What is the correct definition of Organic Gardening?
What is OG? Well it very controversal based on who you talk to. Some OG people are strictly conservative in their gardening methods, while others are more adventureous and experimental. Some OG ideas are classical, ancient, and mystical. Other ideas are more modern, scientific, state of the art. Well what is it then?
This is not the best, but it is a good laymen definition of OG:
"ORGANIC GARDENING - the science and art of gardening by incorporating the entire landscape design and environment to improve and maximize the garden soil's health, structure, texture, as well as maximize the production and health of developing plants without using synthethic commercial fertilizers, pesticides, or fungicides."
One of our forum members, Organic_Johnny, used this statement also to help define organic gardening from an ecological point of view:
1. Choose your plants to fit your garden, rather than insisting on growing picky and tempermental plants that require constant fertilizing.
2. Amend your soil with organic materials, e.g, break up clay with compost, rather than reaching for the gypsum right away.
3. Plant things that will attract and maintain a population of beneficial insects, etc., and cultivate the soil in such a way as to encourage good fungi and bacteria that will fight off the bad guys.
4. Never throw organic material in the trash...re-introduce it to your local slice of the biosphere!
Both organic and natural soil amendments are slow release, contain organic matter, and usually have a NPK ratio whose sum of the top 3 major nutrients is less than 20. They are usually designed from decomposed animal or vegetable remains or mineral rocks. They are designed to feed the soil microherd insoluble OM, not supply lots of available soluble plant nutrients.
Synthetic fertilizers have higher NPK because they are designed to chemically build the soluble nutrients of the soil without any organic matter. They also are not designed to feed the soil microherd. Synthetics are normally made from petroleum products or mineral salts.
There are actually 3 major classes of environmentally conscious gardeners today. (Note: none of these 3 classes believe in the use of synthetic fertilizers) They are all similar but also quite different:
1. Organic Gardening - these people don't use anything in their garden that has any potentially harmful chemicals, preservatives, colorings, etc. in their gardening strategies. The modern idealogies of this philosophy are based from men like Sir Albert Howard and J. I. Rodale and his family and company. They garden all year round regardless of weather or climate conditions. Economics, common sense, and environmental concerns drives the focus of this philosophy. All composting and green manuring techniques are key to this philosophy. Organic soil amendments are grass clippings, hay, straw, animal manures, human urine, leaves, dolomitic limestone, greensand, etc.
2. Biodynamic Gardening - these gardeners believe almost the same as the OG people, but they go to the next level. This philosophy was founded mainly by Rudolph Steiner. They believe strongly in gardening during appropriate astrological signs, religion, critical seasons of the year, etc. They are even very adamant about what organic materials goes into their compost at certain specifc times. (i.e. Special uses of comfrey and stinging nettle in compost piles during special times of the year) Their focus is not maximizing crop production like the OG people, but maximizing the physical and spiritual needs of nature. They use special soil amendments like stinging nettle, comfrey, yarrow, and dandelions in many of their gardening functions.
3. Natural Gardening - these gardeners are similar in the basic philosophy of the OG people, but not as strict in their choice of soil amendments. They will use a safe natural product that has good organic matter in it, even if it contains a minimum use of preservatives, colorings, etc. Natural soil amendments are blood meal, bone meal, fish emulsion, kelp spray, cottonseed meal, cattle feeds, etc.
4. Permaculture and other forms of sustainable farming - Permaculture in laymen terms is basically an extreme form of organic gardening where the farmer can only use materials on his/her farm to recycle to make compost, soil amendments, fertilizers, etc. for his farm. No buying or getting of organic material or natural fertilizers from outside or commercial sources.
To make things even more complicated, the USDA has redefined certain guidelines and regulations for any farners who want to be classified as "USDA certified organic"!
The truth is, almost all environmentally conscious gardeners cross over back and forth between these 4 major classes. You as a gardener have to decide for yourself which philosophy style best fits your needs.