02 Jun Rules of an Organic Gardener
Hello, my name is Dave Hunsaker and I am an avid, passionate and professional organic gardener.
I absolutely love what I do and would like to take this time to introduce you to the world of organic gardening. For starters, organic gardeners never use any synthetic fertilizers, or chemical inseciticides, fungicides, pesticides, and herbicides (weed killers). There are many other alternatives you can use to fight off insects, fungus or problematic weeds. Let me show you how to decrease the chances of having any of these problems and what to do if they show up in your garden.
The second is a precious gem for rule of organic gardening, it’s the rule “Right Plant, Right Place!” This is key to use in any gardening or landscape design. I learned this amazing tid-bit of knowledge from the Green Gardener class taught here at Santa Barbara City College. (http://www.greengardener.org/ ) No matter how much organic fertilizer you put on your shade-loving ferns, when they are planted in direct sunlight for 8 to 10 hours a day, they are not going to be happy. You have to know what your plant likes and dislikes are and at a typical retail nursery, there are white tags with most of this information. You can also get this information from a Western Sunset book. Western Sunset Book . This also pertains to the soil and water the plant prefers. I have personally seen this mistake made all the time. People will see a plant that is “dying” and assume it needs more water. This is not usually the case. There have been many plants die and sent to the compost pile because they were over-watered. Using this basic knowledge, is key to a successful garden.
The third rule for organic gardening is to compost and reuse green waste. I have heard the same question when I mention compost, that is …”Does it
stink?”. And I answer, “with basic maintenance, No.” Composting can be as simple as using fallen leaves, grass clippings, water and some simple turning of the compost. But why stop there? I personally compost my used coffee grounds, apple cores, banana peels, old avacados, skin of avacados, old lettuce, kale, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, squash, pears, plums, apricots, peaches, and so on and so on. For fruit s and vegetables, the only fruit I don’t use is citrus and for veggies, I stay away from onions. There is too much acidity in these two foods, so I eliminate these from my compost bin. But don’t stop there, for my organic gardener clients, I compost leaves, grass clippings, weeds, small limbs, hedge clippings, dropped fruit, dead plants, old potting soil, spent flowers, roses, old mulch, etc. With some basics layering of the greens (nitrogen) and browns (carbon) and some water, you can have an amazing compost pile. Not only will your compost pile provide you with amazing food for your plants, it will bring in worms that you can harvest for a worm bin and just a hand full of compost will add billions of microorganisms to the soil it touches.
The forth rule of organic gardening is to use minimal amounts of water for your plants. This can be done in several different manners but the
first way is to plant similar plants next to other plants that have the same water needs. This is called Hydorzoning, defined by Wikipedia as “Hydrozoning is the practice of clustering together plants with similar water requirements in an effort to conserve water.” This supports healthy plant life and eliminates having to lug the hose out and water the ‘water-hungry’ plants more on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. Another way to minimize watering is to use drip irrigation and use water saving nozzles on your sprinklers. With automated irrigation, it is important to check for leaks so water is not running down the road and making sure that there is minimal over spray onto sidewalks and non permeable surfaces. Here is California, we are still in a severe drought and should be conscious and proactive about the amount of water we are consuming for our landscape.
The fifth rule of organic gardening is to mulch, mulch, mulch. Mulch is an amazing resource that is often overlooked and underrated. There are many places to get mulch and some of them are dirt cheap. Going to a landscape yard will give you better consistency,”look better”, and is highly priced but the best place to get mulch is from your local certified arborist. You can usually call them and get on a “chip list” and they will deliver the wood that was recently cut and chipped in your neighborhood. Don’t be shy with the mulch, it is used in gardening for several purposes with the first being to prevent weeds. The second is to help the soil hold on to water. And the third and often over looked, is that it decomposes and feeds the soil and eventually becomes the soil! Mulch is amazing!
The sixth rule of organic gardening is to use OMRI certified products or make your own weed killer and insect killing liquid. OMRI stands for
Organic MaterialsReviewed Institute (omri.org ) and “OMRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides an independent review of products, such as fertilizers, pest controls, livestock health care products, and numerous other inputs that are intended for use in certified organic production and processing.” When in doubt, I look for the OMRI certified seal on what ever I am buying. If I am having a problem with white fly, the best product I have found is mineral oil. I will always use a OMRI product with what ever problem I am running into that day. The insect products from OMRI are usually plant based oils or soaps and have minimal impact on the surrounding environment
The seventh rule for organic gardening is to make and use compost tea! There are many ways to make compost tea. From as simply as taking compost and putting it into a 5 gallon bucket and adding water and then stirring the tea. And then using the tea to saturate the soil below the plants
you want to feed. There are some people that use worm tea, that is using worm castings mixed with water and using that to feed your soil and plants. I have taken several courses on soil, compost and compost tea and currently use a leader in the soil microbiology field, Dr. Elaine Ingram’s compost tea recipe (Dr. Elaine Ingram compost tea recipe) for my compost tea. I use this tea or many purposes but mainly to increase the beneficial microbiology in the soil, which in turn feeds the soil food web and will organically feed the plants, feed the soil and help retain water. Happy Organic Gardening!
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