The question of what is and what is not 'organic' will never be answered, just as what is good gardening practice will mean different things to different gardeners.
My personal concepts of what is 'organic' are moulded by :
- living in the UK where a particular set of organic concepts has developed over many years
- being a member of the Soil Association and of the HDRA - the organic organisation (the UK's organic gardening association)
- being an organic development adviser and trainer for a living
- commercial standards for organic producers in the European Community
- commercial standards for organic producers in the UK and Ireland
- a belief in strong sustainability elements in organic growing
- a belief in using alternative 'organic' growing methods rather than substituting an organic product for a non-organic product
- a belief in the need to recycle as much as possible
Concepts 'colouring' the content of this web site
As a result of my personal beliefs and understanding, information contained in this web site has a tendency to stay close to the organic standards used commercially by the Soil Association and those promoted to gardeners by the HDRA.
Modern non-organic growing tends to be based on buying product after commercial product, particularly artificial chemical fertilisers, fungicides, insecticides & weedkillers. Adverts naturally lead you to the conclusions that if you don't use these products:
- your plants will not thrive at all
- they will totally succumb to all manner of 'nasties'
- you need to apply them as an insurance policy to prevent attack
- you are a poor gardener
Nowadays you are also shown how apparently the modern products do little if any harm to the environment !
What organic gardeners know is that:
- most problems are only intermittent
- chemical solutions are not fully affective anyway
- the environmental effects of chemicals are usually not as simple as the manufacturers try to make out
- good husbandry and advance planning prevent many possible problems
- alternative 'solutions' and management are often quite effective, cheaper and environmentally friendly
What organic gardening is not !
Organic gardening is not substituting an organic product for a non-organic one. Many first-time organic gardeners, particularly those in their 20's fail initially to grasp the concept that organic gardening is a system and not a series of commercial organic products used like their non-organic counterparts.
The use of commercial organic products should only be a minor adjunct to the overall growing system, and then only as a last resort. This approach also saves a lot of money.
One of the key elements in organic growing is that it should be a sustainable system as far as possible. In reality this applies mainly to how plants are fed.
Most natural soils contain good reserves of most plant nutrients. There is increasing evidence that a reasonably fertile soil can usually supply all the nutrient needs of growing plants as long as the soil receives regular additions of organic matter.
Plant growth will be steady, as the nutrients are released by the soil, in comparison with the rapid growth produced by adding large amounts of artificial fertiliser.
Sustainability of the system comes down therefore, to devising a means of obtaining and applying the required organic matter.
The main ways in which this is achieved are:
- recycling plants wastes in the garden
- growing your own organic matter
- bringing in animal manures from outside
Traditionally, farm yard or stable manures have been the mainstay of gardeners, but the obtaining, transporting and storing them is increasingly difficult for many people.
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