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Organic Gardening Resolutions
1. Choose the right plant for the right place. Don’t try to grow something that isn’t suited to your particular soil or cultural accommodations. Sun, shade, soil pH, drainage and temperature must all be considered. This fact is easier said than done and will require endless experimentation. This effort is part of the challenge and fun of gardening.
2. Nourish your soil. Constantly add organic materials such as compost, shredded leaves, dried manure, straw, sawdust, etc. and as they break down, they will provide an environment for the incredible number of microorganisms that create healthy soil and healthy plants.
3. Use diversity in your plantings. Include those plants that have been scientifically proven to attract beneficial insects and pollinators and those that can potentially repel garden pests.
4. Recycle all your organic material. Kitchen scraps, leaves, pruning debris, fallen fruit, etc. should all be composted and returned to your garden soil.
5. Do not use pesticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. They will instantly kill beneficial insects, bacteria and fungi, destroying the soil’s natural and healthy food web.
6. Don’t compact your soil. Establish paths and raised beds so there is no walking or kneeling in planted areas. Pore space in the soil must be maintained where water, air, roots and microorganisms live in harmony to support plant growth and health.
7. Don’t work your land. Continuous turning and “turning” soil causes loss of organic matter, destroys soil structure, and wreaks havoc with the microorganisms that provide a healthy soil food web. Add organic matter to your soil in the form of mulch.
8. Rotate your crops. Ensure a rotation of at least three years and if not possible due to space limitations, plant a cover crop for one or two years to enrich the soil.
If every organic gardener around the world had one thing in common, it would be that they all compost. It can be said that adding compost to any garden soil is the essence of organic gardening. All garden soils benefit from adding compost whenever it is available. Compost helps aerate the soil, providing a home for millions of living organisms that help the plant’s ability to obtain the nutrients it needs. In this sense, it acts as a fertilizer. Compost can be used as mulch, spread on top of existing soil as often as possible and of course mixed with existing soil when installing new plants.
Compost is easy to make. It’s simply the end result of a pile of organic matter breaking down into a rich, chocolate-brown material that looks good, smells good, feels good to the touch, and is often called “black gold.” Technically, compost will result from a combination of any once-living organic material, whether animal or plant. Everything falls apart over time. The modern compost pile does not use animal material, and because of antibiotics and other medications given to many farm animals, even organic compost is not always recommended. If manure is available from organically raised farm animals, it can be safely added to any compost pile.
A compost pile or “pile” can be created wherever a three or four foot square piece of soil is available. It can be placed in the shade, in the sun, in a dry area, a wet area, almost anywhere. Simply dump your organic material into the soil, building a pile up to four feet high, and given enough time, you’ll find compost underneath. Weeds, leaves, kitchen waste (do not include meat or dairy products), coffee grounds, overripe fruit, tea bags, nut shells, seaweed, pine needles, sawdust, human or animal hair clippings and the list goes on and on. All this will decompose into perfect compost.
If you want a cleaner look, a real bin can be built, preferably two or three next to each other. Any material that would keep your organic “spawn” contained will work. A wire cage, scrap lumber, cinder blocks, old pallets, just about anything will work. Modern compost bins can also be purchased in many designs and configurations.
Some composting tips would be:
1. Try to shred or tear your waste as small as possible. The smaller the particles, the faster the decomposition.
2. Try to layer the material as much as possible. Cover kitchen scraps with a layer of shredded leaves, for example. Even a little soil works as a layer. Alternate the material within the pile as much as possible.
3. Keep the pile moist, not wet. The moisture of a squeezed sponge is about right.
4. Aerate the pile occasionally. Turning it over with a fork or shovel will work, and moving it to another adjacent space works well. This is the reason for having two or three bins side by side.
5. Anything that is not fully decomposed and still visible (such as avocado skins or pits, eggshells, etc.) should simply be thrown back into the pile. They will all disappear in due time when the compost is formed.
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