What’s Wrong with the Way We Garden
Unfortunately, most gardeners use chemicals to fertilize plants and to fight pests and diseases. Many of these chemicals actually contribute to destroying helpful soil organisms and can damage a plant’s natural ability to fend off pests and diseases. Additionally, chemical fertilizers can build up in the soil and eventually reduce the overall productivity of the soil. Our plants become weaker and weaker in the process, making more chemical treatments necessary just to keep them alive.
Conventional garden care can also negatively affect wildlife, contaminate water sources, create unnecessary solid waste in the form of grass clippings and garden debris, and can end up utilizing excessive amounts of water. Chemicals, inappropriate plant selection, and over-watering can contribute to an unhealthy yard, including the death of beneficial soil organisms. This means that we apply more and more chemicals to our plants, while not recognizing the fact that the ecosystem is basically failing.
Organic gardening is an alternative to this common gardening practice. Organic gardening is broadly defined as a way to create a natural balance of healthy soil and healthy plants in your garden. Plants have of course grown naturally in the wild for millions of years without the use of harmful chemicals or help from humans. If we simply look to nature for ideas on how to grow healthy plants, we can utilize more natural processes instead of chemicals to keep our gardens healthy. Healthy, natural gardens mean cleaner water, cleaner neighborhoods, and a healthier family.
So, what exactly happens when we manage our yards using the techniques and chemicals that we’ve become accustomed to using? The following list will give you an idea of the severity of the situation and what happens to our health and to the environment due to the use of chemicals in our yards and gardens.
- Some studies report that over 50 percent of people living in urban areas use chemicals on their lawns and gardens. These chemicals can eventually make their way into local water sources.
- Some scientific studies have actually found higher amounts of pesticides in urban areas than in agricultural areas.
- Epidemiological studies report the possibility of higher numbers of cancer and other health problems reported among families that use chemical pesticides for lawn care. Children may be especially affected.
- Urban runoff contributes to high-levels of phosphorus in rivers, lakes, and streams. The phosphorus often comes from chemical fertilizers used for yard and garden care.
- Excess nutrients from chemical fertilizers cause algae blooms in rivers and streams which use up oxygen needed by fish and other aquatic life.
- Grass clippings and garden waste overload landfills, and garden debris treated with chemicals are an additional source of pollutants in the environment.
- Various scientific studies have shown that the use of chemicals in our yards reduces the diversity of beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms.
- High use of chemicals can contribute to acidification of the soil and soil compaction.
Sadly, many gardeners resist switching to organic gardening techniques simply because they are accustomed to the ease of using chemicals and getting quick results. This is an unfortunate situation. What we really have to ask ourselves is what good is all this convenience doing us? Our environment is increasingly full of chemicals, and we live daily with unhealthy air and polluted water. Sure, organic gardening does initially require a bit more work on the gardener’s part. But we all know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy. Because our lives are so convenient, obesity, cancer, and increased levels of stress are now considered the norm. Is there another way?