Organic Gardening Introduction
Let nature do the work
It has long been recognised that it is easier to work with nature than to fight her. Much of the resurgence of organic and greenhas come about because we have realised how precious the natural ecosystems all round us are, and how dependent we are on them. However, I want us to go further — not just co-operating with nature but enticing her. I have found it possible to make any plot into a paradise within a short time and without much hard work. But this is not achieved by letting nature have her way. No, we must guide and channel her so that we get what we want by adjusting the balance of nature’s own interdependent systems. Nature always reaches a balance; we aim to move that point so that it is in our favour and not aligned against us.
Plants want to grow, wildlife wants to increase, so let them do the hard work By their very nature, seeds ‘want’ to germinate, plants ‘want’ to grow and flower and fruit, creatures of all sizes ‘want’ to multiply. If we plan well and grow the right plants in the optimum combinations in the best places, and if we encourage various forms of life to accompany them in our gardens, we can let nature have almost complete control over pests and diseases, over maintaining and increasing fertility, and over producing bigger returns than we could ever wrest from her by coercion.
Using our wit and cunning to produce flowers, fruits and vegetables fit for the pleasure and tables of kings Most of being a good gardener lies in giving the plants what they need and not giving them anything which hurts or harms them. Many pesticides have turned out to be as harmful to the plants as they are to us — onemarket-gardening company found their yields went up by about a fifth when they stopped using insecticides and went over to biological control. We don’t even need pesticides — almost every pest and disease can be outmanoeuvred. The best way to do this is to utilise other bits of nature to do it for us. There are tens of thousands of different sorts of insects in the UK and only a few hundred in total do any direct harm to us, our property or our garden flowers and crops. The rest are all engaged in their own world, but we can persuade them to do our bidding. For example, if we lure to yellow flowers which are (to them) irresistibly full of honey and pollen, then they lay more eggs in our garden than elsewhere and their larvae control for us.
Matching the needs of each plant to our soil and micro-…
It is as hard to change your basicas it is your climate — both determine what you will find easiest to grow and it makes for more effortless success if you work with them rather than trying to modify them drastically. For example, trying to make a soil suitable for heathers and rhododendrons by adding bags of bog is futile; far better to grow lime-lovers. Similarly, much as I enjoy the challenge,
I know I’m making pain for myself by trying to grow watermelons in England. Far more sensible, less effort and usually less expensive is matching the plants to the soil and the planting positions you can offer them. A useful guide is to observe which plants in your area are growing really well or of their own choosing. Looking at neglected gardens will soon show you the real survivors eminently suited to local conditions. If your neighbourhood is full of heather gardens and camellias, then grow these, or plants with similar requirements such as azaleas and rhododendrons. Anything flourishing is worth growing — most good gardeners earn their reputation from growing the commonplace superbly, rather than by coaxing unsuitable plants in the wrong place.
… and not wasting our efforts: the lure of the show table and keeping our eye on the ball. Saving unnecessary work makes for happier gardening. I have tried always to remember that I am growing crops to enjoy eating, not to show. The techniques required are just different; I’m looking for ease, taste and texture, not size and appearance. A visitor once remarked that my tomato plants didn’t look as good as his. I took up the offer and saw his tropical jungle of dark green plants cramming his greenhouse. True, his plants looked better, but where were the fruits? By overly boosting their vegetative growth he had so far prevented the plants ripening any of the heavy trusses; my harder-grown plants had already been providing me with ripe fruit for more than a month. So if you want to grow wonderful, don’t aim for wonderful tomato plants.
There is no work as bad as wasted work, so we must be careful not to make our beloved gardening into a chore. Obviously, as the old proverb puts it, ‘If we wantwe should not sow .’ But how often do we grow vegetables that just go over unwanted or prune bushes that have long since passed their best? It is our garden and we should do and grow whatever we want, resisting pressure from ‘good old boys’ who insist that a thirty-foot row of is essential if you are to have any gardening credibility. I’ve tried in this website to show the choices open to each of us and hopefully the best way of enjoying them as well.
Using natural processes to our advantage
Nature rarely performs the equivalent of our annual digging, True, moles may turn over the topsoil and upended trees often tear up the ground. However, these are small and localised occurrences and the surrounding plants can soon repair the patch. Then their all-pervading, hungry roots will prevent nutrients escaping. Of course, digging a plot initially is a good idea, if only to unearth and remove rubbish and roots, but as an annual chore it seems to me not only unnatural but unproductive. The effort would be better spent turning the compost heap or weeding, as for most crops any increase in yield from digging is less than that obtained from one good watering at the right time. Likewise, we can learn from nature to useto keep the soil warm, moist and alive and to encourage the underneath to dig far deeper and more thoroughly than we can ever manage.