Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

10 Quick Tips to Becoming an Organic Gardener

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Edible landscapes are beautiful and functional, but organic fertilizer, compost and disease and pest controls are essential to the overall success and health benefits of an edible garden.

For every small step in the right direction, there is eventually a large reward. When we make even the most minor changes in the way we live our lives, eat, exercise and spend time with our families we will eventually create a change for the better if that is our intention. As with any real change, it begins with a thought that is followed by an action, you start small and keep going.

Becoming an organic gardener is an excellent way to make an enormous impact with a few small changes. Commercial and residential landscaping has become one the most environmentally destructive forces on the Earth over the past 60 years. With the gross over use of commercial and residential chemicals, acres and acres of water wasting lawns where wild flowers, native grass and trees once grew, and the use of non-native plants that have wreaked havoc on our Eco systems, we have gotten off course. Depressing right? Yes,… but it can be corrected “One Yard at a Time”, so let get started…

Tip 1 – Plant only native and adapted, non-invasive plants in your garden ~ Planting non indigenous plant life means you will have bug issues, water and soil problems and potentially cause invasions of species that have no checks or balances in our ecosystem.

Tip 2 – Water on a regular schedule ~ Stressed plants are prone to attack by pests because a weakened plant is a vulnerable one. I water my native and adapted garden (shown below) once a week on schedule to the depth of one inch and make sure the plants do not go into stress mode (sleeping plants and leaves) to avoid pest issues. During the hot Texas Summer, certain plants may require a more frequent watering but over watering is as bad as under watering so do not assume the plants need it, watch them and feel the soil with your hands to really know what they need.

Tip 3 – Compost every Spring ~ Compost really can save the world. Compost is any organic matter that provides nourishment to the plants. This can be bagged, bulk, grass clippings, pine straw or decaying leaves. If you are composting edible plants always use organic compost so you are not exposing your plants to any chemicals the compost may have from animal matter that may have been used. Compost your tree rings, lawn, plants, garden, etc. This should be done in the cooler months when temps are in the late 60’s-  mid 70’s consistently. Composting too early can promote growth that may freeze, composting in the heat can burn your plants.

Tip 4 – Fertilize with liquid seaweed ~ Never use chemical fertilizers (see: https://lisalapaso.com/2010/07/10/the-over-use-of-chemical-fertilizers/) Liquid Seaweed is not only a foliar and flower feed, but it feeds the soil, the mycorrhizal fungi and healthy bacterial growth necessary for a healthy soil. It is also a cellular strengthener that helps reduce stress in the plants from extreme heat and cold. Which in turn also serves as a pest control by strengthening the plant leaving it less vulnerable to attack.

Tip 5 – Mulch every Fall ~ Mulch is one of the most important elements of a successful garden (see: ” Mulch, it’s not just pretty” https://lisalapaso.com/2011/03/01/mulch-2/) and it is very important to maintain a depth of 4-6″. Mulch prevents weeds, keeps moisture in the soil, reduces temperatures and protects the plants roots. It is also creates an environment for nutrients (bacterial and Fungi) your plant needs to be healthy.

Tip 6 – Space your plants properly ~ Proper spacing of your plants is crucial to their over all success. Over crowding can promote disease (fungus), creates unnecessary maintenance issues and competition for light and air.

Tip 7 – Do daily walk through,use organics and practice IPM ~ Walking though your garden on a daily or weekly basis allows you to find pest problems before they are out of control.  Once a pest or disease issue has been detected, locate an organic remedy at Planetnatural.com . All you do is type in the problem and it gives you a result. You can order your product online, or if you’re in a hurry for it take the name of the product and a leaf sample or photo of your problem plant to a local nursery for recommendations. Finally, always use “Integrated Pest Management”.  Simply put, this is a method of using organics, beneficial insects, companion plants or traps first, then chemicals as a last result.

Tip 8 – Know who your friends are ~ Beneficial insects are your best line of defense with most pest issues. There are very few real threats to your garden that you wont find an insect ally for. Do your homework and purchase a ” Beneficial Bug Guide” to keep near your garden for ID. You can order several beneficial insects online as well as purchasing them at your local nursery. Bird and Bat houses are also excellent pest control.

Tip 9 –  Companion planting ~  Plants from the Allium (garlic and onion) family are a great pest prevention. Marigolds, mint, herbs and a whole host of clever plant combos can help repel pests, find out more inline or here at http://farmtopreschool.org/pdf/2.3_CompanionPlanting_Chart.pdf

Tip 10 – Know when enough is enough ~ If you have a plant that serves as a host to all of your pest parties and try as you might the bugs keep attacking, yank the plant and choose a new one! There are far too many cool native and adapted plants here in central Texas to tolerate such nonsense! Leaving a sick plant in your landscape sends out a message to pests that they are invited to your space and once they finish with the weak link, they move on to the next plant and so on.

So there you have it…10 easy steps to becoming an official organic gardener. An important change comes from being mindful of the fact that it really does only take small steps taken thoughtfully to change the negative impact we have made into something you can be proud of.  Involve your kids and grandchildren, teach them to be better stewards of the land we share and in turn, something really special will happen for them and the generations to come.

Organic gardening at its best.

Now go get your “organic” garden on!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape & Design     (“like” me on facebook!)

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

Check out  my video’s on YouTube!!

2 Comments

  1. mariagatling

    Great post Lisa! Very helpful, informative and to the point.

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