As a young boy growing up near Los Angeles I loved the outdoors, especially our garden. We had a solution for everything. When aphids showed up we used malathion, ants were subdued with Chlordane, lawn weeds meant Turf Builder Plus 2. The garage shelves held a nice selection of “controls”: diazinon, sevin, dursban, 2,4-D and more. Like many at the time, my gardening education came from the trusted people at Ortho, Scott’s, Bandini and Miracle Gro. Just about any gardening obstacle had a solution sitting on those shelves. At the time I didn’t know any better. Today I do.
Organic gardening at the most basic level is the same everywhere. You work with nature instead of trying to control and contain it.
In a time when green lawns come on a truck and are kept green with a monthly dose of synthetic compounds, shifting back to a more natural method of maintaining a garden can at first appear intimidating. After years of traditional garden maintenance the soil is full of salts from the fertilizers that have been used. There are few beneficial insects, mostly just ants, whiteflies and snails. Invisible life in the soil, beneficial fungi, bacteria and other microbes have been poisoned by high analysis fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides. Thankfully, nature is forgiving.
Switching to organic principles in a garden isn’t necessarily more difficult, time consuming or expensive. Just yesterday I had a friendly debate about these concerns with the proprietor of a small local landscape maintenance company. “But it costs a lot more”, “It’s hard to get started”, “People want instant results”, she repeated. Of course, those of you reading this that are already using organics products, feel differently.
In an age of hybrid vehicles, global warming, “Inconvenient Truths”, watershed protection, recycling, and healthy living shouldn’t organic gardening be the norm, not the exception? We should not be resisting; we should be insisting that our gardens are installed and maintaining organically.
If there is one immediate adjustment that each gardener can make to become more organic, more earth-friendly it is to take inventory of what is being used in their garden. Start by looking at the garden remedies are on the shelf in the garage. Then notice what fertilizers are being used in your garden – and yes, you need to include the rose fertilizers and the lawn fertilizers too. If you gardener is applying fertilizer, snail bait or anything else to your garden you need to find out what he or she is using.
For some local gardeners taking an inventory of their gardening supplies will be an uncomfortable exercise. Like a patient taking prescription medications for an ailment, you may feel that you cannot garden without these products. Like an addiction to nicotine, you half to have it. Your garden will decline, or maybe even perish completely without these medicines.
While taking this inventory you may be surprised by what you find. Instead of Ortho, Scott’s, Bayer, Bandini, Snarol and Miracle Gro, an organic gardener will find Dr. Earth, Whitney Farms, John and Bob’s, Gardner and Bloome, Pharm Solutions and Safer. I hope you discover bags of organic compost, earthworm castings, a pint of insecticidal soap, a bottle of paraffinic oil and all organic fertilizers.
To become a responsible gardener in Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar or Newport Coast, start by becoming an organic gardener. The first thing to do is quite obvious. Stop using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides, snail baits and other materials in your garden. Most of these are bad for you, bad for the plants and bad for the environment. So, stop buying them and stop using them – immediately.
Once you start gardening organically, you will be addicted to the process. You will find more and more ways to do things naturally. Getting the garden medicine cabinet will provide healthier produce and flowers for you and your family to enjoy. And, no more cost or work than gardening any other way. At one time you didn’t know any better. Now you do.
Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar