So What Exactly IS Organic Anyway?

As I am fond of saying, if we asked 10 traditional landscapers, “Is Roundup safe?” we’d get 10 “yes” answers.

But ask 10 organic gardeners a simple question and you’re likely to get at least 5 different answers as my post about Milorganite just hinted at. Fertilizers and soil amendments are two of the most divisive topics in organic gardening.

But before I even attempt to go there, what do we mean when we say “organic” gardening? I say I’ve been an organic gardener since 1994–20 years now. In terms of organics, that’s a lot longer than some, and not nearly long enough for many. But it doesn’t matter. This isn’t a contest. I became totally organic when I moved to my current property and found no butterflies.

In researching butterflies, I found that they were extremely susceptible to pesticides. I said, “well, that’s easy. I just won’t use any.” And that was that.

My results brought over 30 different species of butterflies and moths back to the property–within 3 years. And except for invasive species, which even my neighbors who regularly have Chem-Lawn visit have (I’m sorry Tru-Green, as I believe they now call themselves)–and in more numerous quantities, because those neighbors are not constantly scouting their properties for the invasives like I am–the lack of “pesticides,” if you will, on my property hasn’t affected it at all.

Here is the incredibly long-winded definition of “organic” from Connecticut NOFA’s web site. A publication for homeowners with further information can be found here.

According to CT NOFA: “Organic Landscaping:

•Eliminates your children, your pets and your own exposure to harmful pesticides, many of which are carcinogens and/or are thought to affect childhood development
•Cuts the costs on repeated chemical applications, gasoline and sprinkler systems by using the free services offered by soil organims, pollinators, compost, plants and beneficial insects
•Makes your yard a force of nature. Promoting biodiversity and choosing native plants supports a self-sustaining yard that is resistent to pests.
•Uses natural fertilizers such as leaves and compost to add soil nutrients to the soil instead of synthetic fertilizers which disrupt soil biology and often run off into rivers polluting freshwater and marine habitats.
•Conserves water by using plants adapted to local rainfall patterns and by incorporating compost and mulch to retain moisture in the soil.
•Encourages beneficial insects to naturally control pests as a form of organic integrated pest management.”

There’s a lot here that goes way beyond my original, “Gee, that’s simple–I’ll just cut out the pesticides.” So over the coming days I’ll talk about the ways I incorporated some of the rest of these into my yard–what worked, what didn’t, how I’m still trying–and where there’s lots of room for discussion!

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