Organic Gardening The Key To Lush Plants--naturally

Plants Can Thrive Without Use Of Harmful Chemicals

October 13, 1991|By Gary Diamond | Gary Diamond,Contributing writer

Regardless of where you live, every day someone is mixing, spraying,dusting, dumping and injecting toxic chemicals into our environment.You don't have to look farther than your own neighborhood to see a tank truck loaded with chemical herbicides, pesticides and fertilizersspraying its deadly cocktail on someone's lawn.

Organic gardeningcan give you the lush flowers and foliage you want without risking your health or endangering the environment. It essentially uses certain plants, animals and insects to control or repel harmful insects that feed or nest in fruits and vegetables.

Granted, your neighbor's lawn is thick and green, but in many instances nothing other than the grass can live there. Allergic reactions, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea and skin rashes have been directly linked to applications of lawn and garden chemicals.

Many lawn and garden chemicals are often listed as biodegradable products -- chemicals that eventually break down, becoming less toxic.However, while that process is taking place, heavy rains wash the toxin from your lawn, through storm drains, into streams, down rivers and into the bay.

The same herbicides used to control crab grass and dandelions kill aquatic grasses, a vital link in the bay's food chain. Pesticides washing from vegetable gardens and fruit trees is frequently found in the fatty tissue of fish, oysters, clams and crabs --those same bay inhabitants we enjoy as seafood.

Maryland spends nearly $120 million annually in its effort to cleanse the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. But despite years of research and more than a decade of intense labor, one of the world's largest estuaries isn't showing significant signs of recovery.

Most chemical insecticides, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides are deadly poisons. Precautionary labeling usually instructs consumers to protect children, birds, dogs, cats and other animals from inhaling or ingesting these mixtures.

Some deadly products can be absorbed through skin, causing liver disease, kidney failure, several types of cancer and, in some cases, death.

Although some individuals may claim the chemicals are necessaryevils, alternatives do exist.

Getting started

Several books onorganic gardening are available from the public library. "Organic Gardening Without Poisons" by Hamilton Tyler and "Organic Plant Protection" edited by Roger B. Yepsen Jr. of Organic Gardening and Farming Magazine, are step-by-step guides on the subject. Everything from soilpreparation to diagnosing plant diseases is discussed. However, the emphasis is on non-chemical solutions to gardening problems.

One of the byproducts of lawn care is grass clippings. Those unwanted blades of grass are often raked into piles, placed in plastic bags and picked up by trash collectors, thus adding volume to our already overburdened landfills.

Ironically, grass clippings, leaves, small branches, trimmings and even kitchen garbage can be composted into rich, dark loam. A 4-foot by 5-foot bin is capable of producing sufficient compost to fertilize a one-acre lawn or produce enough vegetables to feed a modest family all year.

Compost can be used as a liquid fertilizer, too. Fill a plastic trash can one-quarter full with ripe compost and add enough rain water to fill the container. If rain water isnot available, water from dehumidifiers or air conditioners works equally well. Do not use city water. It's chlorinated to kill germs andbacteria, and bacteria is the main active ingredient in compost.

Mix the contents thoroughly until it forms a dark brown brew. Liquid fertilizer made from compost is unsurpassed for feeding lawns, flowers, house plants, vegetables and shrubs. It's the mildest fertilizer you'll ever find, yet it contains all the nutrients your plants require.

When certain chemicals are applied to lawns and gardens, they kill tiny animals and insects that are often quite beneficial. Earthworms consume enormous amounts of decaying vegetation and small particles of basic rock and pass them through their gizzard, grinding the material into a thick paste. The worm population of a healthy, one acrelawn is capable of processing 18 tons of soil annually, leaving behind nutrient-rich casings while aerating the soil.

Birds are a mosteffective and persistent pesticide. By strategically placing feeders, suet and other bird-attracting devices on your lawn, you can enjoy the beauty of the birds while they methodically pick insects from theleaves of plants.

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