An Organic Home Garden
Importance of Organic Farming: In simple terms, anything organic is in its pure natural form. In organic farming we are doing all we can to grow fruits, vegetables and greens without the use of artificial chemical agents.
Organic farming has many benefits, like preserving the composition of the soil, preserving our ozone and beneficial organisms, it benefits our air quality and most importantly it helps you save money and continue to eat healthy!
At Valley Verde, we teach our participants the importance of soil health. Organic agriculture places soil quality first because our ancestors have taught us that only healthy soil can produce highly nutritious fruits and vegetables for safe for human consumption. One way to maintain soil health in your garden is by using natural ingredients and fertilizers to increase and maintain soil nutrients. The three main nutrients needed are Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. Adding compost to your soil is also another way of feeding your soil natural ingredients and keeping up its tilth. Adding cover crops in between seasons and rotating crops also is beneficial for soil health.
Although fertilizers can be bought in stores, we want you to take the time to explore their ingredients. In a study conducted in 2019, samples of soil were compared from an organic farm and an industrial tea farm and they found that Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and potassium contents were not significantly different between organic and chemical fertilizer treatments. However, it is proven that excessive use of chemical fertilizers has led to several issues such as serious soil degradation, nitrogen leaching, soil compaction, reduction in soil organic matter, and loss of soil carbon. In addition, the efficacy of chemical fertilizers on crop yield has been decreasing over time.
Although commercial fertilizers are simple to use and accessible, it does not mean that they work any better than organic fertilizers. In fact, continuous use of commercial fertilizers may decrease your soil health and stop working all together.
Below are two forms of organic fertilizer which can benefit your garden soil:
Fish Fertilizers Liquid fish fertilizer is ideal for both soil application and foliar applications and is applicable to all types of crops to provide nutrients that are indispensable to plants. Humic and fulvic acids are natural ingredients of organic matter required in any healthy soil. The practice of using fish as fertilizer has been around for centuries. Indigenous communities understood the value of fish as fertilizer. While preparing the ground to plant corn, indigenous people placed a small fish in the soil. They mounded fresh dirt on the buried fish and planted a corn seed. Throughout the growing season, the fish slowly decomposed, feeding the crop until harvest. While synthetic fertilizers provide the nutrients needed as soon as they are fed to your garden, fish fertilizer is processed differently in the soil because it contains nutrients that must first be digested by organisms, such as bacteria, earthworms, and fungi. Once these nutrients are digested and put back into the soil, it enhances the microbial activity and strengthens the soil by multiplying the amount of organic matter. Which in turn aerates the soil and allows for faster and stronger root growth. Your plants receive a balanced amount of primary and secondary nutrients during this process.
Compost: Composting enriches the soil, helping retain moisture and suppressing plant diseases and pests. It reduces the need for chemical fertilizers and encourages the production of beneficial bacteria and fungi that break down organic matter to create humus, a rich nutrient-filled material. Compost is decomposed “greens” which provide nitrogen and “browns” materials that provide carbon. Green materials can include grass clippings, vegetable scraps, fruit scraps and garden trimmings. Brown materials can include paper, cardboard, toilet paper rolls, twigs, and dried leaves. Composting can be done at home if there is adequate space. Or you can collect your kitchen and home scraps and bring them down to our Valley Verde locations. Beginning in October 2022, Valley Verde will be a composting facility. Once you sign up you will be able to collect your kitchen and home scraps. You will then be able to drop off your scraps at our location. In return, you will receive free compost for your garden for every season!
While adding fertilizers and compost to your garden is important, soil health can also be maintained by adding nutrient-rich materials to your garden and checking soil acidity. The calcium from eggshells is also welcome in garden soil, where it moderates soil acidity while providing nutrients for plants. Eggshells contain such an abundance of calcium and they can be added to your plant soil every two weeks.
Adding used coffee grounds directly to the soil as a fertilizer can also be a good option. Coffee grounds are rich in nutrients, especially nitrogen. They also have some amount of potassium and phosphorous. Overall, this means that adding coffee grounds to your garden can work fairly well.
After a crop is harvested the soil needs to be renewed. Many gardeners plant ‘green manure’ crops such as legumes, buckwheat, vetch or clover, which fix nitrogen into the soil while building texture, improving aeration and drainage, and adding organic matter. These cover crops are tilled in before they go to seed, and break down quickly so a new harvestable crop can be planted without much delay.
There are many benefits to crop rotation, according to agriculturists and agronomists. It helps in increasing soil fertility along with crop productivity.
Crop rotation increases soil fertility by controlling deficient or excess nutrients because it replenishes nutrients that are not available or absorbs nutrients that are in abundance or left behind by previous plants. In return, this aids in producing a higher crop yield season after season.
Crop rotation also limits the concentration of pests and diseases. Similar plants tend to have the same pathogens; therefore, crop rotation interrupts the pest life cycle and their habitat. A cycle entails similar events that happen in constant rotation, meaning that the infestation of pests and diseases happens in the season. Rotating the crop ensures the cycle is broken allowing beneficial insects to move in.
In the end, organic home gardening comprises of a few simple steps and techniques that help ensure a healthy soil, ecosystem and end product. A garden should feed more than the table. With the right methods and practices, a garden will provide new life to the soil, organisms and the health of our environment.