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Organic gardening

Many people think that organic gardening is simply gardening without the use of chemicals. While this is an extremely important factor, Organic Gardening is, to put it simply, gardening with nature.

While it can be difficult to be a true organic gardener, as there are many factors which are outwith our control, e.g. farm yard manure from animals which have been farmed using chemicals, this does not mean we shouldn't try!

The use of organic fertiliser not only nourishes the plants but, more importantly, improves the structure of the soil which chemical forms don't. Certain insects, birds and animals should be encouraged into the garden to provide a natural control of the majority of garden pests and to create a more attractive and investing environment for all to enjoy.

The aim of this information is to increase awareness of ecological issues, to show that with a little thought everyone can take a few steps toward organic gardening. By eliminating the use of chemicals and reducing the use of motorised equipment in our garden, so we improve both our local and global environment.

Facts

  • Traditional garden pests such as greenfly, thrips, scale, slugs and caterpillars can be controlled/eradicated by biological control, i.e. ladybirds, hoverfly, centipedes and birds.
  • Organic Gardening will improve the structure of your soil and provide long term benefits.
  • The humus in natural fertilisers such as farmyard manure; leafmould; and mushroom compost, helps the aeration of the soil and the penetration/retention of water, both important factors in growing healthy plants.
  • Organic Gardening is not more expensive than chemical gardening.
  • Chemical fertilisers only provide a short term 'food' to your plants and do not help the soil.
  • Even 'organic' insecticides can prove detrimental, in that, they will also kill beneficial insects and should the chemical enter the water system, will prove harmful.
  • Chemicals can build up in the soil/soil water and can enter the water system.
  • There will be an increase in the wildlife to your garden, e.g. birds, hedgehogs; and butterflies by gardening organically.
  • Caution should be used when considering the purchase/use of chemicals, e.g. will it cause the user any harm; damage the surrounds; or harm other animals.
  • By each of us undertaking our own control of chemicals, use of petrol driven machinery, and use of aerosols, so we help in the decrease of ozone damage, damage to our wildlife and to our waterways.

Myths

  • Organic Gardening does not mean that you will have to have weed ridden and untidy garden.
  • Organic Gardening does not mean that your garden will become infested with pest and disease.
  • You don't have to have a large unsightly compost heap, to be an organic gardener.
  • You do not have to individually pick off each weed or pest.
  • You do not have to spend more physical effort on cultivation. Gardening organically does not have to be labour intensive or cause you more physical effort in gardening.
  • Organic crops are not more difficult to store.
  • Organic cultivation does not adversely affect the flavour of crops, or the quality of blooms.
  • Organic Gardening does not mean having a 'smelly' garden.
  • Gardening organically is not solely for vegetable growers.

Tips

  • Build a compost bay so that you can make your own compost for use in your garden. Helps get rid of grass cuttings and kitchen waste.
  • Build a separate area for leaves as the leaves take longer to compost and are broken down by fungi - not bacteria as in compost bin.
  • Build a bird table to encourage a natural solution to pest control.
  • For weed control think of using the following rather than chemicals - plastic sheeting, cardboard (remove any plastic tape), leaf mould and bark.
  • Lay angular stones or sand around plants prone to slug damage.
  • Think of using cloches made from synthetic fibre over your vegetables to protect against air born pests such as cabbage white butterfly and carrot root fly. The cloche allows water through but protects against both wind and pest damage.
  • Look at alternatives to petrol driven lawn mowers which may increase the 'greenhouse effect'.
  • Use the weather to your advantage, e.g. frost helps break down heavy soil.
  • Over feeding of your soil can be as detrimental to your soil and plants as under feeding.
  • If a quick acting fertiliser is required, try dried blood or wood or wood ash rather than the chemical alternative. Should you need a slow release concentrate try hoof and horn or steamed bonemeal.

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Last updated: 25 February 2016

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