Sustainable and Organic Gardening

The fewer artificial additives you introduce to your garden, the more sustainable it will be. Chemical means of enhancing your garden are a short-term fix and can be compared to giving your plants performance-enhancing drugs. Organic gardening focuses on naturally maintaining the long-term health and viability of the garden naturally.

Compost

Composting is the easiest way to make your garden more sustainable. Compost added as a side dressing or tilled into the soil of a new bed increases the water retention of the soil and slowly fertilizes.

 See also: HowToCompost.org

How to Make Your Compost Thrive

  • Optimal compost recipe: 2-parts brown (dry leaves, hay, kitchen scraps, tissues) and 1-part green (plant clippings and weeds)
  • Add some garden soil. This will introduce the bacteria that help break down the organic material and make the soil healthier for the plants.
  • Water to 50% moisture (should feel like a damp sponge).
  • Mix every 2 to 7 days.
  • Cover to protect from the sun.
  • Add clippings of the yarrow plant and male urine (yes, that’s right!) to accelerate the composting process.
  • Do not put meat, fat, bones, or animal waste into the compost.

Achieving a Natural Balance

Organic gardening has a lot to do with maintaining a natural balance within the garden. In an organic garden you are likely to find some pests and diseases but these will be held in check by beneficial insects and controlled by the gardener.

Targeted approaches to solving pest and disease problems are better than applying broad spectrum herbicides, fungicides and pesticides. Research the problem and start with the least invasive techniques. Simply squishing, knocking pests off plants into soapy water or using homemade insecticidal soap may be enough to control pest problems.

 See also: organic pesticide recipes in Pesticide-free ways to keep lawn, garden healthy at beyondpesticides.org

Below is a table of the beneficial insects and animals a healthy garden needs. There are also other insects that are beneficial, so research before you try to conquer.

Beneficial Insects and Other CreaturesHow to Encourage in Your Garden
Earthworms

improve soil continuously

  • till soil minimally; 3" depth is best
  • use compost or slow release fertilizers
  • don’t over- or under-water
Spiders

eat lots of insects

  • provide a thin layer of mulch to provide moisture before the heat of summer
Ladybird beetle and their larva, lacewing larva, dragon flies, and other predatory insects
  • grow flowers to ensure a source of pollen and nectar
  • provide rocky hiding places
  • provide a place to drink
Bees, wasps, and butterflies (pollinators)

improve soil continuously

  • grow flowers to ensure a source of pollen and nectar
  • build a bee house
  • provide a place to drink
Bats

can eat up to 1,000 insects an hour

  • build a bat house
  • grow flowers to ensure a source of pollen and nectar
  • provide a place to drink
  • see Encouraging Bats, from Britain’s Bat Conservatory Trust
Birds

also eat lots of insects

  • provide plenty of trees
  • grow fruit and seed bearing plans and trees
  • provide a place to drink
  • provide a thicket on which they can take refuge