Avoiding manufactured inorganic substances for garden plants brings challenges and problems:
- Alternative treatments often involve more expensive or less readily available resources
- Some may be less effective with consequent loss of yield and quality
- Some may involve techniques which are not visually appealing to everyone
- There is a need for special effort to acquire a good understanding of the wildlife in gardens, both friends, foes and neutrals, their life-cycles and requirements
- Extra time may need to be allocated for planning, preparation and vigilant maintenance – spotting problems before they get out of hand
However where plants’ requirements for steady growth are met, including choice of site, timing of planting or sowing, soil preparation, nutrition and watering, the occurrence of damaging attacks by pests, diseases and other disorders is less likely and less damaging.
Successful gardening following organic principles therefore requires a dedicated and informed approach. Many gardeners find this challenge rewarding, or at least a cost worth paying for avoiding potentially harmful practices.
Organic gardening involves feeding the soil which in turn supports healthy plant growth, as opposed to directly feeding plants themselves. All possible steps should be taken to develop or improve and maintain soil fertility, except in special instances such as sites intended for the establishment of wild flowers.
Maintaining a fertile soil the organic way
- Garden compost and other organic manures are the basis of feeding the soil
- Green manuring is used to improve soil structure and fertility, and prevent loss of nutrients in winter
- Bulky organic manures may provide insufficient nutrients for demanding fruit and vegetable crops. In such cases supplementary organic fertiliser may be needed
- Liming is permitted for organic growing
The above practices are not exclusive to organic gardening, but they are important features.
Undisturbed soil favours many beneficial soil-inhabiting organisms, and no-digging is often favoured by organic gardeners as in some cases it preserves soil structure and reduces moisture loss by evaporation, but it does require extra skill. Digging allows incorporation of bulky organic manures and lime, as well effective weed control.