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SPRING FOR ORGANICS

A lot is said and written about the initial high monetary cost of organic products. But do you realize that spending less ornone on chemical applications in your garden saves you money and soil? If youíve never gardened organically before, thisSpring season may be the perfect time to start.

Whether you have acreage or a tiny plot, gardening is good for the soul. All thatís good about gardening is even better when organic. Be kind to your soul, budget and the environment. Try growing plants without using chemical pesticides, herbicidesor germicides this year. By doing so, you are improving the lives of present and future generations.

Organic eating is broadening into organic lifestyle where education for both begins in the garden. For several years theGarden Writer's Association of America has promoted an initiative to put a garden in every grade school. The RodaleInstitute in Pennsylvania hands out awards to schools with outstanding organic gardens. And just last year California's boardof education mandated that every elementary school should establish a community garden for instructional purposes.

The first-ever global agreement to control persistent organic pollutants was recently publicized. Delegates from 122 nations,including the U.S., have agreed to impose worldwide embargoes on twelve chemicals which consist of nine pesticides, PCBsand dioxins. Such action is evidence that the human race has been contaminating soil way too casually.

Farming everywhere was organic until chemical pesticides and chemical fertilizers were introduced after World War II. Thequick, chemical fixes became the fashionable bug-free choice of society. Children raised with that perception tend to lackawareness of nature. Conversion to environmental consciousness, however, is possible for anyone.

Prince Charles, resident of the worldís gardening haven, has received numerous titles through his lifetime. Iíll bet you didnítknow one of them is Royal Patron of the Soil Association. Itís a U.K. charity that promotes organic farming. Britainíspress announced that the blue-bloodied Royal Highness earned his green thumb in 1990 for converting to organic at hisHigh-grove Estate. The Prince, who opposes genetic engineering, says he doesnít think itís right to tamper with the buildingblocks of life.

There are many good reasons for teaching organic gardening marvels. But to truly understand requires ďdigging in.Ē Yesindeed, get your hands dirty and watch your appreciation grow for the aspects of nature that money canít buy. Your organicconsciousness may even lead you to vote for your dollars. You can, for example, help community farmers continue to grow without chemicals by purchasing their organic food, herbs and naturally-crafted goods.

But letís get back to your terrain. Unless you are limited to container gardening (sometimes described as patio gardening),you really ought to get your soil tested. Most important if you are going to grow edibles; be it vegetables, herbs or flowers.Testing the soil tells you if chemicals are there from previous applications or spills. Also, the soil diagnosis provides anyadjustment needs for good, basic plant growth. With many local and mail order products, as well as composting, you canadjust your soil organically. Just ask.And speaking of basics, the next essential step for organic progress is mulching. You read everywhere about the importanceof mulch. Healthy plants attract good bugs that work with the cycle of botanical life. Strong plants rarely become infestedwith the wrong kind of bugs. Mulch for healthy plants, nurture the good bugs, and control weeds at the same time.

Undesirable insects are one of the greatest fears of potential organic gardeners. Beating the bugs may become as challengingas weeding effectively. Some of us gardening novices are guilty of bug war obsession. Just like drugs, you can slide intoaddiction. Pesticide addiction, that is. With no such rehab in site, watch out! Remember, your mission is to go organic.

If you find it necessary to attack aphids or spider mites, try the water hose first. Reach the water spray to the underside ofthe leaves and you will control most of those pests. The next weapon is soap spray. Even Japanese beetles donít like soapspray. Be sure to hit the bug directly and it will kill. For an almost-free formula, mix 1 tablespoon of dishwashing detergentwith a half gallon of preferably distilled water into a clean spray bottle. There you have some weapons.

A great, easy way to manage bugs in our Kentucky area is by supporting bats. Bats eat vast numbers of insect pests, but likebluebirds and purple martins, their numbers are declining for lack of places to live. Give them a home. You can buy a bathouse with luring instructions from most any garden supplier. Or look around to see if nature is providing a warm and moist habitat that bats crave. Maybe a tree hollow, cave or shed.

Some of our bat species have declined due to pesticide poisoning, so the organic route is imperative to take advantage of thisno-hassle technique. There are plenty of fears about bats, but they are myths. They donít want to nest in human hair and theyrarely bite anyone. Fact is, the more you learn about bug-eating bats, the more you like them. I find spotting their dinner sport at dusk truly entertaining. Theyíre fast eaters!

One of my favorite Spring season chores is to mail order ladybugs and praying mantis. Theyíre a treat to watch and helpkeep your garden clear of bad bugs. Find ladybug homes along bat house suppliers. Discover helpful tips about keepingthese good guys around. Organic gardening is your first clue.

From patio to farm gardening, inspiration from literature and illustrations provide readily available support. With intereststeadily growing, advertising for organic lawn maintenance and landscapers will be reaching for your business. Itís become anew, trendy market niche for old-time labor.

A fashionable, earth-friendly garden consists of healthy plants and creative homes for your local bugs and critters. The bestway to achieve that is to go organic. Support bats, ladybugs, butterflies and birds with a natural habitat to make friends andforget the pesticide war. Youíll receive thanks in many unspoken ways.

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Written by: Delia Montgomery, ChicEco


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