Now, I’d be lying if I said I was a 100% organic gardener. That is, using nothing artificial, no chemical fertilisers or pesticides. Like becoming a vegan, I suppose, it involves a bit of organising, some lifestyle upheaval and an extensive list of exacting principles. Life’s busy and complicated enough without too many self-imposed rules to live by! You won’t find many gardeners who carry out perfect, exclusively organic methods (though I admire immensely those that do!), but plenty of people like me who are nearly there, trying to grow and garden as naturally as possible.
Like the vegan endures daily ethical conundrums (‘can’t I wear any wool at all?’), there are wormholes you find yourself in if you’re trying to go fully organic, and you end up tying yourself in knots about the origins of everything. It can be a stressful business, believe me.
For instance, most seed we buy isn’t from an organic source, and plants from the garden centre aren’t usually grown in peat-free compost, but - and here’s the crux of the matter - we can choose to grow these things on naturally, with as few environmentally harmful methods as possible. Even UK charity Garden Organic (www.gardenorganic.org.uk) has a traffic light system, with a realistic amber section of methods that are ‘acceptable, for occasional use’, including using non-organic seed, commercial poultry manure or Vermiculite.
I’ve come to accept that I am indeed an ‘acceptable, occasional’ organic gardener, a fair to middling naturalist. This is something I think everyone can achieve. I don’t make my own natural growing mediums or keep goats for their manure (though I’d like to!), but I try and use peat-free where I can, and use organic weedkillers and liquid feeds. Best of all though, I keep a healthy plot and encourage as much biodiversity – birds, pests and all – as I can.
Four small ways to make a big difference
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