Working With Nature In Your Organic Garden

on Thursday, July 17, 2008

You may be thinking of turning part of your yard into a vegetable garden, and for several good reasons; Maui’s year-round growing season is attractive; recent increases in food prices; fresh food is more nutritious; and the convenience and cost savings of not having to drive to the store.

Maybe you recall your grandmother’s garden and how much pleasure and pride she took in providing her family with homegrown fruit and vegetables. Not many generations ago, most people grew fresh food for their families. Everything was grown organically and for more than 5,000 years we got a good return on our labor.

A conventional farmer expects to lose about 7 percent of the crop to pests, even when using pesticides. An organic farmer can expect to lose 12 percent of his crop to the same pests. The cost of what the pesticides save is high: the actual price off the shelf for starters. The costs to the environment and our health are just being reckoned as news of synthetic estrogens in our food chain is reported.

Organic fruit, herbs, vegetables and even small meats are not hard to produce if you have a bit of land around your home. And when you choose to garden organically, you are working with nature, not against it. Climate and geology should teach us the wisdom of respecting the natural forces that rule our lives. Growing in soil that has worms and all the tiny biota that make up healthy soil is cooperating with nature. It takes centuries of decayed plants and animals to create fertile humus. When this precious stuff is damaged with chemical additives, there is no life in the soil.

You can work with nature by patiently waiting for your allies, predators like the toad and praying mantis, to show up and eat the bugs eating your veggies. Using a pesticide is a quick fix that will poison both the pest and its predators. Then you have lost that natural cycle, the birds go hungry and the chemical will wash into the ground water appearing in our food chain as a natural course. Just as we have realized there is no “away” for garbage, there is no way to keep the pesticide just on your pests; it flows with the water into the wider environment.

The tomatoes I pick just before the fruit flies sting will ripen in my kitchen basket and taste good. I have saved seed from them and replanted with it for 15 years. Organic gardeners are cooperative, sharing seeds and produce in the spirit of healthy competition.

I eat several items every day from my garden and I am neither industrious nor young. But gardening is good exercise, always a mental challenge and there’s always a rewarding emotional bond, even before you take your young beans into the kitchen. And the natural garden that attracts bees, birds and other small but important lives, becomes a place of peace and harmony, providing food for your table as well as your soul.


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Unknown said...

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