Organic gardening rejects the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. In their place, natural organic fertilizers, aggressive weeding, and predatory insects are used to fertilize, remove unwanted plants, and deal with insect infestations. Organic gardeners see natural systems and the soil as living, biotic processes that can be harmed by the introduction of harsh chemicals.
Organic fertilization is more gentle. Because the organic fertilizer must break down naturally before being absorbed by the vegetables, the risk of over fertilization is much lower. In some cases, chemical pesticides can adversely affect a near by garden patch. By using hand weeding techniques, there is no potential for damage of other crops and no chance or either toxic buildup in the soil or the transmission of chemical toxins to people eating the vegetables. Using natural predatory insects, such as using lady bugs to control aphids, has similar benefits to hand weeding.
The use of natural, organic fertilizer and other gardening techniques usually results in soil that is much healthier over the long term.
Non-organic gardening can result in higher yields. This is true because chemical fertilizers can be tailored to a particular crop and soil problem. Chemical removal of weeds and pests is far more complete and can sometimes result in increased yields on some vegetables.
In some cases, introducing predatory insects that are not native to an area can create a problem with creating a large population of a non-native insect. An example of this was the introduction in the 1980s of European black flies in northern Minnesota to control huge infestations of army worms. The flies thrived in the climate, and are now a common pest in summer.
A number of different organic fertilizers can help your soil. Compost, either purchased commercially or made in your home compost pile or bin, will add nutrients and other good organic content to your vegetable patch. Fish emulsion or even raw fish is also a good organic fertilizer. Other common organic fertilizers include cottonseed meal, bone meal, hoof and horn meal, and cow, sheep, or chicken manure.
A common way to control weeds in organic gardens is to plant complementary crops. By planting a taller crop next to a shorter crop that could be susceptible to weeds, the taller crop can shade the area between the crops and slow the growth of weeds in that area.
Another way to naturally suppress weeds is with an organic mulch. By mulching around the growing crop. By using compost, straw, or dry leaves around the vegetables, you will discourage the growth of weeds.
You can often control insect infestations by introducing a predatory insect to your garden. If you are having a problem with aphids, lady bugs are a good predator to introduce. Once you have identified the insect infestation, contact your county agricultural extension service for recommendations on predator insects in your area.