As organic September approaches, Hannah Stephenson discovers the easy changes gardeners can make, from pest control to compost choices.
Organic September is the month that encourages all of us to make positive decisions for the planet – and luckily, there are some simple changes gardeners can make to help the cause.
Fiona Taylor, CEO of the Garden Organic horticultural charity (gardenorganic.org), says: “During Organic September, we challenge gardeners to engage in a few small exchanges that will have a big impact.
“We can’t afford to further deplete natural resources or use polluting sprays to maintain our gardens. Many of us don’t realize that our sheds are full of harmful chemicals – or that our purchased compost. store contains peat. ”
Taylor adds, “The theme of Organic September is ‘Nature has the answer’, which underpins our philosophy at Garden Organic.
“Using peat-free compost and green manure will nourish the soil. Growing the widest range of plants possible will encourage birds, small mammals, and insects, including predators of slugs and aphids. Turning our food waste into compost will reduce our carbon footprint. ”
The charity suggests these simple exchanges:
1. Get rid of chemicals for biological pest control
If slugs and snails are a problem, do not throw away slug pellets containing metaldehyde as they can harm beneficial wildlife.
Take a more natural path, making your garden a welcoming habitat for hedgehogs, frogs, and birds that will help keep slugs and snails away. If you need extra measures, a layer of gravel to cover the soil in your pots helps protect your plants.
When fighting aphids, replace chemical insect repellents with a strong spray of cold water to dislodge them. Birds and ladybugs feed their young on aphids. If you destroy the pest, you will endanger other species.
2. Switch to natural plant food
Rather than using store-bought liquid plant foods that are packaged in plastic bottles and taken to the store, grow comfrey – the organic gardener’s best friend – and make your own from it. Comfrey leaves are full of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, all of the nutrients needed for plant growth.
Comfrey is popular with particularly hungry plants like tomatoes and eggplants and is very easy to prepare yourself from a small plot. The charity recommends the ‘Bocking 14’ variety of comfrey because it doesn’t spread like others do.
3. Make your own compost
Producing your own compost is free and easy to do at home, eliminating the need to purchase expensive chemical fertilizers or bagged potting soil for your garden. Plus, composting your own food and garden waste at home reduces your carbon footprint.
4. Sow organic seeds
Garden Organic recommends certified organic seeds. Keep an eye out for a trusted certification from the Soil Association (soilassociation.org) or Organic Farmers and Growers (ofgorganic.org).
Alternatively, start saving seeds, which is easy. Green beans and peas are a great place to start; just leave a few healthy pods on the plants to ripen and dry out. Then check them off, throw out anything that looks sick or damaged, and store them in a cool, dry place. Tomatoes are simple too – just remove the seeds from a ripe tomato, wash off the gelatinous coating, dry the seeds, and save them for growing next year.
5. Change your design to a mix of flowers and vegetables
Think about how you can make your grow space as welcoming as possible to all beneficial creatures by mixing flowers with vegetables to provide a diverse ecosystem, leaving seed heads on plants as a source of food, and dedicating areas of the garden to be left wild and undisturbed. provide habitat during the colder months.
6. Switch to peat-free
If you are buying bagged compost and potted plants, choose an organic, peat-free option. Peatlands are rare ecosystems – wild areas that are home to a multitude of plants, birds and insects. They also store three times more carbon than a forest. Extracting peat for gardening is harmful to the environment. If your garden center doesn’t have a peat-free stock, ask them why.
“Gardening methods can make or break ecosystems – we have to look to nature for the answer,” says Taylor. “If enough of us adopt organic gardening methods, the collective environmental impact will be enormous.
“Organic September is a great time to start some new habits by switching to organic methods as we prepare to sow seeds for crops during the winter and early spring. ”
For more tips and information visit gardenorganic.org.uk