Organic Gardening: How to and Benefits of Forsaking Chemical Products

Gardening is an amazing activity. Not only does it provide you with nutritious food to eat, but it also is a form of light or vigorous exercise, depending on the type of gardening you do. However, certain products used for gardening can cause more harm than good, which is why many people turn to organic gardening.

Organic gardening doesn’t use any of these harmful products, making the food you grow much less dangerous for you to consume. It can also be a very sustainable way of gardening. Here are some tips on organic gardening and why using chemicals in gardening can be harmful.

Composting at Home

Compost is made up of organic material that when added to soil, provides nutrients for plants to grow. The good thing about compost is that it can be created from yard waste and food scraps. However, you should keep in mind that not all food and yard waste makes suitable compost. For example, most complex carbohydrate foods (fruits and vegetables) can be used for compost, but proteins (meat and egg yolks) and fats (grease, lard, and oils) cannot.

Certain types of yard waste are also unsuitable for compost, such as yard trimmings that have been treated with chemical pesticides, diseased plants, black walnut leaves/twigs, and coal/charcoal ash. Here’s a list of things that can be composted:

  • Coffee grounds
  • Crushed eggshells
  • Fireplace ashes
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Hay and straw
  • Houseplants
  • Leaves
  • Nutshells
  • Sawdust
  • Shredded cardboard or newspaper
  • Tea bags
  • Yard trimmings/grass clippings

Composting is the most organic and sustainable way to feed your soil. Not only does it enrich the soil, but it reduces your carbon footprint by decreasing methane emissions from landfills. To start composting at home, all you need is a dry, shaded spot that’s located near a source of water to moisten the dry compost items.

Organic Pesticides

Pesticides are the main culprits when it comes to chemicals in gardening. Pesticides (including fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides) contain chemicals that are not only harmful to the environment but also to human health. An example is Paraquat, an industrial herbicide, being linked to Parkinson’s disease developing in those that used this herbicide on a regular basis. Several studies have concluded that pesticides can be carcinogenic (cause cancer), an endocrine disruptor (can cause birth defects and developmental disorders), and can affect the nervous system.

The good news is that proper composting can work as a natural pesticide for your garden because the enriched soil helps it retain moisture and can suppress pests. However, this may not always be enough to deter unwanted plants and insects from damaging your garden. Neem oil is the most commonly used and most effective natural pesticide, plus it’s safe for humans to use without worry. You can also try some D.I.Y. pesticides.

Chili Pepper Spray

Mix one tablespoon of chili powder and a few drops of liquid soap with one quart of water to create this mixture to repel insects from your garden. You can also use fresh chili peppers to make this mixture by chopping and pureeing them first.

Garlic Spray

Garlic is another food item that repels a variety of pests, including some animals. Mix two whole garlic bulbs with water in a food processor or blender. After letting the mixture sit overnight, strain and mix with half a cup of vegetable oil, half a cup of water, and a teaspoon of castile soap.

Soap Spray

Mix one teaspoon of castile soap with one quart of water, and spray it directly on your plants to control insects such as beetles and whiteflies.

Vegetable Oil Spray

Mix one cup of vegetable oil with one tablespoon of soap, and then take two teaspoons of this mix and add it to one quart of water in a spray bottle. This mix coats the bodies of insects, like aphids and mites, and suffocates them.

You can also use borax or a salt and vinegar mixture as a natural herbicide. Essential oils (and planting the plants they’re made from) can also be used as natural pesticides. Try clove oil, eucalyptus oil, lemongrass oil, peppermint oil, or thyme oil.

For even more sustainable gardening, consider collecting rainwater to water your plants instead of using a garden hose or water from your kitchen faucet. Of course, remember that standing water attracts insects, bacteria, and other pests, so don’t let the rainwater you collect stand too long. You can also use recycled water, such as water used from boiling eggs or potatoes to water your garden.

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