The Organic Trade Association estimates that the sale of organic products increases 20 percent each year. There is an increased awareness that food grown organically is healthier and the taste is more intensely flavorful. It is easy to get started growing organically by using homemade compost and eliminating pesticides. There are many local city-sponsored programs to help people get started growing organically.
Organic farming is the oldest form of agriculture on earth. Organic vegetable gardening is nature-based rather than factory-based. Factory-based gardening became popular after WWII when ammunition factories needed to create new products. Overuse of the chemical nitrogen-based fertilizer has become a major contributor to global pollution problems. Organic farming techniques are now encouraged and supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Seattle, Washington, and many other cities have established programs to help home gardeners transition away from chemical gardening into organic gardening. Instruction usually begins with composting because soil improvement is the foundation of organic gardening. Backyard composting or vermicomposting (worms) is easy with commercially available compost bins.
Practicing soil improvement and non-chemical pest and disease control are the mainstays of organic gardening. A beginning organic gardener can immediately improve soil condition by putting a layer of mulch on plants. Mulch conserves water and adds nutrients to the soil. Compost is used as mulch. Other mulch materials are straw, leaf mold or newspaper. Mulch decomposes over a growing season and adds nutrients to the soil.
Pests and Disease
Organic gardeners do not use chemical products for pest or weed control because they are harmful to health. There are a number of ways to control harmful insects such as aphids, spider mites and squash bugs. Homemade bug sprays such as garlic and soap combinations and hydrogen peroxide spray are easy to use in plastic spray bottles. Beneficial insects such as ladybugs and praying mantises are introduced into the garden because they consume harmful insects. They can be purchased at garden centers or by mail order.
Healthy soil creates healthy plants that are able to resist harmful insect infestation and disease more easily. Healthy soil is created by active microbial activity, which comes from frequent additions of organic matter. Composting changes the structure of leaves, kitchen waste, grass clippings, newspaper and animal manure to intensely concentrated microorganisms. These microorganisms increase the biological activity of the soil, which in turn feeds plants.
A long-term study by the University of California at Davis concluded that tomatoes grown organically have nearly twice the amount of bioflavonoid as non-organic tomatoes. Bioflavonoids are a part of the antioxidant process that supports a healthy immune system. Tomatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow organically at home.