Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seven Tips for Organic Gardening Success

From University of Missouri Extension:

It is possible to grow fresh high-quality produce and vegetables in southwest Missouri with only natural fertilizers and pesticides according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist, University of Missouri Extension.

"Growing organic can be successful with good soils, fertility, proper watering techniques, plant selections and steps to encourage healthy plants. Monitoring for pests and quick action to ward off major problems are key considerations," said Byers.

Byers says there are seven essential tips for organic gardening success.

First, the success of the organic approach depends on how gardeners use and prepare organic matter that benefits the soil and plant functions. Animal manures are excellent sources of organic matter and plant nutrients.

Second, because plants need proper nourishment, another key is proper soil nutrients. Soil tests will indicate if there is a need for more nutrients for the garden. It is very important to be sure the soil pH is acceptable for vegetable gardening.

Byers’ third key is to select plants that are genetically resistant to diseases. When available, the use of resistant varieties is the best way to reduce diseases.

The fourth key is planting times. “Planting when soil temperatures are correct for maximum plant growth is important. It is also important that you never allow a vegetable plant to get stressed due to lack of available soil moisture," said Byers.

Fifth, Byers says it is important to remember to clean up weeds or other plants that may serve as an overwintering host plant, along with crop plants that have been diseased.

Sixth, it is important to avoid the introduction of diseases. In some cases, careful selection of disease free seed and propagating material helps disease control.

Seventh, promoting healthy plant growth deters some insects. “Healthy plants are less susceptible to insect attacks. Natural and biological products are available for insect control,” said Byers.

Good organic growers exhibit great horticulture knowledge and skills by using sound cultural practices according to Byers. However, he says there is little proof organically grown produce is healthier or of higher quality than that produced inorganically.

“Basically, it is a matter of conviction and choice. But for me, organic gardening makes good sense. Healthy soil speaks volumes,” said Byers.

For more information, contact Greene County’s Master Gardener Hotline, (417) 862-9284.

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