Practising Organic Gardening- 102
In the previous article we discussed the basic components of organic gardening, like, organic fertilizers, organic pesticides, water conservation methods etc. In this write up we will discuss at length about mulching, composting, crop rotation and companion gardening.
The main function of mulches is to cover the soil and help enrich and insulate them. They are used for a variety of reasons, some of them being:
- Conserves soil moisture
- Prevent and control weed propagation
- Traps heat
- Prevents soil erosion
- Protects plant roots from extreme temperature
Mulches serve as a physical barrier that dissipates the chances of soil being washed by rainwater. It also serves as a vapour barrier and prevents the loss of soil moisture by evaporation.
Types of mulches: Materials commonly used for mulching are as follows:
- Rocky mulch(small to big stones)
- Bark chips and sawdust
- Wood chips
- Shredded newspaper
- Pine straw
- Animal manure
- Grass clippings
Composting refers to a process of recycling decomposed organic materials into a rich soil called compost which enhances the quality and texture of the soil. The plant and animal matter are further decomposed by micro-organisms into rich, organic material called ‘humus’ which provides the soil with the nutrient required by the plants.
NOTE: You can buy compost bins from our online store – wide variety available.
Compost also known as ‘black gold’, serves as an organic fertilizer. It can easily replace the task of an artificial fertilizer. It enriches the soil with inorganic nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, all of which is required for plant growth. Compost has lots of minerals and micro-nutrients in an easily accessible form for plants.
What to compost and how to compost?
Composting can be carried out in an enclosed compost bin (plastic or wooden), where our kitchen waste, lawn and garden debris are dumped and broken down into rich, dark organic material. The compost bin needs to be perforated with holes for proper aeration.
All compostable materials are either nitrogen or carbon based, to certain degrees. The key to making a healthy compost pile is to maintain the ration between these two elements i.e. the greens (nitrogen rich) and the browns (carbon-rich). An approximate ratio of greens:brown is taken as 1:3 for best results.
Greens consist of moisture laden materials like grass clippings, green leaves, vegetable scraps etc; while browns include woody materials like branches, stems, pieces of wood, bits of paper, dried leaves etc.
Types of composting:
- Backyard composting: composting carried out by using proper balance of greens and browns is known as backyard composting. It is the kind of composting we discussed above.
- Vermicomposting: process of composting using different kind of worms like white worms, red wigglers and other earthworms which decompose vegetable matter and food waste to form a heterogeneous mixture of organic materials.
Besides working as a natural fertilizer, compost also helps in waste management. Kitchen and garden waste can be easily cultivated into compost and this leaves us with little or tension about dumping the waste in garbage bins.
NOTE: You can buy vermicompost online from the GreenMyLife garden store.
- CROP ROTATION:
The best way to ensure the health of plants in organic gardening is achieved by crop rotation. In crop rotation we rotate plant families from one season to the next. So, related plants are not planted on the same spot for more than three years. Crop rotation serves the purpose of maintaining the balance of nutrients, micro organisms and organic matter necessary for a soil to be healthy.
Let’s take potato as an example. While growing potatoes, over a course of a season, scabby skin patches causing fungi and tiny nematodes may proliferate in the soil. If we plant potatoes again in the same spot, these pathogens will be ready to attack the crop. But if we plant an unrelated plant in this spot, it may deprive the potato pathogens of their host plants, thus causing the destruction of these pathogens. It should be noted that no plant from the same botanical family as that of potato, because the pathogens may attack them as well.
Benefits of crop rotation:
- Balances soil fertility – Different plants have different nutrient requirements. Thus, by employing crop rotation we can reduce the chance of particular soil deficiencies. By avoiding planting the same general category of plants successively in the same area we can keep the soil nutrients balanced.
We must alternate nitrogen-fixing legumes (peas and beans) with nitrogen-loving plants (lettuce, cabbage and tomatoes). Also, follow the heavy feeding crops with light-feeders.
- Disease and pest prevention: specific pests and diseases attack specific family of plants. So by adopting crop rotation, we rotate crops in between spots and this way, pests tend to decline in the absence of its host plants. This helps us to reduce the build-up of such pathogens and pests.
- Weed control: crop rotation also facilitates weed growth control. Crops like potatoes have dense foliage which doesn’t allow weeds to grow. Hence, reduces weed problems in following crops.
- COMPANION GARDENING:
Companion gardening, as the name suggests, means planting different crops in proximity to ensure pest control, pollination, increase the productivity of the crops.
Benefits and examples:
- Companions use garden space efficiently: the shorter creepers grow as ground covers while the taller ones grow upright.
- These plants prevent pest infestations: some plants repel pests; eg: onions
- Companion plants help each other grow: taller plants give shade to shorter ones
- They attract beneficial insects and birds: intelligent gardeners always pair pest-sensitive plants with plants that attract pest-predators.
Best companion examples:
Cabbage and tomatoes
Pepper and pigweed
Roses and chives
Corn and beans
Raddish and spinach
NOTE: You can buy seeds online from our garden store – all of the above seeds are available with us.
So, we see that over all, organic way is the best way. Opting for organic gardening can be fruitful in so many ways. Let’s begin now, let’s take a pledge to go the organic way for once, to realize how enriching it turns out to be!