Why Organic Gardening?
Malcolm Beck

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Some of the proponents of chemical agriculture say that the growing interest in organic gardening is being generated by a few facts and a lot of fiction|, and the term "organically grown" cannot be precisely defined. These people either haven't bothered to research the subject or they are getting it mixed up with the term "health food." They do not mean exactly the same thing.

Over 35 years ago, J.I. Rodale started the organic movement in this country as a crusade against eroding farmland and a polluted environment which he believed caused human health to degenerate. His inspiration came from studying the work of Sir Albert Howard of England and William A. Albrecht of the University of Missouri. After compiling and studying scientific papers from the world over, Rodale was confirmed in his beliefs. He went on to edit and publish Organic Gardening and Farming magazine, in which years ago he defined the term "organically grown" as "food grown without poisonous pesticides, grown without artificial fertilizers, grown in soil whose humus content is increased by the addition of organic matter, and grown in soil whose mineral content is increased with applications of natural mineral fertilizers."

Home gardeners and even many farmers soon learned to follow Rodale's advice because of the logic that poor soil can only produce poor plants, and poor plants produce poor animals and human bodies.

Many growers have learned that artificial fertilizers are only good to grow plants; artificial fertilizers do nothing to build soil fertility or even sustain soil fertility. With time, the soil begins to degenerate, as evidenced by the many worn-out farms around the country.

Gardeners and farmers discovered that with the natural or organic methods of soil building such as composting, cover cropping, and adding natural rock minerals, the soil fertility would increase each year and artificial fertilizers become unnecessary. As they continued to follow these organic methods, their plants seemed to develop immunity to the pests and diseases they were having before, and their farm animals, if left to natural selections, even preferred to eat the plants grown on the organically-enriched soils. With decreased pest and disease problems, the organic growers didn't need strong poisonous pesticides but could maintain production by using the safer non-polluting methods of pest control, such as liberating beneficial insects, changing cultural practices, or just planting better adapted varieties.

Research has shown that pests become immune to man-made pesticides which leads to stronger or more poisonous pesticide development. Many natural checks and controls of pests are provided by Nature that are safe and to which the pests don't become immune. We can work with Nature to use these controls and safeguards ourselves in the process. There is a 350-page book written on this subject, telling many ways to grow without poisonous pesticides, entitled The Organic Way to Plant Protection (available from Rodale Press).

Throughout the country, a growing number of farmers, small and large, are abandoning the heavy use of pesticides. They no longer try to eradicate pests with poison, which they not only found impossible, but also damaging to man's health and the environment and also costly. Instead, they are using what they call "natural pest management techniques." (Just a fancy name for organic methods.)

You can't yet call these farmers "organic growers," but they, along with many gardeners turning organic, are beginning to realize the answer to pest problems is not in a bag of poisonous chemicals, but in a better understanding of the laws of Nature and a desire to work with these laws.

I have compiled the following guidelines to help assist the organic growers.

Six organic rules:

  • Always use the best adapted varieties for each environment.

  • Plant in the preferred season.

  • Balance the mineral content of the soil.

  • Build and maintain the soil organic content -- humus.

  • Do nothing to harm the beneficial soil life.

  • Consider troublesome insects and diseases as symptoms of one of the above rules' having been violated.

We would like to thank Malcolm Beck for the above information. His article appears on the Gardenville website. Please visit them at www.gardenville.com

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