Back to Tips & Tricks

Organic Gardening

Today, we are more and more conscientious about mother earth, how we treat her and how we can better take care of her. While we can’t control how the rest of the world treats her, we can make a difference right in our own backyard. We’re talking about what seems to be one of the biggest buzz topics out there: Organic Gardening. With that said, what exactly is organic gardening? It isn’t just not using pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. True, these are a part of organic gardening, but organic gardening goes much further than that. Really, it is a way of thinking, a way of life. Think of mother nature as a system and our plants are one tiny part of it, as well as insects, water, wildlife, even you and I are a part of it. Wow, sounds a bit complicated, huh? Well, relax because it is really rather simple.

Let’s start with our garden soil. The ideal organic garden soil is very dark (full or rich organic matter), has lots of earthworms (aerates your soil) and a slightly sweet smell. The organic matter in your garden helps to nourish your plants and give them the food they need to flourish, in an organic way. Organic matter can come from various resources, manure, bone meal, or a compost pile/bin (some of your kitchen scraps and backyard waste) to name a few. Simply put, organic matter is largely a lot of stuff that may otherwise be thrown away and put in a landfill. That leads us to our second point, a compost pile/bin.

Now, there are many approaches to a compost pile, you can build a bin out of some wire mesh, simply create a pile in the corner of your yard (without a bin), or you can buy a compost tumbler/barrel for a much neater, tidier appearance (Available in the Garden Center at Fairview Greenhouses & Garden Center). All in all, they should all produce the same results= you get to use some of your yard waste and kitchen scraps (and keep them out of a landfill), and with a little time and patience, you’ll get some really great organic matter to use in your garden or yard! Everybody wins!

All material that is placed in a compost pile falls into one of two categories, brown material or green material. Brown material (rich in carbon) consists of yard scraps like straw, dried leaves, wood chips, dried grass clippings and dead plant material (just make sure what you put in your pile doesn’t contain weed seeds!) that is disease and pesticide-free. To take it even a step further, you can even shred your old newspapers and use them as a brown material in your compost bin (another great way to recycle!). Green material (rich in nitrogen) consists of fresh grass clippings and food scraps such as fruit/veggie peelings, eggshells, tea bags, and coffee grinds (avoid meats, fats, dairy and grease). Fun Fact: Composting can divert as much as 30% of household waste from the landfill!

Now, if your building your own pile, it is best to build one that is no smaller than three feet wide by three feet long. If your buying a compost tumbler/barrel, you need not worry about that. To get your pile started, you want to spread a layer that is several inches thick of the dry brown material, that sort-of acts like the foundation of your pile (straw (not hay!) is a great choice). Then, top that layer with several inches of the green material. Top that with a thin layer of garden soil. Next, add a layer of brown material and moisten the three layers with water. Continue this process of layering until you have a pile that is three feet high. If you don’t have enough material to make a pile that is three feet high at first, don’t worry. Just keep collecting material for your pile and add to until it is three feet high, and moisten your pile. (Note: Make sure your pile is protected from rain, you don’t want it to get too wet.)

Getting the right ratio (brown matter to green matter) can be tricky, and there is a lot of very different information out there. The best information we have been able to find is 3 brown :1 green OR 2 brown : 1 green. The rule of thumb is: too much green material can make your pile smell, be heavy and decompose slowly. For a better smell, cover the green material (that can release bad odors) with brown material (which usually has a fresh smell). If that doesn’t do the trick, add more carbon! No matter which ratio you choose, you will most likely need to alter it slightly until you find the right combination for your pile/yard/elements/etc. You get the idea.

Every two weeks, turn the pile with a shovel/fork, being certain to move the center of the pile outside and the outside material to the inside. Make sure your pile stays moist (not wet); damp, much like a wrung-out sponge. If you see steam when you turn your pile, this is a good signal that all is well; the pile is heating up and decomposing. Once you have the right balance, you may eventually find earthworms in your pile and the center will be that really dark, sweet-smelling, rich organic matter we mentioned earlier.

Now on to our next topic, controlling insects organically. This is a really cool part about gardening organically, because by controlling insects without using pesticides, we are not only getting rid of the pests we don’t want, but we are helping to protect the insects we do want, such as butterflies and dragonflies. There are many ways to control the insect population in your yard without the use of dangerous pesticides. Here are a few options:

– Organic Insecticidal Soaps (Available atFairview, see complete line of organic products below)

– Encourage beneficial insects to your yard to get rid of the bad insects. Good insects/creatures are praying mantis, ladybugs, birds, frogs, and lizards. You can bring these lovely creatures to your yard with a few plant additions. Ask our nursery for more information. Also, a water source will encourage these yard-friendly natural predators to your yard! Note: We have praying mantis eggs and ladybugs in ourGardenCenter. Simply release these into your yard and watch what happens!

– Barriers, such as netting, can help protect your plants from bad insects. These are particularly great when the Japanese Beetles are visiting!

Other helpful bits to make your yard and/or garden organic and a haven for all of the wonderful creatures we want to attract (and to control the ones we don’t):

– Control weeds by mulching and/or hoeing

– Plant Native Plants: Native plants tend to have fewer problems (disease and pest) than others.

– Rain Barrels: Collect the water mother nature gives us instead of using (and paying) for water that has been treated with chemicals.

– Make certain to select a location in your yard that is suitable for your new plants. Doing so may lessen your water usage and the need for items like fungicides, etc.

– Proper Planting Helps Alot. Stressed plants are much more likely to develop insect or fungal issues. Proper planting = healthy roots = happy plants.

As you can see, there are many steps you can take to make your garden and yard more organic, while helping out mother nature and mother earth along the way. For many of the great products mentioned here, as well as those listed below, visitFairviewGreenhouses & GardenCenterto get started on your organic lifestyle today! Enjoy!

Line of Organic Products We Carry atFairview:

Organic Fertilizers and Plant Food
When used in fertilizers, the word organic generally means that the nutrients contained in the product are derived solely from the remains of, or by-products of, an organism. Cottonseed meal, blood meal, fish emulsion and manure are examples of organic fertilizers.

1. Espoma Bone Meal 4-12-0: All natural source of phosphorus and organic nitrogen.
2. Espoma Dried Blood 12-0-0: Natural source of nitrogen. Use in flower beds, vegetable gardens and indoors.
3. Espoma Epsom Plus: All natural 3-in-1 supplement that provides sulphur, magnesium and potassium. Ideal for roses and palms.
4. Espoma Garden Iron: Turns yellow to green, naturally. Will not stain sidewalks or other concrete surfaces.
5. Espoma Garden Sulfur: All natural, high purity mineral that corrects the problem of alkaline in soil. Turns hydrangeas from pink to blue.
6. Espoma Greensand: Contains potash and other minerals from natural marine deposits. Excellent soil conditioner.
7. Espoma Compost Bio-Excelerator: Uses natural bio-organics to speed the production of rich, fertile humus.
8. Espoma Lawn Food: 100% organic nitrogen in this 18-8-6 blend. Long lasting and will not burn.
9. Nature’s Creation: All natural liquid plant food. Enriched with mycorrhizal fungi. This product can be used on indoor and outdoor plants. Encourages vigorous root, stem and bloom development. Available in ready-to-use concentrate, hose-end sprayer and tablets.
10. Bradfield Corn Gluten 9-0-0: Feeds lawns naturally. Helps build strong turf.
11. Bradfield Organic Fertilizer: Ideal for lawns, potted plants, vegetables, herbs, roses and flower gardens.

Organic Insect and Disease Control
1. Garden Safe Fungicide 3-in-1: Three products in one that controls fungal diseases, insects and mites. Prevents and controls black spot, powdery mildew, rust and other fungal diseases. Kills eggs, larvae and adult insects. Kills mites, including spider mites. Contains extracts of neem oil. Use on roses, flowers, trees, shrubs, fruits and vegetables.
2. Garden Naturals Rose Rx 3-in-1: Multipurpose fungicide, miticide and insecticide. Contains neem oil and is safe for use on roses, flowers, houseplants, trees, shrubs, nuts and vegetables.
3. Garden Naturals Thuricide: Liquid concentrate formulation of bacteria that controls caterpillars, loopers, cabbage worms and leaf rollers. Won’t harm beneficial insects.
4. Garden Naturals Japanese Beetle Killer: Natural pyrethrum for quick-and-easy kill of Japanese Beetles. Safe for use on vegetables, flowers, ornamentals, trees and shrubs. Trigger spray applicator.
5. Garden Naturals Tomato and Vegetable 3-in-1: Insect, mite and disease control. Effective on all stages of insect life cycle. Can be used up to day of harvest.
6. Garden Naturals All Season Horticultural Spray Oil: A paraffinic oil that may be used as a growing season or dormant spray, to control overwintering of red spiders, scale, aphids, leaf rollers, whitefly and other insects. Highly recommended for use on fruit trees, shade trees, roses and vegetables.
7. Flower Pharm: Made with pure cinnamon oil. An insecticidal soap that treats powdery mildew, horticultural fungus and garden pests on flowers.
8. Veggie Pharm: Made with pure garlic and peppermint oil. An insecticidal soap, plus insecticide, miticide and fungicide. Works on all vegetables.
9. Indoor Pharm: Made with pure rosemary oil. Treats houseplant fungus gnats, horticultural fungus, scale and more.
10. Oil Pharm: Made with 100% certified organic soybean oil. Treats wilt on fruit/nut trees, berries, perennials and woody ornamentals.
11. Fungus Pharm: Made with 100% certified organic soybean oil. Treats black spot, rust, fungus, mildew and mold.

Organic Pest Control and Animal Repellents
1. Garden Naturals Repels All: Repels three ways- by sense of touch, taste and smell. Contains garlic, dried blood, whole egg solids, clove, fish oil, onion and wintergreen. Repels cats, birds, crows, chipmunks, deer, groundhogs, mice, rabbits, raccoons, skunks and voles.
2. I Must Garden: All natural deer, squirrel and rabbit repellent. Safe for use on all flowers, shrubs, trees, fruits and vegetables. Safe around children and pets.
3. Mosquito Dunks: Kills mosquitos before they become old enough to bite. For use in birdbaths, fountains and rain barrels. Simply leave a floating dunk in each place that water collects around your home.

Organic Weed Control
1. Espoma Earth: 4-in-1 weed control. Dual active formula contains ammoniated soap of fatty acids. Provides up to six weeks of residual control for weeds, grass, moss and algae.
2. Pharm Solutions Weed Pharm: An organic food grade acid, all natural, nontoxic, nonselective weed and grass killer