Home gardeners explore safer ways

Published 12:09 am Monday, August 20, 2007

VIDALIA — Natchez resident Karen Dardick sees no reason to use an atom bomb in her garden — or at least its pesticide equivalent — when a fly swatter will do.

Dardick, an ornamental horticulturist, is trying to phase in as much organic gardening as she can.

Public awareness about the damages chemicals can do has helped spawn the organic gardening trend, Dardick said.

Email newsletter signup

“People are quite aware of the harm done to the earth and to the environment by some of the chemicals,” she said.

Right now in the area, organic farming is usually limited to home gardeners, Adams County Extension Agent David Carter said.

Even that is limited by the availability of organic products, Carter said.

“Somewhere along the way they may have to spray for disease, and there is not a lot of organic material out there to treat for that yet,” Carter said.

But Dardick said an easy way to deal with disease without resorting to chemicals is to catch the problem while it is still small.

“All gardens will have something attacking them, and healthy plants can withstand those attacks on their own,” she said.

There are plenty of non-toxic methods of insect control in the garden that are safe for the gardener, the garden and pets, Dardick said.

“People get frustrated because they need to do more applications of organic products,” she said. “I would rather do more applications and not worry about breathing fumes or harming children in the area.”

Eliminating all of the insects from an area might actually cause more of an imbalance in a garden, Dardick said.

For example, wasps eat grasshoppers, she said.

“I respect wasps, and I keep my distance from them, but they do their part to control the insect population,” she said.

When it comes to fertilizer, Dardick said she likes to use fish emulsion, or ground up fish.

“It’s stinky, but it’s very effective,” she said.

Conversely, Dardick does not recommend using the so-called miracle fertilizers.

“It’s like giving a kid Kool-aid and junk food,” she said. “It may feed them, but it’s not necessarily good.