Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Practicing Organics in a Florida Vegetable Garden
Learning to grow a successful vegetable garden takes practice and a good dose of diligence.
Believe me, this gardener is still in the very early stages of trial and error. When I started my first vegetable garden in the spring of 2008 I didn't even know you had to fertilize the plants. I just thought if they looked good they must be doing fine. Then a former-farmer friend reminded me how they deplete the soil's nutrients quickly and need to be nourished along for the duration of their growth. That's when he handed me some Miracle-gro and proclaimed its worthiness for supplying essential trace elements.
It's been stated by many gardeners in this Florida environment that growing organically is nearly impossible.
That kind of thinking has made me even a bit more determined to discover age-old methods that enable me to exclude the use of pesticides and synthetics (including Miracle-gro) especially where the edibles are concerned.
Thinking of the garden as a whole system of living organisms working together to produce the end harvest encourages a philosophy of harmony with nature and the practice of protecting the good earth God has given us.
The proven techniques of growing organically starts as simply as attention to the soil. Each season my own composted soil is mixed with existing soil. Organic gardeners will find it very helpful to produce organic matter by saving grass clippings, allowing leaves to decay, and burying our kitchen scraps.
There have been seasons when I purchased new soil to mix with existing soil also.
But always I mix in blood meal and bone meal with the soil allowing it to ripen or set for a few weeks prior to planting. Comments about this in the past have included the smell drawing unwanted critters. Once mixed with soil I find there isn't an odor. The micro-organisms necessary to healthy soil are however brewing and during this waiting period are growing and multiplying.
Teaching the little ones to appreciate every part of our own little eco-system builds good values and character. We are learning together how to be consistent and diligent and that gently caring for a plant brings desired results. A four year old doesn't always want to walk ON the pathways but knows it is necessary to keep from compacting the good soil and its inhabitants we've taken the time to build and nourish.
If we take the time to study the beneficial insects and learn to identify the harmful ones we can most often avoid using pesticides all together. Healthy plants are not usually plagued with insects as much as a stressed plant is. Planting the right plants for our specific environment and giving them what they desire is an integral part of organic gardening.
Using flowering plants such as sweet alyssum to draw beneficial predator bugs in each vegetable bed produces a balance of nature allowing the bugs to feed off of each other rather than wiping out all beneficials with the careless spraying of pesticides.
The principles of companion planting and interplanting has become commonplace. Often this will trick the insects intent on harm as well as the fact that it maximizes space and creates an aesthetically pleasing environment.
There is nothing more therapeutic and invigorating than a few hours spent in a garden. Being privy to the delightful sights and sounds of buzzing and fluttering from critters of all sorts while we cultivate and tend to daily tasks is inspirational.
My best helper is learning how to identify 'harmful' and 'helpful' bugs with a flip chart book that lists them. We take photos and then compare their characteristics to make determinations and then discuss either their benefit or harmful deeds.
By no means am I an expert at any of this but because I get lots of questions and e-mails requesting the products I use I thought it might be helpful to some if I shared them.
A regimen of Tomato-tone every other week on the tomatoes and on the off-week Fish Emulsion hand mixed in gallon jugs is fed to everything in the garden. When the Tomato-tone is applied everything else in the garden gets a good side dressing of Sea Bird Guano or Fish Meal.
For now this is what is working for me. I am open to all advice and further helpful information. As a matter of fact, I would LOVE to hear from you. What works best for you? Have you been successful at 100% organic growing?
Life is good but growing your own vegetables and having peace of mind about where they come from makes life even better!
Happy gardening! Meems
A side note:
*** None of the manufacturers or products listed have any idea I blog or that I use their products.