Organic Vegetables Are Healthy Foods

Organic Vegetables For Good Health

Organic Vegetables Are Pesticides-Free Foods
Credit: Renne Silverman"s Photostream

Organic fruits and vegetables are gradually taking the center stage on our dinning tables. The growing interest in vegetables and fruits is prompted largely by the high level of awareness that healthy foods promote good health. The prevalence of pesticides in the fruits and vegetables, and the escalating costs of organic foods have spurred interest in organic vegetable gardening. Many beginners and non-beginners are now taking up the exciting challenge of organic vegetable gardening.

In pursuit of the excitement of organic vegetable gardening it is important, particular to the beginners, to pay attention to a few basic guidelines to assure bountiful harvest from the garden. These guidelines will also assure that ecological sound practices are used to support the environmental ecology. Three of these basic guidelines include: a clear understanding of the criteria for organic gardening; the importance of good soil management, and pest control strategies for organic gardens.

Certified Organic

To be certified as organic, your vegetables must be grown according to the guidelines set by the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Basically, the National Organic Standard Production Guideline requires that your vegetables should be grown without chemicals that harm humans, animals or the soil. Synthetic chemicals, herbicides, fungicides, toxic fertilizers and pesticides are not allowed in your garden. Genetically engineered plants and seeds (genetically engineered organisms, GMO's) are also not allowed in your garden. Pesticides from natural sources, however, may be used for pest control. You should also make sure that the soil is free of pesticides and other toxic chemicals for three years or longer before using it for organic gardening.

Garden Space

Choose an area in your backyard that receives adequate amounts of sunlight – i.e., do not start your garden under a shady tree. Vegetables need 8 or more hours of sunlight each day for photosynthesis and good performance.

A plot of 15 feet by 15 (225 square foot area) or less is recommended for beginners. A 225 square foot space of a productive organic vegetable garden can provide enough vegetables for a family of four each year. By starting the organic garden in a small space, the beginner will gradually learn the skills he or she needs to become a good organic gardener. More importantly, the small-sized garden keeps the gardening hobby exciting. You will then have time to appreciate the miracles of nature as you watch your plants grow. You will not be consumed by the tedium of pulling weeds; wiping sweat from your forehead, and slapping your ears to avoid the unsavory tunes from the mosquitoes.

If your area is frequented by animals that will consume you vegetables then it is important to make sure that your garden is adequately fenced in. For example, if you have problems with the deer, then make sure that your fence is at least 5 feet tall. Deer can easily jump over fences that are lower than 5 feet. It is not clear why the deer seems to like vegetables in the organic gardens.

Finally, till the soil and make beds.  From the start, it is important to develop the habit of folding organic and composted materials into the garden soil. Addition of organic fertilizer and more soil amendment is advisable before planting the vegetables.

Organic Fertilizer and Soil Amendment

Soil preparation is an important step that distinguishes the organic gardeners from conventional gardeners. Some people mistakenly assume that the soil in the organic garden is not as fertile as the soil from the conventional garden which is amended with conventional chemical fertilizers. This assumption is incorrect.

Organic gardening soil is more fertile than the conventional garden soil. The organic gardener extensively uses compost to amend the soil. The organic materials in the soil provide nutrients for billions of microbial organisms in the soil. These microorganisms are the agents that improve the soil by their activities. Thus, the organic gardener supports the vitality of the microbial inhabitants of the soil and he is rewarded with “alluvial” soil. This symbiotic relationship between the gardener and the microbes in preparing rich soil is cherished by the organic gardener compared to the conventional gardener.

The abundance of organic material in the soil assures that the soil in the organic garden has the basic and critical qualities needed for plant growth compared to soil in the conventional garden. Some of these qualities are:

  • Good soil structure

  • Good soil aeration

  • More water holding capacity

  • Good drainage for the soil

  • Proper and more stable levels of plant nutrients in the soil

  • Longer periods of nutrient availability in the soil

  • More stable soil pH

Organic fertilizer (other than compost) can also be added to the soil if additional amendment is needed. The organic fertilizer contains organic materials; primary macro-nutrients (nitrogen, phosphate and potassium); secondary macro-nutrients (e.g., magnesium, calcium and sulfur), and micro-nutrients (e.g., chromium, zinc, copper and selenium), compared to the conventional chemical fertilizers which may contain only the primary macro-nutrients.

The components of the organic fertilizer are obtained from natural sources. Nitrogen is obtained from seed meal (e.g., alfalfa seed meal and cotton seed meal). Potassium is obtained from kelp meal and phosphate is obtained from bone meal or phosphate rocks.

The sources of the primary plant nutrients for the organic fertilizer also contain other nutrients that are beneficial to plants and to us. These minerals include the plant macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. Additionally, organic fertilizer contains organic materials, a critical component that facilitates the improvement of soil structure with the organic fertilizer.

Pest Control

Pest control is perhaps the most challenging aspect of farming and gardening for both the organic and conventional crop growers. Some crop growers see the battle against pests as a “war that must be waged with heavy weapons” to assure victory over the cantankerous and menacing invaders. Organic gardeners strongly reject this type of thinking. An organic gardener calibrates his approach for pest control to assure that his actions are in balance and harmony with nature. Thus an organic gardener produces quality foods from the soil while remaining a good steward of nature.  Some of the pest control strategies are shown below.

  • One approach of pest control is to make sure that your soil is healthy and that it can provide adequate nutritional support for the crops. Most healthy plants can protect themselves against pests. This ability contrasts nicely with a healthy person's ability to protect his body against various pathogens.

  • Use crop rotation. Crop rotation is one of the oldest and most effective ways of controlling pest in the garden. Plant rotation enable you to take away a favorite food from a plant pest. In a new location the plant will flourish, whereas the pests in the old location may die in the absence of its favorite food. Crop rotation is also an important way of improving soil fertility.

  • Use beneficial insects. Beneficial insects would eat the plant pests in your garden. Example of beneficial insects are pirate bug, big eyed bug and praying mantis

  • Mechanically remove and destroy the pest and its habitat

  • Use an approved organic pesticide (natural pesticides) such as nicotine sulfate (from tobacco); sabadilla (from the seeds of sabadilla lily) and neem (from the neem tree, a native tree of India). These organic pesticides are also called botanical pesticides because they are extracts from plant sources.

Rewards of Organic Gardening

Organic gardening gives you a good opportunity to take a break from herbicides, pesticides and chemical additives in foods. Putting organic vegetables from your garden on your dinning table can give you a sense of accomplishment because you would have taken a big step into a healthy and challenging way of life, the organic way of life,. More importantly, you can take pride in winning the battle against the pests, and you did it the organic way.

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