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The Top 5 Myths about Organic Gardening

Get the Facts about Growing Food Organically

-- By Liza Barnes, Registered Nurse and Health Educator
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Myth: Organic gardens cost more. 

Fact: Organic produce definitely costs more when you buy it from your local grocer, but this doesn’t apply to your backyard garden.  In fact, organic gardens may actually cost you less than gardening conventionally. Chemical fertilizers tend to cost just as much or more than natural fertilizers, and at less than $2.00 for a packet of seeds and $3.00 for a bag of mulch, you'll be making a major return on your investment by gardening organically in lieu of purchasing organic produce from the store. Here are some ways to save money and resources in your organic garden:
  • Reuse. Repurpose plastic food containers, milk cartons, and egg cartons as pots for germinating seeds before outdoor planting.  Just make sure to equip the containers with drainage holes. 
     
  • Make your own materials. Keep those pesky bugs away from your plants with an all-natural mixture of hot, soapy water, chopped garlic, and hot pepper. If you compost, you can make your own fertilizer from scraps and lawn clippings otherwise destined for the landfill. 
     
  • Save seeds. The seeds from your produce can be dried and used to grow food next year without having to buy seeds again.  Seed saving is also a way to select for good traits, and to preserve biodiversity in the vegetable world by holding on to seeds that are no longer sold on a large scale, or at all.  Be sure to save seeds only from non-hybrid plants, as second-generation hybrid seeds will produce inferior offspring.  To save seeds, dry them thoroughly on the counter, and store them in a wax envelope, away from moisture, light, and extreme temperatures. 
     
  • Buy second-hand, or borrow. Wheelbarrows, shovels, tillers, and containers can be found at auctions, yard-sales, and through classified ads and can save you a ton.  And if you’re lucky, you can borrow them when you need them from family, friends, and neighbors.
Myth: Organic gardening is more time consuming.

Fact: Organic gardening can be more time consuming and labor intensive because you’re doing the work instead of the chemicals.  It takes time to remove weeds manually, to work the humus from the compost pile into the soil, to research and plan the best crop rotation and to plant cover crops.  But the extra time spent in the garden will probably be enjoyable, and your body and the environment will thank you.

Myth: You have to be an expert to have a successful organic garden.

Fact: There are lots of ways to learn to do something new, but sometimes the most effective way is to learn by doing.  You know the basics that a garden requires: seeds, soil, sun, and water.  Pick a sunny spot in your yard, clear it of grass and weeds, loosen the dirt by digging and turning with a shovel, stir in some compost or purchased topsoil, plant your seeds according to directions on the package, add water, and wait.  There are a myriad of books, websites, magazines, and videos on gardening.  If you’re overwhelmed, just take it slow.  Chances are though, when you take a bite of your first home-grown tomato, you’ll be ready to dive right in. 

Sources

Cleeton, James. ''Organic foods in relation to nutrition and health key facts.'' Medical News Today, July 11, 2004. Accessed April 2010. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com.

Ed Hume Seeds. ''Seed Cover Crops to Revitalize Vegetable Garden Soil Over Winter.'' Accessed April 2010. http://www.humeseeds.com.

Main, Emily. ''5 Ways to Create an Organic Garden on the Cheap.'' Rodale, April 24, 2009. Accessed March 2012. http://www.rodale.com.

Organic Gardening. ''Organic Fertilizers.'' Accessed April 2010. http://www.organicgardening.com.

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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • EARTHENDELIGHT
    Excellent website. A lot of useful information here. I'm delivering it to some buddies and also discussing in delightful. And of course, thanks in your sweat!
    www.earthendeli
    ght.com/about
    -earthendelight.html
    - 10/23/2013 2:31:05 AM
  • It would have been nice to see a real comparison of the nutrient content of organic produce over conventional. It would also be nice if the article had addressed the subject of produce safety. - 8/30/2013 2:27:32 PM
  • Sorry, as for the time issue. I have done gardens in the back yard, renting the tiller, ammending the soil A LOT, and WEEDING constantly. I have done a small amount of weeding, scraping the top of the soil with my fingernail when I noticed plants coming up. So I spend no time turning soil or weeding.

    I expect I will have to be more vigilant for pests in the spring/summer garden when those pests will be plentiful. So far, I've only seen a stink bug. i expect and extra five minutes might be needed to squash a bug or caterpillar if they eat too much parsley. I'll probably plant more of that and dill for the Eastern Swallowtails.

    I'm not understanding what the extra work is involved for the organic garden from the previous commenter or the author. Quite frankly, if I had to do all the garden prep of a traditional garden, it wouldn't have happened. - 12/11/2012 12:48:52 AM
  • I started four 4 x 4 square foot gardening boxes this fall. I spent quite a bit of money for coarse vermiculite, peat, and 5 different composts to blend. I will never have that expense again because all I need to do as one crop is harvested and I plant something else is add my own compost to that 12 x 12 inch square. So I have 64 squares in production. Sugar Snap pea plants are taller than me and getting ready to put out another harvest. Another couple of days and they will be fat and juicy. Delicious out in the garden. This week, I bought a pkg. of sugar snap peas at the store while waiting for this harvest. I couldn't eat them raw, and they had very little flavor when steamed.

    I have a salad every day with a huge variety of lettuces and not one leaf is ever rotten. Red Salad Bowl is absolutely gorgeous and I've never had that variety before. I have other varieties that I have no idea what they are.

    So the variety that is possible with this method is amazing. Also, I put some transplants purchased at the garden store in my raised bed, Mel's mix; and some out in my flower beds. Broccoli, leeks, and tomatoes all withered and died. All plants have done well in my raised beds except the acorn squash. And I don't think anything inorganic would have helped it. The plant didn't survive our 2 nights below 32 degrees. My mom thought I was silly. That I would be eating a $50 head of broccoli. I have already saved the cost of the mix in salad greens, squash bossoms, peas, green beans and basil.

    But the best thing is, I am eating vegetables now, and I know they have nothing on them that could harm me. Was it worth it? I can't wait to get up in the morning to go out and pick my salad leaves and water.

    It is very hard to wait for the onions, garlic and shallots. I'm 64 and never eaten a shallot before.

    Variety in my healthy organic garden is definitely the spice in my life. - 12/11/2012 12:38:45 AM
  • So to disprove the "myth" that organic gardening takes more time, the argument is that the extra time is well spent? How is it a "myth" if it is true????

    Perhaps it's a more of a "misconception" that organic gardening *will feel* more time-consuming than conventional. It is a good idea to point out that sometimes the "slow way" of doing things (such as making foods from scratch) can be more satisfying, nutritious, and the best option.

    I'm by no means trying to be critical of the information in this article, just how it's being presented. Don't call it an apple if it's an orange! =D - 4/13/2012 3:42:24 PM