Organic gardening may help reduce risk of potentially harmful synthetic chemicals

Published 2:11 pm Sunday, April 8, 2007

Last week was officially my second month in Adams County as the extension county director. I want to take a brief moment and thank all those in Natchez and Adams County that have welcomed me here. I am deeply enjoying working for each of you in this position and I look forward to serving you for years to come.

With everyone now preparing spring gardens, many questions will come up. I have had some calls about organic gardening and the effects of recent dry weather on new plants, both important questions that I will address.

Q. What can I do to make an organic garden?

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Mainly those that wish to reduce the risk of synthetic chemicals that may cause harm to one’s health or the environment use organic gardening. To prepare an organic garden you should start about 3 weeks before planting to prepare the garden because most organic fertilizers and soil additives are slow working. Several benefits to organic gardening include; soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients, aids in stress relief for vegetables, increases soil-buffering capacity, and supports soil microbial activity. Animal manure is the simplest form of organic fertilizer, manure is usually best if composted or aged for a minimum of 30 days. However, for maximum benefit add 2-3 pounds of ground rock phosphate for each 25 pounds of manure used. Composting is always beneficial for organic gardeners. A compost pile may consist of anything natural from leaves, pine straw, grass clippings, food scraps, organic garbage, or shrub clippings. However, woody stems take longer to compost so you may want to avoid using clippings with large diameter limbs or stems. The top of your compost pile should be flat so water can be caught. Fork over or mix pile every 2 to 3 weeks. The primary organic form for weed control is to manually mulch around the garden and simply pull weeds by hand. Insect and disease control may be the most difficult challenge for organic gardeners because few organic products offer this protection. Therefore, purchase resistant varieties, get seeds from disease free plants, use mulch, keep garden weeded, hand pick insects, water in the morning, dispose and remove diseased plants early, and use insect traps to catch insects. All these methods used will increase the quality of you garden and provide wonderful organic fruits and vegetables throughout the growing season.

Q. How will recent dry weather affect new planted spring flower beds?

First of all, plan flower beds carefully. Consider the mature heights of various plantings. Do not plant too close. Good drainage is necessary to have beautiful flowers. Work beds thoroughly and deeply. Incorporate organic matter, limestone, and fertilizer into flowerbeds. It is a good reminder that young plants require water to establish themselves. March 2007 was one of the driest Marches ever. There is no residual soil moisture stored for young seedling or transplant roots to grow into. A good technique for transplanting anything in these conditions is to dig the hole and fill it with water, allow the water to drain, fill the hole again, allow it to drain, then plant, this establishes a wet zone around the new roots. Be sure to give the entire bed a good soaking within two days of transplanting. Young plants require more frequent irrigations than established ones, so keep an eye on them and irrigate at the first signs of wilting.

For more information please visit the MSU Web site at For additional assistance please call the extension office at 601-445-8201.

David Carter is the Mississippi State University Agriculture Extension Office county agent for Adams County. He can be reached at or 601-442-8201.