Thursday, March 12, 2009

Organic Gardening

(This was presumably written for the Piedmont Virginian newspaper.)


Herbert Spencer said, "There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is a proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in ever-lasting ignorance; this principle is contempt prior to investigation ." Many people who live by this principle scoff at organic gardening and farming being impractical, and regard the organic gardener as somewhat of a fanatic. But the thinkers are slow to condemn; they wait until they have a chance to compare the taste and looks of organic produce, and to if it really does appear to be impractical in this modern age.

The best turnips, radishes, carrots, sunflowers, and most other vegetables and fruits I have seen were those produced in a garden where the soil was good, and where there was a plenitude of natural nutrients. A good organic grower is smart, educated person, and one who is willing to work at it. He needs to understand the life cycles of pests and beneficial insects, and crop plants. For example, he knows that aphids have wings during part of the year, and during this time can invade a garden in great numbers literally overnight.

Organic gardening includes using natural fertilizers and such organic matter as lawn clippings, rather than burning them to pollute the air, or letting them wash into a stream, to cause water pollution. Of especial concern is the amount of humus in the soil. This humus is created largely by earthworms, which also, by their burrowing, help to let air and water into the soil, to keep plant roots healthy. Humus and the activity of soil creatures have a great deal to do with soil structure (And your county agent how important good soil structure is.).

The recycling of manures and vegetable waste, by returning them to the soil is part of the philosophy of the organic gardener; he gets so he realizes the important economic benefits to himself, as well as to the country, of wasting nothing, including glass and paper, and usually is most cooperative in the matter of keeping the highways clean. Chicago, and some other communities, have solved part of their disposal and pollution problems by selling the treated sewage to farmers, thereby helping the farmers also. New Jersey has gone a step further, by hauling the silt, dredged from rivers, onto farms where the sandy soils benefit greatly from it.

As the county agent in warrenton said in 1969, "A two to four-inch sawdust mulch will make a 100% difference in the productivity and ease of working, in your garden." This mulch preserves moisture, discourages slugs, sowbugs, and some other pests, keeps down many weeds, makes the soil more suitable for earthworms, which are the "soil builders" and adds nutrients to the soil as it decays.

Marigolds are planted with garden vegetables to kill soil pests, and keep many above-ground pets away also. Horseradish planted with potatoes keeps away the potato beetle. A band of sand or wood ashes around plants will keep slugs away from them. Predatory insects such as praying mantises, lacewings, and lady beetles are encouraged, and sometimes in emergencies are bought by the pint or gallon, to release where needed (However, if conditions aren't suitable for them, they may just migrate to the surrounding countryside, so here again is pointed out the need for knowing life cycles of insects.).

Now; is organic gardening really a fad, something engaged in by a bunch of health nuts who are fantatics about eating insecticides, and plants grown on deficient soils? Is it impractical? Some of the answers to those questions are beginning to come out now, through the reseasrch of various soil and plant scientists. It has been discovered that there really is a difference in the vitamin and mineral content of vegetables grown on different soils.

And when you read in the agricultural research bulletin, issued by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, about how the farmers in Canete Valley, Peru, had a total loss due to insect pests after having too freely used insecticides, for several years. Then, after calling in ecologists to recommend natural controls, they went back to making profits. You then begin to realize that organic farming might simply be the newest of the sciences; there is a great deal to be learned, but the rewards are great (Life, health, prosperity, and peace of mind could be some of them.).

When you further learn that a number of California farmers have turned to Dietrich (The best known supplier of predatory insects), because they couldn't afford the spraying costs, it strengthens your ideas.

Many people like organic gardening because, after building up the soil, it's easy to raise tasty vegetables, and the labor-saving makes it possible to spend more time at their hobbies, and still have the best foods. Can you think of a better reason?

(No, Dad, I sure can't!)


  1. Dear Marqueta~
    It was interesting to hear that your dad thought grass clippings was good in the vegetable garden. I have been doing this for years. I never fertilize my lawn. I use the clippings between the rows of vegetables for a mulch. People chid me all the time saying I should at least leave them on the grass for thatch. I don't want thatch and I would rather use it for my veg. garden mulch. The soil is nice and loose and rich. I can't think of a better reason either!

  2. Dear Mami,
    I Like The Post!
    I Love You And I Like You!!!!!!!!