Going Organic Saves Me Work

Organic Field & Garden

Going Organic Saves Me Work

By Anita B. Stone, The Homesteader’s Bits & Pieces

I was a bit skeptical to try organic agriculture because I thought it meant more work for me. But I found that it really meant less work once I learned how to grow crops correctly. The system provides health, wealth and the pursuit of happy digestive tracts, as organic crops are usually free of pesticides and have greater nutritive value than conventionally grown foods.

The National Organic Standards Board’s definition is a fright: “organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity.”

Putting that aside, let’s just say organic farming is a positive production system that works in partnership with nature to produce food. British agriculturist Sir Albert Howard believed, “Widespread plant and animal pests and diseases are the result of poor soil health, and the key is through the use of manure and composted plant waste which decay from humus.”

Needless to say, Howard was an avid proponent of organics.

According to the United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association, there are three basic characteristics to define an organic farm: First, the soil requires conditioning through use of compost and plant material, green manure, cover crops and crop rotation. Next, soil fertility depends on earthworms and bacteria to convert matter to plants and control achieved by healthy soil. Finally, an organic homestead gives little or no adverse effect to the soil, crops, environment or human health. Certainly these strategies define limited or no use of pesticides, fungicides or herbicides. I am frequently asked whether or not the chemicals used in fertilizers create toxic soil. The answer is simple. Just purchase organic fertilizer or make your own. As for my garden, I don’t use store-bought fertilizers. I keep the soil as clean and healthy as possible and find the crops grow extremely healthy.

One certain and familiar way to control the soil and work with nature is to grow our own produce. And if we follow up with our own production then we have full control of what goes into, onto and around the soil.

Ask Anita

What are the basics I should know about gardening?

A. Here are a few contributed by homesteaders along the way to increase crop yields and maintain soil health:

• Use organic mulches like straw, leaves or compost for conservation and reduction of weed growth.

• About halfway through each growing cycle, apply a bit of nitrogen to the crops.

• Be sure to water at least one inch weekly.

• Keep pests at reasonable levels by determining when a problem is severe enough to require treatment.

• Keep up with current information.

• Keep a seasonal journal for crops and methods of deterring insects.

• As weather turns colder, warm the garden about 15 degrees by using simple windbreaks as trellises and teepee sticks tied together.

• Ask questions and try new techniques.

Anita Stone is an expert gardener who writes frequently for Countryside Magazine. This is her first column. Ask her questions by emailing them to countrysidemag@swiftcom.com, with the subject line, “Anita’s Row.”

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