For my final column, I decided it was time to write about organic gardening. The term “organic gardening” at its simplest is avoiding using...

For my final column, I decided it was time to write about organic gardening. The term “organic gardening” at its simplest is avoiding using synthetically produced fertilizers and pesticides. Taken to the next level by many gardeners who are organic only, more “rules” are applicable. Rules include feeding the soil and not the plant, placing the right plant in the right place, scout your garden constantly for insects and disease presence, and avoid planting too many of the same plant instead having plant diversity. Let me say this early on, these are good gardening principles and not organic principles. I have written about many of these principles, and I do not use organic fertilizer or organic pesticides.

Fertilizer – Most soils require amending to produce the lush lawn, brilliant bloom, or vibrant veggie that gardeners work so hard to achieve. Many times, the amendment is fertilizer. Organic fertilizer is made of only plant- or animal-based materials. Synthetic fertilizers are mostly chemical-based but they often contain natural minerals such as phosphorus and potash. Recently, manufacturers are offering fertilizer with both organic and synthetic components combined into one product. I will now focus on the primary element needed by most plants, nitrogen. Regardless of its origin, the nitrogen in fertilizer must be converted into ammonium or nitrate. This conversion is done below the soil surface and is influenced by the soil’s temperature, moisture content, and bacteria. The process can take just a few days to several weeks. The soil’s organic matter is the primary provider for nitrogen. Building the soil’s organic matter is easily done by adding one-quarter to one-half inch of compost to the soil’s surface annually. In summary, focus on your soil’s organic matter and not organic fertilizer.

Pesticides – Many people cringe when they hear the word pesticides. First, what is a pest? A pest can be weeds, fungus, insects, spiders, or rodents that interfere with you, your garden, or your home. The interference can be just a nuisance or detrimental to human and animal health. A pesticide is a substance used to prevent, control, or eradicate pests. Notice that I have not mentioned any origin of the pesticide. Pest control begins with properly identifying the pest, then learning the pest’s life cycle. After identifying and educating yourself, you make the decision on how best to protect your family and property. So, does that mean that foods labeled organic can be sprayed with pesticides? Why yes, they can remember, a pesticide is the substance not its content. Whether you use organic or synthetic pesticides, read and follow the label. The label is the law, and by buying the product, you agree to use the product as it is intended. I do not use organic pesticides and my property is graced by bees, butterflies, birds, bunnies, deer, and insects, both beneficial and non-beneficial. In summary, it’s your family, property, and money involved. You make the best decision.

That’s it for me, my fellow gardeners, I have enjoyed writing these columns, and I hope you learned something and had a laugh or two. I hope your garden, as well as your life, is bountiful and free of weeds.