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Don't Panic - Go Organic Print E-mail
Di-Di Hoffman   
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
"A real gardener is not a man who cultivates flowers; he is a man who cultivates the soil…" Karel Capek

Don't Panic - Go OrganicThere’s an awful lot of hype around organic, but if you are growing your own herbs or veggies to eat, it’s something you need to think about.

What does it mean to go organic?

That’s actually quite a complex question. Some say that it means not using any chemical pesticides or fertilisers because they can damage the environment.

That’s true, but there’s a sting in the tail. There are also some natural remedies, like tobacco dust, that can be toxic. Some organic formulations claim to be safe to use. It is best to read the labels very carefully.
It’s about using our common sense, and working with nature.
I prefer to talk about organic gardening in the positive sense. It’s about using our common sense, and working with nature. Just employing environmentally friendly products and environmentally friendly cultural practices.

It isn’t very different from conventional gardening - you still need to plant at the right time, prune, control pests and mow the lawn.
“Everything is connected to everything else”
The difference lies in our approach. It’s how we understand, and value, the interrelationship between all the elements in the garden. It’s how we understand the ecosystem of our garden. About a hundred years before the term “ecosystems” was coined, John Muir said simply, “Everything is connected to everything else”.

  • The micro-organisms that create humus in the soil
  • The pollinating bees and butterflies
  • The natural pest controllers like ladybirds
  • The synergies between plants (companion planting)
  • and the cycle of life and decay.

In other words, organic gardening is a philosophy of gardening. It’s not a style or a design.

Don't go too high tech. It will be your downfall. Herb gardening is not meant to be complicated or too scientific.
Use your common sense, work with nature, opting for what is natural.
Otherwise you are missing the point. Which is to make a connection with the earth. Talk about organic herb gardening in the positive sense. Use your common sense. Work with nature, opting for what is natural.

  • Start with your soil. Make that your passion, and almost everything else will follow.
  • Make your own compost and use it to condition and regenerate the soil.
  • Add well-rotted manure – it is the best of all fertilisers.
  • Mulch beds with coarse organic material (pine needles, bark chips, peanut shells). It keeps the roots cool and helps retain water.
  • Rotate your crops to restore the balance in the soil. Some plants deplete, while others, like legumes add nitrogen to the soil. It also prevents pests and diseases building up in the soil.
  • Companion plant – combine herbs and vegetables that stimulate each other’s growth, or act as pest repellents. For instance marigolds repel eelworm.
Play to your garden’s strengths, capitalising on its characteristics.
The Henry Doubleday Research Association gives you more food for thought:

  • Choose renewable resources, thereby creating a sustainable future.
  • Reduce pollution of the environment by recycling your garden, household and other waste, rather than dumping or burning it. (Start a wormery.)
  • Encourage and protect wildlife in your garden by creating suitable habitats - plant species that attract wildlife - and by minimizing use of harmful pesticides.
  • Move with the times – take new scientific discoveries and ideas into account, as well as the best traditional knowledge.
  • Use good gardening practices. You’ll learn them all with the SA Herb Academy.
  • Play to your garden’s strengths, capitalising on its characteristics.
You can grow things that you can’t buy in the shops.
If you’re still not convinced here’s some great reasons to grow your herbs and veggies organically:
You can grow things that you can’t buy in the shops.

  • You can grow for flavour. Commercial growers have to grow for shelf-life.
  • Home-grown herbs and veggies are nutritious.
  • You can decide what your family eats.
  • You can grow things that you can’t buy in the shops.
  • You’ll get fresh air, a bit of exercise and rediscover the seasons.

Do you agree there’s a definite link between herb growing and organic gardening? The practice of both has been handed down through the centuries. And they both make our world a better, healthier place.
This article by Di-Di Hoffman appeared in Timeless Herb Secrets.

Di-Di is the owner of Bouquet Garni Nursery – South Africa’s Top Potted Herb Growers and Marketers - and Director of the South African Herb Academy. You’ll find hundreds of tips and recipes to help you get the most from your herbs by subscribing to his insanely popular FREE Timeless Herb Secrets newsletters.

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