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Organic Gardening

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 Merrigan states:

'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 natural habitats.

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 Consumers' Association?



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