Organic Gardening: A Simple Transition

While many people may hear about organic gardening and initially write it off as a “fad,” the truth of the matter is that removing unnecessary toxins from our gardens can be an important and easy step toward overall better health. In fact many of the foods that we may take for granted in the grocery store are direct products of wild beneficial insects. There’s already been a strong push for the recovery of the global Monarch butterfly and honey bee populations, but there’s still plenty that the average gardener can do to help both themselves and their local pollinators; organic gardening can be a simple but significant step in that direction.

Organic gardening can be a daunting thought to the inexperienced gardener. In fact, there are organic alternatives to nearly everything a gardener might need, and making the transition can be both simple and rewarding.

Organized shelves of fertilizers to suit all kinds of specific needs at Enchanted Forest.

Organized shelves of fertilizers to suit all kinds of specific needs at Enchanted Forest.

1.       Fertilizer

Most people will gravitate to the most advertised and easily recognizable product to feed their lawn and garden. One of our favorite organic options to use instead is Microlife: a slow release fertilizer that amends your soil over time. Next time you visit our garden centers, ask one of our staff about all the beneficial ingredients!

Alternatively, providing a natural compost for your plants can help bolster the natural vitamins and nutrients in the soil. Composting your own table scraps can be an affordable and easy way to feed your garden, but for those of us that don’t like waiting for earthworms to do their business, your local garden center will usually have a natural compost all bagged up and ready to spread.

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“Ladybugs in particular are ravenous hunters”

2.       Insecticide

There’s a plethora of organic alternatives to treat for harmful insects in your landscape. One that stands out in particular is Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew which offers a number of different applications to suit your needs. Other organic options you may consider, specifically for fire ants (since this is Texas), are horticultural molasses, corn meal, orange oil, Come and Get It, and diatomaceous earth. Molasses has the added benefit of bolstering the beneficial microbes in your soil, making it great for your garden in more ways than one. Some of these are most effective when mixed into the soil, so visit us to find out which option is best suited to you before it’s time to redo your pots and garden beds.

It’s a bug-eat-bug world out there and the clever gardener can take advantage of that for a healthy organic garden. Ladybugs, praying mantids, lacewing larvae, assassin bugs, and even wasps are all friends of a pest-afflicted garden. Remember, though, when releasing some of these hungry critters you need to give them a reason to spend the night; ladybugs in particular are ravenous hunters, and if your yard can’t provide the prey they need they’ll quickly move on to find it elsewhere. Introducing beneficial insects to the garden can be an effective, easy, and even fun way to protect your plants from pesky leaf-eating pests.

Organic gardening can also be a matter of safe gardening. Securing your flower beds by planting plants that deter pests around the edge, or providing plants attractive to beneficial bugs can make a world of difference. For instance, potatoes have foliage that naturally deters grazing mammals, while other plants that humans love like rosemary, garlic, marigolds, and lemongrass have been known to put off pest insects from the garden by simple virtue of being present.

3.       Fungicide

Serenade and Actinovate are our go-to organic anti-fungal products. Both are often just as effective at treating fungal problems, if not moreso, than their inorganic alternatives.  An honorable mention also goes to corn meal for its anti-fungal properties on top of being an effective ant killer.

Limiting the use of commonly used and potentially toxic fungicides can also benefit your breakfast. Gardens grown for pollinators in particular often see honey bee visitors, and recent studies show that our fuzzy, buzzy friends get a little confused and will often drink heavily from flowers treated with chemical fungicides 1. Using bee-friendly fungicide (like Serenade) and cutting back on harsher chemicals can ensure both the health of your local honey bees and the quality of your local honey.

4.       Herbicide

Most households are familiar with the big name weed killer Round Up, but we’ve found that such a harsh and potentially dangerous chemical isn’t always the best option. Organic products like horticultural vinegar or the OMRI certified herbicide, Mirimichi, can be just as effective for treating weeds in your landscape. Corn gluten meal can also be used as an effective pre-emergent herbicide to spread in your lawn, while mulching with pine straw can be an excellent pre-emergent option in you flower and vegetable beds.

The Organic Materials Review Institute, generally known as OMRI, is one of the biggest and most well known organizations to certify organic products. The USDA will also provide their mark to products they’ve recognized as being organic. Sometimes a smart organic gardener need only look for the option marked with one of these familiar logos, but it can’t hurt to ask your local garden center for a second opinion.

 

With the right information, switching to organic gardening can be both simple and rewarding. And, though not all organic products are OMRI certified, looking for the OMRI mark of approval can be an easy way to weed out the best products for your own organic garden.

 

Written by Sebastien Serimontrikul | Edited by Isabella Serimontrikul