Cauliflower The reasons for me being an organic gardener have always been about the health of my children and the survival of the planet. Organic gardening is about connecting to your garden and its needs rather than fighting against it. Introducing chemicals reduces the natural balance and creates an ongoing fight with nature. Nowadays of course we are only too aware of the damage that the assortment of chemicals can do to our bodies as well as our planet.

All year round

The beginnings of a healthy garden is a healthy soil and a healthy soil needs a mix of recycled garden refuse, kitchen waste and many other materials that we often throw in the bin so therefore the compost heap is the first stop. A nutritious compost heap’s needs are few – lots of biodegradable materials, lots of air and some moisture!

Kitchen and household waste that can be added to the heap includes all uncooked vegetable matter, (nothing cooked as it will attract vermin) coffee grounds, wood ash, (must be pure i.e. no added fossil fuels) shredded cardboard, hair clippings etc.

From the garden add a little of your grass cuttings – too much and it stops the air circulating freely, a little of your leaf drop in the autumn (much better for leaves to be gathered on their own and turned into leaf mould – more on this later), annual weeds before they seed etc.

A well managed compost heap takes at least a year to mature. I have never had time to follow the purist compost makers, and my heaps have always been very forgiving! So long as the main requirements are in place it will provide you with a satisfying mix after a year or so to lay on your garden – you know you have found a true “gardening friend” when you can talk for ages on the texture of your compost!

The “organic” chemicals approved by the Soil Association

There are several chemicals that are approved as safe to use in your garden but the more research done, the more that possible long-term damage is being questioned. Organic pesticides and fungicides which were common thirty years ago and marketed as safe are now banned in some countries. My advice would be to read up (plenty of information on the internet), question the professionals and make up your own mind what you will use.

There are many completely harmless methods of combating garden problems, ranging from the ludicrous – which involves the male of the household “spraying” the boundaries to keep rabbits out! To the extremely funny (don’t ask – it involves naked dancing!) But most are worth a try with nothing to lose but your straight face. Each month I hope to cover the possible pests, diseases etc. that are about and give a few possibilities to tackle the problems.

By Sheilah Kennedy

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