprises.
There are several commercial organic mulches available, but some of the best mulches are the ones you make yourself – not only are they organic, they’re also free! You can mulch with grass clippings, fallen leaves, straw, and even compost. If you’recollecting from an outside source, you’ll have to check to see if non-organic chemicals have been applied, but if you gather materials from your own garden or yard, you can be 100% sure. Shredded bark and wood chips are very popular mulch choices, and as long as you know they come from untreated wood, they should be organic.
Most fungicides are designed to be used on plants, so they shouldn’t hurt them, whether they are organic or not. However, not all fungicides are designed for human consumption (even the organic ones), so you should always read the label carefully before spraying, and especially before eating. Neem oil is a good organic pesticide and fungicide that is completely nontoxic for bees, pets, and humans, and a good go-to choice the next time you need to spray.
We all have questions now and then, whether long-time gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a gardening answer. We’re always here to help.