In today’s factory farming, producers are forced to use a potent cocktail of pesticides and herbicides to keep yields up as high as possible in the hope of turning a profit.
But given the choice, most of us would rather these chemicals weren’t used. From pesticide residues on food to the pollution of soil and watercourses, there is a lot to be said for growing organically.
Unfortunately by it’s very nature, organic food production has it’s risks. Firstly the weeds that herbicides kill will need to be removed in another way. Secondly pathogens and parasites normally killed by pesticides will need to be treated in other ways. And of course nutrients taken out of the soil by your plants will need to be topped up without the use of artificial fertilizers.
Fortunately, people have been growing organic food for thousands of years and so in that time we have amassed a great amount of knowledge on working with nature to grow healthy, delicious crops without risking our health or the environment.
Growing crops in the same area of soil for year after year has the potential to allow build-ups of pests and pathogens in the soil so for best results crops should be “rotated”. Crop rotation involves splitting your growing area into typically three or four sections (though you may use more), then each season you move your crops around the sections.
In this way you might plant potatoes in a certain bed one season. Then the following season you would put a different crop into this bed, and instead plant your potatoes in another area.
There are a number of ways to add nutrients to the soil without having to resort to artificial fertilizers. Two of the most common are to either add well-rotted farmyard manure which can often be bought from local farms for a minimal charge, or the use of “green fertilizers”.
Green fertilizers are crops like legumes which are capable of fixing nitrogen from the air. Once the plants are fully-grown, you simply dig over the bed and the legumes die off, releasing all the nitrogen into the soil ready to fertilize whatever you plant there next.
There are literally hundreds of different varieties of fruits and vegetables. Each has a different appearance, a subtly different taste and best of all grows under slightly different conditions.
For best results from your organic gardening, try out a number of different varieties to see which seem to flourish in your soil conditions. Some people have failed time and again with certain plants only to have a bumper crop when they figure out which variety works best in their part of the world.
Physical Pest Control
A common pest of carrots is the carrot fly, which flies along the surface of the soil looking for carrot plants to infect. A whole crop can be lost to these pests if you’re unlucky. Fortunately as these flies travel along so low, many growers have found that simply putting up a barrier of around 30cm high around their carrot patch, or covering their carrot plants in horticultural fleece stops the flies dead.
Netting will also keep out birds from eating your fruit and so on, and there are dozens of other tried-and-tested solutions for controlling pests without needing to resort to chemicals.