Everyone is an organic gardener, that is, until the weeds take over, or the bugs, or disease strikes. Then we spray, kill and destroy; wagging war on whatever is bothering us until the problem has subsided, at least temporarily. We then re-claim our “organic gardener” status until the next disaster strikes.
We are often confused by what plants truly need, what to feed and how to weed in order to grow an organic garden. We are tempted to “do” more, as humans are real “do-ers”. It is hard for us to sit back and engage the natural systems that have been tending to gardens for millennia, it makes us feel useless. Let me tell you, natural systems work! I have yet to witness a human-made system that works better than what nature has provided. I encourage you to avoid costly and ineffective human-designed systems, and instead I hope that you will feel inspired to enlist the natural soil-food-web to do the hard work, while you enjoy the beauty of an organic garden from your balcony.
Stop waging war, and instead accept peace in the garden. Not only your soil, but also your soul will benefit.
1) What Plants Truly Need:
We want to believe that plants really need our help. That without us, they would be eaten by insects, or devoured by disease, but this is not the case. We become tempted to “save” our plants from the problems we perceive by spraying them. Sometimes we use chemicals as they are darn effective killers, and sometimes we craftily make our
own cayenne pepper/onion “organic insecticides”.
Either way, the result is essentially the same. We wage war and kill the
invading insects, believing we have outsmarted nature and that our system will work better than the natural systems that exist.
When we spray insects, for example aphids, we break the natural system; now the ladybugs will go hungry, or move on to the neighbour’s buffet. Had we chosen to wait for the predator bugs to arrive on scene all would be cleared up naturally, and the cycle would thrive. Instead we break the natural cycle and force our gardens to be dependant on us. As a result of killing the aphids (organically or not) our gardens will now need us, as the nature-made cycle has been damaged. Ultimately, this makes more work for us and fewer chances of attaining a truly organic garden.
2) What to Feed:
We may want to feed our gardens fertilizers, but I have yet to discover a fertilizer that is truly beneficial. Chemical fertilizers give the impression that our plants are benefiting from the administration of them as they appear so lush after their use. My neighbour’s fertilized lawn looks so green, but in reality this vibrant colour is not only calling in the bugs for a great bug buffet (as a plant grows brighter when heavy nitrogen fertilizers are used), b
ut it is also becoming dependant on the artificial feast that you have provided. Now your lawn craves this treatment as the chemicals sterilize your soil, killing off all the beneficial microbes, and that soil-food -web that is enlisted in organic gardens. These microscopic critters normally help feed your plants, help retain moisture and fend off disease, weeds and invading insects, but now there is no chance of this, so you must continue to feed it artificially.
Even by purchasing and administering an organic fertilizer we may be causing more harm than good. These fertilizers are certainly not designed for what your soil needs. As a result these fertilizers will only throw the precious mineral balance out of whack, creating bigger problems.
So what can we feed our gardens?
Add compost. Add worm castings (aka worm poop). Add mulches (ie- fallen leaves) that will feed the microbes and worms, encouraging them to linger in your yard, providing natural benefits. These microscopic “farm hands” are invaluable to the maintenance of an organic yard.
3) How to Weed:
Do not be tempted to use any human-made garden products such as landscape fabric or plastic edging for weed suppression. The landscape fabric will prevent our farm-hand microbes that are oh-so-valuable from accessing their food. Once this soil biology dies, there is no way to grow an organic garden. Our plants will once again become dependant on us to provide chemical food sources, creating an even greater drug addiction. Not only that, but weeds will certainly grow through the fabric in time, making our job of weeding even more laborious and through this process we will send even more waste to the dump.
Get out there and weed using a hand tool or a shovel, depending on the size of the weed in question. Enjoy the benefits that occur naturally from being under the sunshine and from using your body (ie-exercising). You may even notice you start to feel a bit happier than you were previously, as there is a soil bacteria that when touched, boosts the release of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for increasing our happiness levels. So if you are feeling a bit blue, get out and weed!
To wrap up, plants don’t Need your help. Instead, enlist the help of those predator bugs and let them take care of bug control. If these valuable insects don’t find your plants naturally, then buy some from a garden centre, they are now widely available. Make sure to Feed your garden with mulch (leaves, wood chips, straw- not hay-). This practice will encourage all of those beneficial microbes and worms to populate your garden providing endless benefit, making you almost redundant. Get out there and Weed! Enjoy the experience and bring some of those weeds inside to cook up at dinner time; think dandelions or chickweed, or enjoy a cup of chamomile tea, as these “weeds” are full of minerals that benefit humans as well.
Don’t do more than you have to; simply provide the basics and let nature do the rest. Starting with the soil, make sure it is well fed and the rest will take care of itself. You’ll notice that even the weeds become fewer, as they crave deficient soils; meaning healthy soils will have fewer weeds. These practices will create a space that will thrive naturally and organically without the use of organic insecticides, or purchased products, leaving more space for you to enjoy your peaceful garden rather than continuing an exhausting and on-going