Organic Gardening is Thriving
Organic gardening is expanding and becoming more popular as more and more organic approaches are available. The essence of organic gardening is to use natural, organic materials rather than chemicals for both fertilization and pest control. The fact that it can be done on a 100% basis is well established. Whether you want to fudge some times to reduce the amount of time or effort is up to you.
100% organic fertilizers are readily available in most stores. Organic fertilizers contain lower concentrations of the basic nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. So they are often about twice the cost per fertilizer unit. However, organic fertilizers natural contain many other nutrients which may not be available in chemical fertilizers. So they have definite advantages. Organic fertilizers are also long lasting and are released gradually into the soil. Unless they have been specially formulated or coated, chemical fertilizers are released quickly and therefore need to be applied more frequently.
There are natural organic pesticides for almost all common insects and diseases. The range of organic weed controls is much more limited. Plan to spend more time pulling, hoeing and hand removal of weeds if you are going to be completely organic.
One of the most important aspects of organic gardening is mulching. Since most weed seeds require light to germinate, keeping the soil constantly covered with mulch will prevent about 80 to 90 % of weed growth. If you save and use your grass clippings and leaves, you are at least half way to providing all the mulching materials you need. Bark dust is a readily available, inexpensive, natural mulching material which will meet most of your other needs.
Another very important aspect of weed control is to control weeds while they are young and before they go to seed. One chop of a hoe will remove several small weeds while a single large weed may require several chops.
One of my favorite natural pesticides is Neem oil, which is an extract from the Neem tree which grows in India. It repels most common insect pests such as aphids, mites, thrips, cabbage worm, caterpillars, mealybugs, beetles and leafminers. Neem oil is also a very good fungicide for leaf disease control. It will control both the mildew and aphids on your roses. Since Neem oil is harmless to humans and pets, it is also safe to use on vegetables.
Spinosad is a natural pesticide which kills insects by disrupting their nervous system. It is widely available in a number of formulations.
Insecticidal soap has been widely used for years to wash pests such as aphids and mites off of plant leaves. Once on the ground they cannot find their way back onto plants.
Bacillus thuringensis, sold as Dipel and Thuricide, has been used for years to infect various caterpillars (worms) with a bacterial disease.
Cease is a contact biological fungicide that contains a strain of the bacterium Bacillus subtilis. It controls common fungal diseases such as Botrytis, Powdery Mildew, Anthracnose and several leaf spot diseases. It also controls bacterial diseases as well as soil diseases.
There are many other organic and biological approaches to pest control including resistance and predatory insects. Check with your local full service nursery or go on the internet to find additional organic pesticides.