Education: growing plants organically
Farming and gardening without chemicals is good for the planet – here’s what it’s all about
RAISING animals or growing plants organically means to do these activities in an environmentally friendly way, using natural compost rather than chemically enhanced fertiliser, controlling pests with natural methods rather than with pesticides, and not giving animals artificial products such as hormones and antibiotics.
Many people worldwide are concerned about the dangers – to themselves and the environment – of nonorganic food production, and this has resulted in a growing demand for organically produced food.
YOU PAY MORE
Organically produced meat, eggs, vegetables and fruit in supermarkets cost more than nonorganic produce.
Large-scale organic farming produces 20% smaller harvests than traditional farming methods. This is because organic farmers don’t use chemical fertilisers, pesticides or weedkillers. They also don’t use growth hormones and genetically modified plants.
But because of this, organic farming is a lot more work, which means farmers have to hire more people to help. So organic food is more expensive because of the smaller crops and higher labour costs involved.
Organic farmers work with nature to produce food. Nonorganic farms usefertiliser and other chemicals that pollute the environment as nitrogen and phosphorus from cultivated fields are washed into rivers and streams by rainwater. Algae and other organisms grow faster in this polluted water and can starve the water of oxygen, causing fish and other animals to die.
Organic farmers on the other hand use natural compost. This organic material binds the soil and prevents erosion (when soil is displaced by wind and water).
We’ve looked at large-scale organic farming, but you can also use organic methods in your garden. One of the most important things you can do is to enrich your soil. Organic gardeners believe chemical fertilisers kill off the beneficial organisms in the soil such as earthworms, eventually making the soil sterile (which means it’s impossible to grow anything in it). Cow dung, bone meal and seaweed are examples of organic fertiliser. Organic matter such eggshells and plant matter, including fruit and vegetable peels, can be composted in a compost heap (see box). Working this compost into the soil feeds it. Perhaps you could start your own herb or veggie garden as a hobby – it’s rewarding to see the results of your efforts at harvest time. If you don’t have access to a yard, you could plant herbs such as mint and garlic or veggies such as tomatoes in pots. It’s satisfying to be able to enjoy food you produced yourself as part of your meals.
RIGHT: If you make a jack-o’-lantern for Halloween, remember you can eat the pumpkin you scoop out and work the pips and peel into your compost heap.