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Organic gardening pretty simple

Carson Arthur

Outdoor Living with Carson Arthur
The term organic gardening has been thrown around a lot over the last few years when it comes to gardening and growing food. Someone somewhere decided that organic is healthier and therefore more expensive because it is harder to grow food without the use of synthetic fertilizers and sprays.

The good new is that when it comes to home gardening, going organic is really pretty simple and straightforward. Organic home gardeners really take cues from nature and the world around them when it comes to caring for plants minus all the fake stuff.

The first rule of going organic is to feed the soil – not the plant. If we focus on the ground and what the plant is using to feed itself, we can achieve increased growth without the need of fertilizers, which are eventually consumed by the people who eat our vegetables. Feeding the soil means adding healthy amendments to it to promote the right kind of natural organisms and plant life.

This is where composting comes in. By adding decomposing plants (also called organic matter) we emulate how plants and trees get nutrients in the wild. They live off of rotting leaves, branches and fallen trees. Another way to feed your soil is to plant cover crops. This ‘green’ fertilizer is plowed into the soil to decompose, giving off healthy nutrients to the plants that follow.

The second rule is ‘right plant-right place”. When we put plants into a spot where they will naturally thrive, they are healthier plants and require less from us. Unfortunately, design and function don’t always go hand-in-hand and we try and force plants into spots where we want them to be and not where they want to be.

Bugs and pathogens more easily invade a stressed-out plant because it is unable to fight them off. Its like when you are tired from being at work, you are more likely to catch the office flu or cold because your immune system is not at 100 percent. Also consider incorporating plant diversity into your space. By mixing the plants, an insect, which thrives on one species, may be repelled by another.

When all else fails, incorporate some deterrents. Mesh tunnels are an effective way of stopping flying insects from invading your plants. Even just giving your blast a blast of high-pressure water from the hose is great for removing caterpillars and slugs (and strangely satisfying at the same time). You can also purchase insecticidal soap and horticultural oil, both of which are used to deter hungry bugs from choosing your plants. If you want to make your own insecticidal soap, leave the plug in the drain when you take your morning shower. The soap to water concentration is just about right for aphids and spider mites.

Ultimately, organic gardening is easily achievable for anyone looking to avoid using synthetics. Just remember that these methods are not perfect. You are going to get a certain level of insect damage in your plants…and that is totally OK!

-Landscape designer Carson Arthur is host of HGTV’s new Home to Win show. He is also the outdoor expert with City TV’s Cityline and wrote the sell-out book Garden Designs for Outdoor Living in 2015. More at
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