Organic gardening, by definition, is growing vegetables, fruits and other plants without relying on synthetic methods of pest control and fertilization. Common practices of organic gardening include, but are not limited to, fertilizing soil with compost, using beneficial insects to deter harmful ones, rotating crops, and using heirloom varieties of plants. |
Many people believe that organic gardening takes far more time, money, knowledge and planning than conventional gardening or yields measly, tasteless crops full of blemishes and bug holes. If you’ve considered starting an organic garden but have been deterred by these myths, check your facts. Your fears may be unfounded.
Myth: If you don’t use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, your yield will be significantly reduced.
Fact: Proponents of conventional farming say that organic farms suffer lower yields, but this may not be true. According to Harvard educated environmental scientist Donella Meadows, Ph.D. in her article Our Food, Our Future, "the expectation that [organic yields] will always trail chemical yields is without merit". Meadows cites many examples of organic farmers who, without the benefits of years of government and academic research that has advanced conventional farming, have come close to the yields achieved by conventional farmers, even out-producing them in times of drought, when organically-farmed soil retains water better than conventionally-farmed soil. In addition to good yields, she notes that many of the organic methods studied have actually been a boon to the environment instead of a burden since organic methods improve the soil.
Much of the yield debate stems from the question of whether organic farming can feed the world’s population, and that question hasn’t been answered. But as you’re probably not trying to feed the world with your backyard vegetable garden, this shouldn't be a concern for your household. Remember that synthetic fertilizers and pest-control methods may be effective in the short term, but they’re not without risks, and they’re not without safer alternatives.
Myth: Organic produce is lower in quality.
Fact: If you grow your own food organically in good quality soil, here’s what to expect from your produce: negligible pesticide residues, no genetically modified organisms, higher levels of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and superior taste. If these distinctions are considered when determining quality, then home-grown produce can’t be beat.
There has been much debate recently about whether or not organic produce is higher in nutrients than conventional produce. Results of studies have been conflicting, and a few have shown no difference. However, keep in mind that these studies set out to compare nutrient content, not the flavor, safety, or environmental impact of organic vs. conventional. Additionally, they were comparing industrial organic to industrial conventional crops, which are vastly different from backyard organic. When it comes to taste and freshness, what you grow at home can't be beat!
When you have a backyard garden, you can utilize techniques such as crop rotation (planting a bed with corn one year and beans the next, which helps prevent soil depletion), cover crops (which help to add nutrients back into the soil by growing crops like peas and clover in the fall and winter months), and fertilizing with compost. All of these methods will improve your soil and improve the nutrient content of your crops. Continued ›