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Organic Gardening 101: 4 Steps to a Chemical-Free Garden
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Organic Gardening 101: 4 Steps to a Chemical-Free Garden

You’re ready to start your first organic gardening project: so you plant seeds, water, and weed.

But as you keep watering and weed a little more, you start getting nervous that that’s not enough. A few weeks later, your plants are overrun with pests and start dying. So you panic, dump fertilizer on top, and sprinkle the whole garden with commercial-grade pesticide!

Part of a common misconception is that organic gardening means only planting seeds and “hoping” that they turn out okay. Our friends at Go Green, a local West Chester company, specializing in organic lawn care, want to debunk the myth that chemical-free gardening is ineffective.

Using chemicals in our gardens has unfortunately become the norm. It’s easy, it’s efficient, but it is also damaging to the environment and our bodies. Chemical fertilizers have a high salt index that eventually burns and dehydrates the land. Unabsorbed pesticides can leach into waterways or end up on or in your food at levels higher than what the EPA allows for supermarket produce.

Organic gardening means making sustainable decisions about the larger ecological system and committing to use less harmful methods of controlling pests and disease. It requires thinking beyond the health of one single plant and considering the health of your entire yard and any potential long-term effects. Steering clear of chemicals is healthier for your garden, your family, your yard, and the environment overall.

There are countless benefits of organic gardening, but whatever your motivation, there are several steps you can take to keep chemicals out of your garden this spring.

4 Steps to an Organic & Chemical-free Garden

  1.  Build healthy soil. Growing a garden full of healthy plants begins with building a garden full of healthy soil. Start by having a lawn care technician test your soil to discover its composition and explore what nutrients might improve your yard health.

Each spring, add compost and eco-friendly fertilizer, which can be purchased at most lawn care stores or made at home. Protect your plants with a layer of organic mulch and clean out any dead plant material at the end of the growing season. Building healthy soil can be a slow process, but compost and organic nutrients will add up over the years and give you an excellent foundation for growing your garden without the use of chemicals.

2.  Rotate your crops. Some plants require more of certain nutrients or minerals, like Nitrogen. By planting the same crops over and over in the same spot, you will deplete the soil of these nutrients. Chemical fertilizers can make it possible to keep growing plants in the same spot in the short-term, but you can’t fool Mother Earth forever.

Rotating crops also makes it harder for bugs to feast on the same plants years after year. Because vulnerability to pests and diseases runs in plant families, leaving three or more years between the times you plant members of the same crop family in a spot in your garden can make a huge difference.

3.  Pest-proof your plants. There are many pesticide-free ways of keeping bugs at bay. Physical barriers like nets and row covers or metal cans without lids and pressed into the soil can prevent insects from eating and laying eggs on your crops. Crushed eggshells provide nutrients for plants and keep slugs away.

Using a commercial pest control powder or spray can kill all the bugs in your garden – and not all bugs are bad; in fact, many are useful! From the worms that churn your soil to aphid-eating ladybugs, many insects are good for your garden. Planting flowers like dill, tansy, coriander, and Queen Anne’s Lace to attract these good bugs and insects can improve the health of your garden and keep the pesky bugs away.

4.  Grow in season. If your plants are struggling, it may be because they’re not a good fit for the spot they are planted or for your climate. While synthetic fertilizers make it easier to defy the conditions and trick plants into growing outside of their natural conditions, all it takes to cut out the chemicals is some research on the plants that grow best in your area.

Sun-loving plants tend to wilt or mold in shady locations, and many shrubs are ill-equipped for long, cold Pennsylvania winters. Matching your plants to the local West Chester climate is a simple, eco-friendly way to kick the chemicals to the curb.

Making your health and the health of the environment a priority doesn’t have to be hard – in fact, it can be quite easy. You can have a thriving garden without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and by choosing methods that protect your soil, your crops, and the environment, you can enjoy your organic garden for years to come.

Have more questions about organic solutions for your lawn and garden in the Philadelphia area? Contact Go Green lawn services today!

Go Green is an eco-friendly lawn care company in West Chester, PA that specializes in organic fertilization, weed control, aeration, seeding, and mowing services. 

 

 

 

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Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake. View all posts by Julie Hancher

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