Organic gardening is a very familiar term. But do we really know what organic it entails?
Most of us may go by the more common definition where gardeners do not use commercially manufactured fertilizers or pesticides on their gardens. They understand that these chemicals can be absorbed by their crops and the resultant produce can possibly contain chemicals that are harmful to our bodies.
However, organic gardening goes beyond this. True organic gardeners believe that the gardening process is a complete system within Nature that originates with the soil itself and moves through the other components of gardening including the water supply, the gardener, the wildlife that may find the plants appealing, and the insects we all contend with.
Organic gardening attempts to achieve a balance within nature by minimizing the natural resources the garden uses and by restoring those resources naturally and quickly.
Whether organic gardening or traditional gardening, it all starts with the foundation, the soil. The organic gardener will regularly add organic material to his or her garden soil. Adding compost formed from decaying and rotting matter such as grass clippings, food wastes, and fall leaves will provide a great growing environment for our garden and we won’t have to be concerned about harmful manmade chemicals getting in the way.
Just as important as the soil foundation of our garden is the type of plants we choose to grow and cultivate. We need to choose plants that are well adapted to the weather conditions they will be experiencing. If we choose a plant that prefers a lot of water and our weather is on the arid side, we will need to use more or a natural resource than what may be wise and considered good stewardship. Growing plants that are not natural to the area may increase their susceptibility to disease and may require more effort on our part to keep them healthy and producing.
With a naturally healthy soil, plants that are appropriate for the area, and a philosophy of allowing nature to work, our organic gardening efforts will reward us with a bountiful and delicious crop that is free of chemicals.
As we see with the Three Sisters Garden, early Native Americans understood the importance of harmonizing the gardening elements, with plants that were complementary to one another and a soil that was rich in organic nutrients.