Organic Gardening 101

 

Want to do your share to protect our environment and save the planet?

Seeking to improve your family’s quality of life through better food choices, free of harmful chemicals?

Organic gardening-much more than just a hobby or pastime-will accomplish both goals. Whether you’re a gardening novice or an expert with a well-worn green thumb, learning to garden organically is a sound decision.

Defining Our Termsflowers_pup

What, exactly, does “organic” gardening mean? In short: gardening without the use of synthetic (chemical) fertilizers or pesticides.

But there’s much more to it than that. Organic gardening is about understanding nature’s balancing act and using this knowledge to create a landscape burgeoning with safely grown plants that permit a self-sustainable lifestyle.

In truth, your plants are part of a system-one that begins with the soil you use and extends to water supply, insects, wildlife and the “end users” (you and your family). Your job, as an organic gardener, is to construct and maintain this system, replenishing resources your garden consumes for perpetual growth.

Choose plants, trees and greenery suited to the environment-those with the best chance of growing naturally in your particular climate. Opt for vegetation whose natural defenses will keep it healthy, without a great deal of attention or external influences.

To avoid pesticide use, study up on plants that are less prone to attract pests. Seek a consult from a local organic nursery. The trick is to follow nature’s lead and make selections that have the greatest potential for success.

Organic Gardening’s Benefits

In addition to protecting our environment, organic gardening is healthier for humans and animal life. Ingredients in synthetic fertilizers and pesticides pose a variety of health hazards. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that American homeowners use up to 1000% more pesticides on their lawns than farmers apply to crops. Think about it: That’s a truly frightening statistic.

National Cancer Institute studies have linked home and garden pesticides with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the sixth most common cancer in the United States. Researchers have also discovered an association between pesticides and lymphoma in dogs.

There are connections between pesticides and low fertility in men, a higher rate of birth defects in children, pediatric brain cancer, leukemia, neurological disorders, developmental disabilities, allergies, asthma and reproductive problems.

Many lawn pesticides remain active in soil for months-even years-after their application.

Organic Alternatives

Pesticides include insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, which are designed to kill insects, weeds and diseases, respectively. To reduce their use, learn what is-and isn’t-harmful to your garden or lawn.

Many insects, for example, actually encourage lawn and plant growth by eating their more harmful brethren. For problem pests, use the barrier approach: Set up nets, screens and traps. Seventh Generation’s Natural Citrus Cleaner & Degreaser-an organic gardener’s secret weapon-safely kills aphids, whiteflies, fleas, mites, fire ants, houseflies and other pests, both outdoors and inside the home. Made with orange oil, it is completely natural and biodegradable, containing no chlorine, petroleum-based solvents, glycol ethers or dyes.

Some weeds, such as dandelions, forget-me-nots and chickweed, are also advantageous, improving fertility as they decompose and eliminating the need to use herbicides. Deep-growing weeds like thistle help carry nutrients to the soil surface. If weeds are overrunning your lawn and you need to remove them, pull them out by hand or use a lawnmower.

Focus on alternatives to synthetic fertilizers. For example, you can compost with scraps from your kitchen, leaves, twigs, manure, grass clippings, old potting soil, hedge clippings and dead insects. This reduces waste and sets the stage for a lovely organic garden. Regularly add such organic matter to your soil, and you’ll be amazed by the marked improvement in plant growth.

As with any task or project, deal with problems as they arise. Don’t procrastinate! If, for example, you see signs of mildew or mold on your plants, prune the involved area immediately.

Organic Cranberries for Good Health

 

These jeweled berries are more than just a pretty fruit. Their bright color and tart yet sweet flavor reminds me of the holidays. Not only do I use these beautiful berries in my holiday cooking, but I use them in my decor when I entertain. But these are not the only benefits of these bejeweled berries. Cranberries are rich in antioxidants and nutrition which are vital to maintaining and increasing good health.

cranberriesThe health and medical industry is fast recognizing the benefits of antioxidants as major disease fighters. Scientific studies show that cranberries also contain phytonutrients and proanthocyanidins (PACs). Like antioxidants, phytonutrients may protect against heart disease, cancer and other diseases. PACs prevent the adhesion of particular bacteria like E. coli to the urinary tract wall which can cause urinary tract infections (UTIs). Additionally these anti-adhesion properties of cranberries may inhibit the bacteria associated with gum disease and stomach ulcers. In a study done by Catherine Neto, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, newly discovered compounds were found in cranberries that are toxic to an assortment of cancer cells such as breast, prostate, lung, cervical and leukemia.

Further studies reveal the far reaching anti- bacterial and anti-adhesion properties of cranberries outside urinary tract infections. As the use of antibiotics steadily increases with bacterial infections, the consumption of cranberries could reduce the number of those same human bacterial infections from forming. This would thereby reduce the consumption of antibiotics and further reduce the formation of resistant strains of bacteria to those same antibiotics.