By George Boyhan
University of Georgia
Organic production relies on naturally occurring materials and processes to produce a crop. Neither pesticides nor manufactured fertilizers are used.
Organic gardeners often refer to "feeding the soil, not the plant," when discussing organic gardening. And this is the main idea in this type of garden. Build a healthy, biologically active, nutrient-rich soil, and plants will thrive.
The most important part of organic gardening is increasing the organic content of the soil. Compost is the most common material used to do this.
Compost is the product of formerly living tissue that has undergone aerobic (requiring air) decomposition. You can buy compost by the bag or the truckload, or you can make it yourself.
Buy it?Your local garden center will have bagged compost, but this might get expensive for a vegetable garden. Truckload amounts may be a better choice at a modest price.
Making your own compost involves collecting kitchen scraps, yard waste and similar items and building a compost pile. If it's done right, this material will break down fast into compost. To learn more about composting, contact your county University of Georgia Extension Service agent.
Ideally, in organic gardening, your garden soil should have at least 5 percent organic matter. Plant nutrients are supplied from the compost.
Other 'food'You can supplement them with other natural, organic materials that may have higher amounts of plant nutrients. These include things like blood meal, poultry litter and fish emulsion.
Other methods important to organic gardening include crop rotation, in which crops that add fertility to the soil, such as beans and peas, are followed by crops that require high amounts of fertility, such as corn and cabbage.
Another important method is green manuring. This is the process of growing a crop solely for the purpose of turning it under to add organic matter to the soil.
Organic gardening may be more challenging in the short run. But in the long run, it can be very rewarding and good for the environment. Check it out.
(George Boyhan is an Extension Service horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)
(George Boyhan is a Cooperative Extension horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences)