Gardening and Landscaping Using Organic Farming Methods

Learn about different plant varieties you can grow using organic methods.

| December 2017

The Organic Manual: Natural Organic Gardening and Living for Your Family, Plants and Pets (Ogden Publications, 2016), by Howard Garrett explains in detail what the organic method is and how to do it. The book offers natural living advice and describes why the organic program is better in every way. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4, "Plant Decisions."

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS STORE: The Organic Manual

Selecting Ornamentals

Books exist in most any region of the country that recommend and explain the best plants to use. Using the native plants of a particular region is becoming more popular and this practice fits well with an organic program. There are also adapted plants that have been introduced from other parts of the world. I prefer native plants when possible, but the key is to use varieties that will like their new home, making them easy to grow and economical to maintain. In most cases, natives are well adapted and have developed resistance to most harmful insects. Centuries of natural selection have given native plants the ability to survive without pesticides or high levels of fertilization, particularly if they are grown in healthy soil.

Nature doesn’t allow monocultures. Neither should landscape architects or gardeners. When choosing plants (native or introduced), select a variety so that insects and harmful microorganisms will not have one target group. Look at what has happened to millions of American elm trees all over the United States to understand why a diversity of plants is best in the long run. Large monoculture plantings have been devastated.

Another reason to use well-adapted plants in the landscape is water usage and conservation. Water conservation becomes a more serious issue each year and the careful selection of plant materials can make a significant impact on irrigation needs since water requirements vary greatly from plant to plant.

Of course I recommend Plants for Texas, Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening and Texas Gardening-The Natural Way for Texas, but similar books exist in other parts of the country. Do yourself a big favor by spending some time at your local bookstore, nursery, library, county agent, urban forester’s office or local college or university, learning about the best plants for your area. Then select a variety of plants that will meet your aesthetic and horticultural needs.  In conjunction with the organic practices discussed in this book, you should then have the basics for creating a beautiful landscape, requiring only a minimal amount of maintenance. Note the recommended reading list in the appendix of this book. My best advice for the selection of trees, shrubs, vines, ground covers, and flowers is to invest in all the local reference books and get the free literature from the botanical gardens, zoos, park departments and civic garden clubs. Talk to several nurseries and look at the plants you are considering in different landscape situations. Don’t be afraid to try some experiments, but build the framework of the landscape with tough, pest-resistant, adapted varieties.

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