What is Organic Gardening?

Going “green” is the trend and what could be greener for home gardens than going organic?

People don’t always understand what organic means. People think it means that no pesticides can be used, but that is not necessarily the case. According to Cooperative Extension’s national Web site, eXtension.org, “organic farming can be defined by the proactive, ecological management strategies that maintain and enhance soil fertility, prevent soil erosion, promote and enhance biological diversity, and minimize risk to human and animal health and natural resources.”

Organic gardening relies on preventative management practices to reduce pests such as weeds, insects and diseases.

Organic farmers first employ physical and mechanical methods to control pests rather than pesticides. Physical controls include thinning, altering humidity, temperature or light. Painting tree trunks to prevent sunscald or covering plants to keep them warm are physical pest management techniques.

Mechanical controls for weeds may consist of mulching, mowing, or hand weeding. Applying sticky materials to trunks of trees or shrubs to reduce insect pests in the canopy is another mechanical method. If physical and mechanical methods do not work to keep pests at tolerable levels, organic gardeners then treat for pests with materials approved in certified organic systems. Although these materials are certified organic, they are still pesticides – they kill pests. Pesticides allowed in organic systems will exclude genetically engineered organisms, synthetic pesticides, and preventative antibiotics.

While organic is an ecological definition, certified organic is a legal term. “In the U.S., all products that bear an organic label or advertise organic ingredients must meet or exceed the regulatory standards established by the National Organic Program (NOP), regardless of the country of origin,” eXtension.org says. “Since 2002, organic certification in the U.S. has taken place under the authority of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) NOP, which accredits organic certifying agencies and oversees the regulatory process.” You can buy “certified organic” products with confidence knowing they are highly regulated for consistent high standards.

If you would like to grow your own organic vegetables and fruits this summer in an effort to save money and conserve natural resources, consider attending a series of workshops on organic gardening. For more information, contact me at 887-2252 or skellyj@unce.unr.edu. Be sure to check out eXtension.org for additional information on organic gardening and many other useful topics. It is an interactive learning environment delivering the best, most researched knowledge from the land-grant universities across America.