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Friday, 16 December 2011

Four steps towards organic gardening

Organic gardening may seem complex but it is not as difficult or as expensive as people think. Although it is certainly a different approach to gardening, when you break it down it simply means re-examining every aspect of how we garden. A change towards organic gardening can be a gradual process, phasing in organic methods slowly before you become fully organic and fully enjoy the health benefits of chemical free food.

Step one should always be to analyse your soil's structure and composition. For example, if you have a hard soil with little humus, like ours, your first goal would be to improve it's texture and health. Such a soil can be gradually improved by incorporating as much natural materials such as dried leaves, compost or manure. This process will take some take some time but over time you will see an improvement in your soils structure and health as your soil becomes richer in nutrients and minerals. As the soil improves it will provide plants with the means to resist disease and insect attack naturally.

Whenever we can we add well-rotted manure from local dairies, composted material from the garden and kitchen, well rotted straw, wood ash from our wood burning stove and we will, when we get round to it, make use of sea weed. Whatever natural materials you can use will improve your soil over time. And each season you will notice the structure of your soil improving.

Step two, should be to gradually incorporate the use of organic pest controls into your garden. You can make your own chemical free concoctions at home or alternatively there are now an endless array of commercial  products available to deal with all your gardening problems.

Step three, should be your gradual move towards purchasing organic seeds. You will find a wide selection of these available from on-line seed sellers and most sites will indicate whether seeds are organic or not.

Step four, will involve exploring ways to control weeds without the need to resort to chemicals.  Using a mulch is one of the easiest ways to keep weeds down. Applying a thick layer of any natural material such as well-rotted composted, wood chips or even shredded paper will restrict the light from weed seeds not allowing them to germinate. Hoeing and hand-pulling of annual weeds, if done consistently, is another great way to prevent weeds from taking over your garden. For perennial weeds you must, however, ensure that they are fully dug out to remove all the root to avoid re-emergence.

You can, over a period of your choice, become fully organic by following this four stage plan. Good luck and happy gardening.

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