Scott and McCreary County met this month at Scott Christian Care Center. We had about 20 participants gather. Doug Stephens talked to us about the importance of organic gardening and organic gardening techniques. Doug had a great presentation and this is the topics he discussed:
A big component of the Grow Appalachia Program is its emphasis on using organic gardening practices. WHY?
What is Organic Gardening?
- Organic gardening can be described as earth-friendly gardening in which plants are grown in a natural ecosystem without the benefit of harmful chemicals.
- Organic Gardening is Based on Ecology, Not Chemicals
- Organic Gardening mimics—and amplifies—natural ecosystems.
- Instead of bathing your vegetables in chemical fertilizers, organic gardeners “feed the soil to feed the plants”, adding organic matter to the soil and relying on the soil food web to release nutrients to fruits and vegetables.
- Instead of spraying poisons to control pests, organic gardening relies on plant health and vigor and natural pest control to keep insect pests in check.
- The biggest problem with using chemicals in the garden is this: Chemicals simplify ecosystems.Use a nitrate salt fertilizer or an herbicide and kiss the beneficial fungi (the ones that help control disease-causing organisms) in your soil goodbye. Earthworm populations disappear, as they head for the subsoil or out of the garden completely. Apply an insecticide, and the first insects to die are the gnat-sized parasitic wasps that control aphids and caterpillars. Insecticides kill the pollinators and other beneficial insects, in addition to the pests.
Why Grow Organically?
- Better Nutrition and Tastier Food
- better soils = better plants = better crops = better nutrition
- more minerals in the soil = better taste
- Many studies have shown that organically grown food has more minerals and nutrients than food grown with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
- Organic farming starts with the nourishment of the soil, which eventually leads to better nourishment of the plant and ultimately better nourishment for our bodies.
- Keeps chemicals off your plate
– The EPA considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides and 30 percent of all insecticides to be carcinogenic.
How do I grow organically?
The basic principles are as follows:
- Improve the soil to provide nutrients plants need without relying on chemical fertilizers. Plants grown in healthy soil are healthier and more resistant to pests and disease. If you need to use fertilizer, use natural products such as fish emulsion or well-rotted manure or compost.
- Start a compost bin using leaves and organic material from your garden, as well as scraps from your kitchen. In a few months, dark, rich compost will be ready for your garden.
- Avoid toxic chemicals.If pests are a problem, control them with safer, more natural means such as neem oil, insecticidal soap spray, or spinosad but never when bees or other friendly insects are foraging on the plant. Hand removal is effective in smaller infestations. Companion planting can sometimes achieve pest control.
- Pull or hoe weedsas they appear and never resort to using herbicides. Get them while they are small and easy to remove. Don’t disturb the soil deeply – it exposes more weed seeds!
- Mulching with a layer of straw, chopped leaves or other natural mulch will discourage the growth of weeds, and will also prevent loss of water from evaporation. A cover of mulch will also keep the soil cooler during the hot weather.
- Encourage beneficial insects such as ladybugs, hoverflies, and tiny parasitic wasps that will help keep aphids, mites, thrips, and other pests in check. Plant a variety of blooming plants that will provide nectar-rich flowers at different times throughout the growing season.
- Rotate vegetable crops and don’t grow the same vegetable in the same spot for more than a couple of years in a row. Some vegetables use different nutrients than others and growing the same vegetables repeatedly in the same place depletes nutrients in the soil. Keeping the same crops in the same locations can lead to increased pest pressure.
Accept an imperfect garden! Organic gardeners learn to tolerate a few bugs with the understanding that a healthy, well-maintained garden is generally able to tolerate a few pests.
More detailed information:
Living soil is successful soil! The benefits of adding organic matter include: • Support for the soil food web (microbiological activity or life of the soil) • Contributes major and minor nutrients required for healthy plants • Improved tilth and structure of the soil • Improved water retention. More water soaks into the soil and can be used by crops. • Improved ability to store nutrients • Slow release of nutrients • Assist the mineralization processes (converting insoluble minerals into plant usable forms) • Increase pest and disease resistance • Water quality is protected. Nitrates do not leach into the ground water when soil organism hold nitrogen in the rooting zone • Reduces pollutants • Strong healthy plants • Flavorful vegetables and beautiful flowers.
Soil tilth is a physical condition of soil, especially in relation to its suitability for planting or growing a crop. Factors that determine tilth include the formation and stability of aggregated soil particles, moisture content, degree of aeration, soil biota, rate of water infiltration and drainage. Tilth can change rapidly, depending on environmental factors such as changes in moisture, tillage and soil amendments. The objective of tillage is to improve tilth, thereby increasing crop production; in the long term, however, conventional tillage, especially plowing, often has the opposite effect, causing the soil to break down and become compacted.
garden waste, grass clippings, browned leaves and other organic materials are returned to the earth to nurture and replenish the soil. As these ingredients decompose, we see how life perpetuates itself in the plant realm. The disintegrating plants leaves and stems supply food for insects, worms and bacteria. As these creatures burrow into the earth, they digest and excrete other forms of life-supporting materials, and circulate these materials from the surface to lower areas. These underground transformations enable strong new plants to emerge, blossom, produce and, once again, return to the earth. Compost is the end product of a natural decomposition of organic materials.
Top dressing, side dressing, and sheet composting are some of the terms used to describe mulching. Mulching is using finished compost, grass clippings, leaf mold, leaves, worm castings and other organic materials on top of the soil alongside growing plants. Mulch conserves water, inhibits weed growth and feeds the soil food web. Depending on season, mulching is done in many ways for many reasons. Organic mulches can cool the soil in the summer. A heavy side dressing of fresh mowed grass can be used to heat the soil in the spring. Mulches always feed the soil. Mulching reduces and can even eliminate the need for weed control. Weeds compete for nutrients, moisture, and sunlight. Hoeing weeds results in crusty soil and exposes more weed seeds to sunlight and air, hence more weeds. The more complex the mixture of materials, the more your garden will benefit. Use a good mix of greens and browns. By using a wide variety of materials in your side mulch you will add a wide variety of nutrients to your garden. When you harvest, add the tops of your root crops to your mulch. Garden debris is a great source for mulching. Fresh grass clippings will give your plants a nitrogen boost as will coffee grounds. It is not recommended that you mulch with manure that has not been composted. Non-composted manures may carry weed seed, as well as e-coli and other diseases. Caution: Be careful when using sawdust and wood chips, they will take too long to break down and will steal nitrogen from your plants if worked into the soil too soon.
Never leave the ground uncovered. It will deteriorate the condition of the soil. It will cause nutrients and minerals to leach out of the soil. Soil organisms and the biology of the soil will disappear. The tilth of the soil will diminish.
Plant a cover crop any time that your garden vegetables are not there. It will improve the soil when you incorporate it into the soil – before it seeds!
If you do not keep a cover on the soil, nature will – but it will be in the form of weeds!
Pest and Disease Control:
Every garden contains bugs. Some are beneficial, others co-exist without causing damage and others harm plants. A temporary excess of one type of bug will often correct itself. However, several things can be done to keep pests under control. A healthy soil food web will help keep pests and diseases under control. The life web above the soil can also contribute to controlling pests and diseases. Start with an evaluation of the situation. Are you talking about a few holes in the lettuce or are you losing the entire crop? Sharing some of your crop with a pest is better than eating pesticides. Two inches of compost can cure many plant diseases and turn away a tide of aphids. One of the simplest ways to combat pests is to provide an environment for beneficial insects. Beneficial insects are those which are helpful to us in some way. These include well-known flower pollinators such as bees and butterflies, and those which are natural enemies of insects we consider pests. Insect predators, in the immature and often adult stages, feed directly on their prey, killing them immediately. Examples of predator species are the praying mantis and the ladybug (lady beetles). Other insects parasitize their hosts by depositing eggs on or in them. Larvae emerging from the eggs typically develop within and emerge from the host. Parasitized insects usually continue to feed for a time before they die. Examples of insect natural enemies which parasitize pest species include many tiny wasps and flies. Natural enemies are an important component of integrated pest management programs. For example, in home flower and vegetable gardens adult and immature lady beetles can quickly reduce a population of aphids thus eliminating the need to apply a chemical spray. Suppression of pests by beneficial insects alone, however, can be variable. When pest populations are large and there is enough food and the proper habitat to support the growth and reproduction of natural enemies, the impact of beneficials on pest populations can be greater. When pest populations are low, beneficials will search elsewhere for a food source. Beneficial insects tend not to recover as quickly from exposure to insecticides as pest species do. A number of beneficial insects occur naturally in your yard and garden. Learn to identify them and consider their needs in planning and maintaining your garden. Many predaceous insects feed on pollen, nectar or plant juices to supplement or replace their insect diet when host populations are low. Flower nectar also provides nutrition for egg-laying parasitoid species. Favored plants include daisies, Queen Anne’s Lace (wild carrot), yarrow, alyssum, goldenrod, alfalfa, soybeans, clovers, and vetches. Shelter: Provide areas of stable habitat in the yard and garden where beneficial insects can find protection from mowing, tilling and other disturbances. Perennial flower beds (especially those planted with pollen- and nectar-producing plants), hedgerows near flower or vegetable gardens, or plots of cover crops like alfalfa or soybean provide excellent shelter for beneficial insects. Predaceous ground beetles and rove beetles will take cover in permanent grass pathways in the yard and garden, in compost or mulch, and under rocks. Avoid excessive tilling by growing vegetables and flowers in raised beds. Sources of water: Bird baths, small shallow containers, and temporary puddles provide water for insects. This is important especially during periods of dry weather. Change the water in containers every 2-3 days to discourage mosquitos from breeding in standing water. Sticks or rocks placed in the water serve as perches for insects so they won’t drown.
Organic gardening is a holistic approach to improve the garden ecosystem rather than “applying a bandage to correct problems.
Seth Whitehouse also shared a video link to his Beneficial Insect Presentation:
A participant shared Zucchini Bread with us at the meeting. The zucchini she used was grown in her garden. She also shared the recipe with us:
2 Cup sugar
1 Cup oil
2 tsp cinnamon
2 Cups grated peeled zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
Walnuts or Pecans, if desired
Mix together eggs, sugar, and oil. Add flour, cinnamon, zucchini and vanilla. Add walnuts or pecans. Pour into 2 greased and floured regular-sized loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for an hour. It was delicious!
Sharing some of the participants gardens:
Bill and Lisa Musgrove:
James and Lois Alcorn:
Great advice was given to me at the All Hands Gathering for collecting Harvest Sheets. My advice was to collect Harvest Sheets before the meeting, then give them a ticket to enter for a door prize…Great advice! This month’s winner was Donnie Kidd. He won the fertilize spreader, water hose attachment and seeds.
August 13, 2020 is scheduled for Food Preservation and Healthy Cooking from the Garden. Meeting is at 6:00 at Scott Christian Care Center. We look forward to seeing you there!