By Veronica Burniston
With the ever-growing list of illnesses and diseases each year, it is no surprise that countless American families are striving to change their diets. One main area of interest for many people is the concept of organic gardening.
What is organic gardening? Besides all the rules and regulations that governments and organic certification organizations slap on the organic farms and companies, organic gardening, in its most basic form, does not use manufactured pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers within the gardening process. According to John Fedor, the author of Readers Digest: Organic Gardening For The 21st Century, the entire essence of organic techniques, or gardening, is to work with nature, not against it. In other words, organic gardening is a partnership between man and nature, a harmony derived from toil and sweat and harvest.
What are the benefits of organic gardening? First and foremost, a healthier diet without the consumption of pesticides and other chemicals will always improve a persons overall health, mentally and physically. Organically grown vegetables and fruits frequently test higher in vitamins and minerals compared to their chemical-counterparts. In The Makers Diet, a book with a Biblically based, holistic look at health, Jordan Rubin comments on the danger of using chemical compounds in foods. If a pesticide or herbicide kills one thing, it will probably kill, mutate, or seriously damage a whole host of other things, Rubin said. The problem with these compounds is that they tend to stay on the fruit, vegetable, or plant they were applied to. Once consumed, these chemicals enter the body where they can eventually lead to a number of health problems, for example, various types of cancer.
Second, organic gardening is not only good for the human body but for the environment as well. Not using pesticides and herbicides keeps the soil, groundwater, and air unpolluted. In addition, there is a decrease in kitchen and garden waste as the potato peels, carrot tops, and shriveled lettuce leaves become a nutrient-rich compost for the garden instead of new, unwelcome residents in the overflowing trash bin.
So how does one make the switch from conventional to organic gardening? Here are a few basic tips to help get started:
No More Chemicals.
The use of pesticides and herbicides in the garden kills many valuable microorganisms in the soil that help build the human immune system; these chemicals also deplete the soil of many natural minerals. It can take several years to get chemicals out of the ground, so the sooner one stops using pesticides and chemical fertilizer the better. Instead of relying on manufactured fertilizer to feed the soil, start a compost pile by saving kitchen waste, such as orange peels, carrot tops, melon rinds, finely crushed egg shells, etc. Fallen leaves and grass clippings also make wonderful compost. Over time the plants and vegetable scraps will decompose, forming a nutrient-packed compost for the post-harvest soil.
Another excellent technique to help the productivity of the garden is rotating crops each year. This benefits the ground as different plants use and leave behind different vitamins and minerals for future vegetables or fruits. For example, beans leave nitrogen in the soil while corn needs nitrogen to grow well. Rotating them the following year benefits both and helps prevent soil-borne pests in the future.
Learn To Recognize: Friend or Foe?
It is important to learn the difference between pests and beneficial insects and mammals in order for the garden to maintain a healthy state. One of the best defenses against pests is to create an inviting habitat for their natural predators. Ladybugs, bees, centipedes, frogs, and birds are only a few of these beneficial visitors. Ladybugs eat aphids and mealy bugs; bees pollinate fruits and vegetables, and they also feed on small insects; centipedes eat a variety of soil-dwelling insects while frogs and toads eat insects, snails, worms, and slugs. Creating habitats for these natural predators could be as simple as planting a variety of flowers to attract bees or planting trees and shrubs that produce berries to attract birds. Be creative with the habitats and let nature do the rest.
Research More Gardening Techniques.
As one begins this journey into new and unknown waters, it is important to gather as much knowledge as possible about organic gardening techniques and other useful tips, so take advantage of the numerous resources available online and in the public library.
Although some view organic gardening as an expensive alternative, when it comes to health, one should never settle for less.
By Veronica Burniston