(Garden planted in Daikon Radish that opens compact soil and adds lots of organic matter.)
Funny how we change over time, isn’t it? When I look back over my 14 years of growing cut flowers commercially along with some vegetables thrown in for our own use, I can hardly believe where I started and where I am now.
My method of becoming and growing as a gardener and a farmer is to read, listen and ask questions. We are molded by what we read, who we listen to and what questions we ask. I began as a gardener thinking I had to use lots of “stuff” to make my garden grow. That put the focus on the people who used and sold the stuff. But I’ve gone full circle now to get back to nature’s way and am pleased to report how much easier and less expensive it is. And best of all, what a garden it grows!
As I often say in lectures, there aren’t any advertising dollars in what I am about to tell you. That explains why we don’t hear it on any of the few real gardening TV shows that are being aired these days. I have come by this information first hand; we are living it on our farm.
My first years as a grower, I went the conventional way, using lots of manmade fertilizers and pest controls. The intention of these products is to reach the same end result as nature, but doing it quicker and easier by skipping the natural process. As my success was hit and miss back then, I began a journey to learn more about the place I garden. What I learned is how the first gardeners here had cared for and fed the soil. And this sustainable way opened a door before me that changed everything.
Over the years I have transitioned from a fully chemically dependent gardener to a totally organic and sustainable farmer. Our farm and garden is not product driven and dependent. We definitely use some organic fertilizers and the occasional organic pest control, but they are the icing on the cake you might say–the meat and potatoes here is feeding and caring for our soil. We use tons of organic matter in our gardens to restore and maintain nature in such a way that it makes growing a garden a blooming pleasure!
What I have learned is that the performance of your garden, lawn and landscape is a direct reflection of the health of your soil. Pests, disease and weedy issues are all rooted in the soil. To have healthy, self-sustaining soil you must add lots of organic matter to feed the naturally-occurring creatures in the soil that will care for your plants far better than you can. Those very creatures are harmed and killed by manmade chemicals, leaving your plants completely dependent upon you to provide their care. Sound simple? It is.
Why swim upstream and fight nature? Go with the flow, have a great garden that is less costly and less work.
Go organic and sustainable in your yard and garden this season!
Lisa Mason Ziegler is a commercial cut-flower farmer in Newport News, Virginia and owner of The Gardener's Workshop; she lectures and writes about organic and sustainable gardening. You can email Lisa at firstname.lastname@example.org, call her at 757-877-7159 or visit her website www.shoptgw.com.