What is Organic Growing
Organic Growing is a method of growing plants which uses only naturally occurring materials to
feed the soil. No synthetic fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides are used.
growers seem to agree on the following principles, although there is no one 'method'.
the soil, not the plant
growers feed the soil, which enhances soil life and increases long-term fertility. Healthy soil will grow healthy plants which
feed healthy animals and people. Synthetic fertilisers feed plants directly in a way that by-passes certain natural, biological
Compost, manures, seaweed, mulches and green manures (crops which are grown to dig in to the soil) build up
the humus content in the soil and provide a natural source of food for plants. Natural fertilisers such as blood and bone
and unprocessed rock minerals also add to the fertility.
plant and animal wastes
of society's waste products are used by the organic grower. Prunings, weeds, kitchen wastes, wood ashes and lawn clippings
can all be recycled into the garden. As well as improving the soil these 'wastes' save space at rapidly-filling rubbish tips.
control of Pests & Diseases
plants grown in healthy, fertile soil have more resistance to pests and diseases. Organic growers aim at a balance between
pests and their natural predators (which may mean accepting occasional damaged leaves); and plants which are attacked by pests
are often left to provide food for the predators. Only 1% of insects cause damage to crops, which means that 99% of insects
are either harmless or useful.
Diversity - growing a mixture of plants - helps to confuse
many pests. Herbs, flowers and vegetables grown together also provides shelter for many useful insects. Bird-attracting trees
and shrubs will help in keeping pest populations down.
Crop rotation - not growing the same vegetables in one
place each year - discourages a build-up of many pests and diseases.
Other strategies for defeating pests are:
planting a few extra to allow for losses
timing - ensure plants are well-established before the worst pests arrive
companion planting - some strong-smelling herbs will repel pests
hand picking e.g. caterpillars
baits, traps and barriers
natural sprays e.g. garlic, pyrethrum, chilli. Used only as a last resort, as they may harm
growers also spend time learning to recognise useful insects.
control of weeds
Weeds have many benefits - it is better to grow weeds than leave soil bare. Weeds will stabilize
disturbed soil and prevent erosion; they also protect the soil from extreme heat and cold. Deep-rooted weeds break up hardpans
and bring up minerals from below, conserving nutrients that would otherwise be lost. Many common weeds provide food and shelter
for useful insects.
Some weed control methods used are:
minimum cultivation - weed seeds are not continually brought to the surface
close planting to shade out weeds
choking out weeds with alternative plants e.g. buckwheat, mustard
mowing, slashing, whipper snipping hand-weeding
paper weed mats
Grow Organically? - Health and nutrition
research suggests that food grown organically contains more minerals and vitamins and less harmful nitrates. With a lower
water content, it has better keeping abilities. It has also not been treated with potentially harmful chemicals
Over-use of high nitrogen and phosphate fertilisers has polluted ground-water and waterways. Excessive
pesticide use has damaged many species of insects and birds. Organic growers aim to grow healthy food using safe, sustainable
methods which do not harm the natural environment.
Permaculture, Biodynamics and Hydroponic
Organic Growing is sometimes confused with these terms. Permaculture combines
plants, animals, buildings and people into integrated, productive communities. It is about design. Most permaculture followers
also grow organically. Biodynamics uses accepted organic practices, but also incorporates the theory of planetary influences
on plant life. Moon planting, specially prepared Biodynamic sprays and compost additives are part of this system. Hydroponics
is the science of growing plants in water, without soil; plants are fed entirely with synthetic chemical nutrients.
good books are available on organic growing and the Organic Growers Association Western Australia (OGAWA) library has a wide
selection of these.