What is 'organic gardening'?
Organic gardening is fashionable and many people try to garden without
using chemical pesticides and fertilisers. But what exactly is 'organic gardening'? And
what are the principles of organic gardening?
According to Gardening Which? 'organic' is generally thought to mean not relying on synthetic
chemicals, whether they are pesticides or fertilizers. But a 2004 survey by the magazine
found that many respondents thought that products labelled organic
should come from a sustainable source and have a minimum impact on the environment.
This is consistent with definitions provided by some of the most reputable
books on the subject. For example, in The Organic Food Sourcebook, Kathleen
'The specific methods that organic farmers use to manifest organic
principles include, of course, rejecting reliance on synthetic chemical pesticides
and fertilizers. Other techniques include cultivating a diversity of plants. By alternating
and rotating crops, organic farmers keep the soil balanced while encouraging diversity.
Organic farmers also effectively use cover crops to add nutrients to the soil and limit
weeds without chemical inputs. By using and respecting natural boundaries such as fence rows,
wetlands, woodlands, and edges, farmers encourage thriving, diverse ecosystems around the farm'.
For farming read 'gardening' as the ideas are the same.
In the Gardening Which? survey 69% thought the term organic meant something made out of
natural materials. But some natural product, such as peat, are out of favour. In the case of peat,
its use is not environmentally friendly as its removal from bogs destroys important
Gardening Which? points out that it is not always wise to take the label organic at face value.
Many products including seeds, compost and fertilizers can be labelled 'organic' at the
discretion of the individual manufacturer because, unlike food labelling, there are few
independent checks in this area.
Despite some confusion about what is meant by organic gardening, nine out of ten
respondents in the Gardening Which? survey used some kind of organic product in their garden with
15% always choosing organic.
Julia Boulton, editor, Gardening Which? advises:
"While some products are accredited by organic organisations their schemes are not widely
taken up, their definitions of organic vary and the way these schemes are policed needs
improving. So when buying a product, don't assume that the manufacturer's definition of
organic is the same as yours."
Gardening Which? is a subscription-only gardening magazine published 10 times a year by