Pressed for time? The organic garden understands

Get some extra time for yourself while using no products that are harmful

by the Garden Goddess
ello Earthlings! It's nice to be back here to talk to you on the subject of natural gardening. This time we'll be discussing two issues that many of us have in common. First, lack of actual gardening time seems to be an ever frustrating problem for many, due to ever increasing demands upon our time. Secondly, the crazy advertising campaigns directed at gardeners that are pressed for time by chemical manufacturers. It is the goal of this Goddess to get you some extra time for yourself while using no products that are harmful to the environment. So let's see how that's possible...

As I scrape the bottom of my crystal handbag (all us goddess' have them) looking for change so that I can get a wheat grass juice, I wonder how is it that Martha Stewart has time to find 6,000 uses for navel lint and I don't often have enough time to do my laundry (all hemp and organic cotton, of course). Well, then I remember that I do not have a staff of 75 really creative indentured servants at my disposal. I've got to be creative in my garden so that I can have more time in front of the keyboard to answer all of your great gardening questions. This is how I do it.

  1. I turn my compost heap every two weeks. It takes about 30 minutes, and I get new organic material for the garden every 14 days. This is perfect for me because I mulch the garden every two weeks with fresh compost.
  2. I do my watering (goddess' don't get to have sprinkler systems) at the same time I am pruning, trimming off spent flowers and harvesting my ambrosia. I also weed the garden while watering, but I don't need to do a lot of weeding because I mulch the garden. I don't need to water very often either. That is also because I mulch the garden, conserving a precious resource.
  3. I fertilize with organic fertilizers that allow me to feed the garden as infrequently as twice a year. I blend my own fertilizers for specific plantings. If you have any specific or general plantings, drop me an e-mail or call my toll-free number and I'll give you a recipe so you can make a fertilizer tailored to your garden. The advice is always free.
  4. I don't have serious pest and disease problems because I release and attract beneficial organisms to my garden by using a program of biodiversity or companion planting. I only spray my garden to wash it or to clean off a particularly pesky bug. There are so many different predatory and parasitic beneficial insects doing battle with the bad guys that I have no need of pesticides. Nor do I waste time in the garden applying chemicals that are advertised to save me time.
  5. When I am in my garden, I take a few moments to listen to it and visually observe the many creatures that call it home. My neighbors come into the garden and are amazed at the variety of birds, butterflies and other cool stuff that they see during their visits. They ask how I do it, and I tell them about the barefoot test. If you walk barefoot in your garden, does it feel soft and moist without being muddy? Or is it dry and crispy with kind of an unfriendly heat to it? The usual response is not soft, cool and moist.

Gardeners often wonder why things grow well in some spots and not so well in an area within a few feet of the one that is growing great. In my opinion, the difference is in the way the plant is able to uptake nutrition and water.

The ability of a plant to take in moisture and food is directly linked to the health of the organism. A plant that is watered frequently in a garden where the soil is exposed to the elements will have shallow roots due to the evaporation of the water applied to the garden. This plant will also be in competition with all other plants in the garden for nutrition because all of the other plants are treated in a similar manner. Thus, the overall heath of a garden of this kind is always teetering on the brink of stress.

Conversely, the garden that has a nice thick layer of organic mulch over the soil to protect it always seems to be more hydrated or fresher. Mulch prevents the evaporation of water that is applied to the garden and the soil itself actually accepts water more freely because no dried crust can form on the soil surface. Composting or decaying mulch is also a superb source of food for beneficial soil organisms such as earthworms. So in effect, what happens is that you don't have to water as much and the water that you do apply to the garden is used by the plants in a more efficient way. You save money on water and at the same time you save time by watering less often. I don't have money or time to waste so this is how I garden.

Now for a brief bit of environmental impact news for gardeners. This model society manufactured 7 lbs. of chemicals for every human being on the planet in 1990. That is about 387 BILLION pounds of chemicals. The Earth is a finite space in both the solid and liquid portions. If, since 1990, the production of chemicals was level until 1997, the amount of chemicals produced since 1990 would be around 2,709,000,000,000 pounds of mostly nonrenewable substances. Trillions of pounds of insecticides, fungicides, fumigants and chemical fertilizers have been produced in this modern era for our convenience.

The companies with the cute advertising about champion tomatoes and perfect roses forget to tell you that only 15-25 percent of the product that you apply is actually absorbed and used. The rest of the chemicals become waste runoff and go into the storm drain system. This eventually flows to the ocean, wreaking havoc on the shoreline ecosystem. Or, it is lost into the atmosphere and impacts air quality. They also fail to tell you that their products have a negative impact on soils and will eventually render a soil saline, compacted and sterile by killing all of the organisms that work free of charge to keep you soil healthy and friable.

I'm not a big fan of chemical fertilizers and pesticides for reasons of environmental impact. Yet there is a much more immediate impact to the consumer. These products require that you use them often to achieve the desired results from their use. I don't have time to fertilize my garden 52 times a year as the Miracle-Gro box suggests.

If you add up all of the money that you are supposed to spend on these products over a year's time, it is not very cost effective to use these products. I would rather spend fewer of my few dollars on plant foods and applying them only two to four times a year seems like good time management as well.

Got questions? Give the Goddess a call toll free at (888) 514-4004 or e-mail her with your comments at The advice is always free of charge. The Garden Goddess is a trademark of The Organic Gardener's Resource and Design Centre of Encinitas.