Defining the Organic in Plant Care
When we ask what defines organic plant care, we will get a slew of different answers depending on who we are talking to and what their level of gardening knowledge and/or experience may be. Organic plant care can focus on the use of synthetic versus organic fertilizers and pesticides versus natural controls for insect and disease infestations. With today’s hand-held devices, much of what we need to know about these comparisons can be investigated from the palm of our hands. Another angle is to look at different responses to this question: “What does organic plant care mean to you?” Again, the answers will be many, such as…
“I don’t want any chemicals on my property.”
Does that mean someone is not interested in two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen on the lawn or landscape plants? We are obviously referring to H2O or water. The fact is that there are many chemicals and chemical compounds that are exactly what our properties need; these include potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, sulfur and, yes, water. The distinction is important; it is the synthetic chemicals and pesticides to avoid while seeking organic and organically-derived solutions.
“I want to take care of my lawn and landscape plants organically.”
This is a worthy goal. However, many times those existing plants were grown with synthetic fertilizers and pesticides (unless we buy actual organic plants) and have been maintained that way as well. Plants basically become dependent on the chemicals. An example of this is when putting sod down on a property that can be hard to maintain. Most sod farms speed up the metabolism of the plant so they can produce more turf to sell to increase their profits. However, when this is done, it makes the turf dependent on pesticides, which can counteract some or all of the adverse effects that occur when a plant is developed in this less-than-natural way. The same applies for most ornamental trees and shrubs that are grown in nurseries. With this in mind, it is necessary to carefully convert the care of the plants from synthetic to organic in order to avoid shock and maintain the health of the plant. Going “cold turkey” from synthetics to organic preparations may cause more harm than good; it is important to wean your plants off the old and introduce them to the new solutions.
“Organic plant care is letting nature take control.”
Another common response from those who say organic plant care translates to letting Mother Nature “do her thing”. However, unless we are living in a
cabin in the woods, that approach probably will not go over very well with our neighbors. Also, keep in mind that homes with fully mature landscapes tend to be worth much more than those without.
So where does this leave us?
For existing lawn and landscape, we can start to wean our property off synthetic fertilizers and begin reducing the amount of pesticides we use. In a way, it is sending our property to rehab, a gradual process of replacing the synthetics with healthier alternatives. If we can get the rest of our neighbors on board as well, we can create a support group that bolsters healthier plants and landscapes for the whole neighborhood.
For new plantings, we can be more mindful of purchasing those which have been grown organically so will be more easily sustained that way as well.