Organic Gardening Informational Packet June 10, 2008 Draft
What is Organic Gardening?Organic gardening is natural gardening where fruit, flowers and vegetables are grownwithout the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.Northwest Park Demonstration Garden utilizes organic gardening practices.Here are some of the organic gardening practices that are used in the DemonstrationGarden. i. Compost to enrich the soil: Composting is a natural biological process where bacteria, fungi and other organisms decompose organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings and food wastes. Add compost to the garden in the Fall. ii. Use natural fertilizers: Add well-decomposed farm animal manures such as cow, horse and chicken in the Fall. iii. Apply natural pest controls: Plant beneficial borders of plants that attract beneficial insects. Flowering plants such as marigolds, cornflower, bachelor’s button, sweet alyssum and yarrow have a high concentration of pollen and nectar, which attracts many beneficial insects. iv. Plant using “companion planting” methods: Companion planting is the practice of planting two or more species in close proximity in order to achieve natural methods of pest control and higher yield crops. v. Plant for disease prevention: Plant a variety of species (polyculture) to avoid a population explosion to pest explosion of pest insects. Use disease resistant plants. Water the garden and allow the top level of soil to dry before watering again.
CompostingComposting is a natural biological process where bacteria, fungi and other organismsdecompose organic materials such as leaves, grass clippings and food wastes. Compostshould be “turned” or mixed regularly to speed up the composting process and keep odordown.Compost LocationA compost bin should be placed on level ground with well drained soil underneath. Anylocation, from full sun to total shade will work. Full sun works in cooler climates toenhance composting. The opening of the bin, if it loads from the side, should face south.A compost bin should be placed close to the garden to limit the amount of haulingneeded, and close to a source of water for faster composting.Composting BinsThere are many types of composting bins that can be used. Many bins can be hand madeor purchased. Pressure treated wood should be avoided due to the possible presence oftoxins that could leech into the compost and on to your plants. If metal barrels are usedthey should be placed on top of cement blocks to prevent the bottom of the barrel rottingout. Here are some great examples: i. The “Tea Kettle” a. Use a well cleaned 55 gallon drum or a large barrel like a heavy duty trash barrel. Elevated the drum off the ground and fill about ¼ with compost or manure and add water to within 1 foot of the top of the drum. Use a bucket to dip in a remove the brew. Stir occasionally and add more water as the “tea” is used. When the “tea” starts to get weak, dump out the remaining sludge and start again. If dumping the barrel is too heavy, place the manure or compost in a burlap bag and tie the end to the top of the barrel. This method makes it easy to change out and add fresh ingredients. Make sure to place a cover on the barrel to prevent mosquitoes from reproducing in the “tea”. ii. The three-bin system a. The three-bin system is basically a box with three sections. This system is great for creating compost fast, but does require some work. The building instructions can be found at the end of this packet. Start off by adding yard waste to one of the end bins, add “green” materials such as grass clippings or other fresh plant waste and “brown” materials such as dried leaves, wood chips or shredded branches. Kitchen scraps can also be added as “green” material. Add in a layer of soil to introduce microorganisms and start the composting process. The temperature of the pile should be monitored and can be measured using a compost thermometer. When the temperature at the center of the pile reaches 140-150ºF, turn the pile into the center bin. When the temperature of the pile in the center bin has reached around 150ºF, turn the pile into the last end bin and leave it there until it is ready to be used.
iii. Turning Unit a. This type of system can be purchased or hand made. A barrel, horizontally mounted with holes drilled in the sides to allow air flow, is turned to accelerate the composting process. A substantial amount of labor is required, but it results in fast composting yard waste. iv. Holding Unit a. This is one of the easiest forms to create compost. Most holding units can be purchased and it simply needs to be filled with ready to compost material. If the contents are turned regularly compost can be ready in a few months, other wise patience may be needed in waiting for the compost to be ready. v. Heaps a. This has to be one of the most primitive forms of composting. Simply select and area to pile up what is ready to decompose. A heap 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall is perfect for creating the appropriate environment. Table scraps should be avoided from this type of pile because it may attract pests.Compost Friendly MaterialObviously organic material is needed and some soil to add microorganisms to the mix.The materials in the compost bin should be layered. Brown layers consist of hay, straw orold leaves. Green layers consist of grass clippings, manure or table scraps. Don’t forget toadd some soil. Two days after layering mix the pile together. Make sure to cover the pileto keep out animals and extra moisture. Mix the pile regularly until the compost is ready.Here is a list of what can go into a compost pile: • Hay, straw or pine needles • Leaves • Kitchen scraps such as egg shells, old bread, vegetable and fruit scraps • Animal manure such as cow, horse or rabbit • Old vegetables, flowers or trimmings from trees and shrubs • Sawdust • Wood chips • Black and white shredded newspaperHere is a list of what should stay out of a compost pile: • Animal bones, meat, fish or diary products • Grease and oils • Sewage sludge • Chicken, dog, cat, pig or human manure • Whole logs or branches (they may take too long to break down) • Diseased or insect infested garden plants • Left over charcoal briquettes • Colored newspaper • Weeds or tough-to-stop spreading plants • Seeds • Herbicide-treated grass clippings or weeds
AvailabilityCompost that is ready resembles black, fluffy soil and has a sweet, “earthy” smell.Compost should be used within a few months of being ready, the longer it is kept themore nutrients decompose and leach away. Soil texture-improving qualities will diminishthe longer it is kept as well.ApplicationCompost is used not as a fertilizer but to enrich the soil. In the Fall, large amounts ofcompost can be tilled into the ground or simply placed on top. Compost can also beapplied just prior to or while planting. Compost can be shoveled into planning holes tohelp plants thrive. Screened composed can be used to mix into a seed bed, cover fineseeds during planting, or used to top dress lawns in the Spring or Fall. Compost can beadded to potting soil at a ratio of 1:2 for a rich potting mix.
Pest ControlSome of the greatest methods of natural pest control can be the easiest and accomplishedin the beginning stages of planting a garden. To start off with a limited pest population,large displays of one species of plant should be avoided. Instead smaller displays of pestresistant varieties and companion planting methods should be used. Environmentalstresses, that can weaken plants defenses, should be limited whenever possible. The useof naturally occurring plant species is best in controlling pest populations and disease. Ifthe naturally occurring plant is not the desired crop, plant according to any packagedetails. For example, sun-loving plants should not be planted in shady areas of thegarden. Plants need proper space and this information should be provided on anypackaging material. Watering should be done early in the morning, plants should bewatered deeply and the top layer of soil must be dry before watering is done again. Theintroduction of natural predators to a garden can be a cost effective way of controllinggarden pests. Lady bugs and parasitic wasps can be amazingly effective in controllingpest species such as aphids and caterpillars. Chemicals, although effective, should beavoided altogether. Broad spectrum spraying of chemicals is environmentally unfriendly,can be extremely toxic to the person spraying and may even kill the pests’ naturalenemies.Integrated Pest Management or IPM is a method of controlling pests in aneconomically and environmentally sound way. Many IPM programs rely on pesticides asa last resort; in the organic garden this step is never taken and instead relies on naturalmeans of pest control. The four steps of Integrated Pest Management are as follows:“Set Action Thresholds” Before the garden is even planted an Action Threshold must be set, a point whenpest populations and environmental conditions indicate that action must be taken tocontrol pest populations. A single pest does not mean major action must be taken butrather when a population reaches a point in which action must be taken to save the crop.“Monitor and Identify Pests” Not all pests or weeds require major control; many are naturally occurring andmay even be beneficial. Proper identification is essential so appropriate control can bemade in conjunction with action thresholds. This method can eliminate the possibilitythat pesticides will be used when they are not need or that the wrong pesticide will beused.“Prevention” This step takes one of the most important roles in any pest control program.Preventing a pest population from exploding can be achieved by rotating betweendifferent crops, planning pest and disease resistant varieties, companion planting andplanting pest free root stock. These controls are environmentally friendly and at low cost.
“Control” Once a pest has been properly identified and action thresholds indicate thatcontrol is required and preventative methods are not longer effective IPM programs areused to evaluate the proper control method. Effective and less risky methods of pestcontrol are chosen first. Such methods include insect pheromones or hormone analogs todisrupt mating, or mechanical control such as trap cropping, weeding or physicallyremoving the pest by hand.Here are some great examples of environmentally friendly ways of pest control:Trap Cropping This method uses neighboring plants to attract pests away from the main crop.Once the pest has taken up residence in a trap crop, the plant can be removed and shouldbe buried to kill the pest population residing on it.Biochemical Pest Suppression This method relies on the natural chemicals that plants exude to control plantpests. Some plants exude chemicals from roots or aerial parts to suppress or repel pestsand protect neighboring plants. An example of this would be the use of African marigoldthat releases thiopene, which is a nematode repellent.Physical Spatial Interactions This method employs the use of companion planting. Tall growing sun lovingplants can be planted with shade tolerate plants to establish a diverse canopy. An exampleof this would be planting with the Three Sisters Method of corn, beans and squash tocreate a diverse canopy that disorients the adult Squash Vine-borer. The prickly veins ofthe squash plant may discourage raccoons from the corn.Floating Row Cover Although it may not be attractive, a row cover sometimes is the only defenseavailable to control pest damage short of chemical spraying. Row covers can bepurchased at any garden supply company.Diversity One of the best methods that can be used to distract and limit pests is to diversifythe garden. If a disease or pest destroyed one crop there are other plants to make up forthe lost crop yield.Beneficial Border This method relies on the planting of desirable environment for beneficial insectsand arthropods. A beneficial border consisting of wild flowers and low growing grassesprovide the shelter and energy from nectar needed for the beneficial insects to take upresidence and feed on garden pests. The end of this packet will contain a chart of greatplants for a beneficial border and their benefits.
Some of the biggest insect pests here at Northwest Park are squash bugs and the Mexicanbean beetle. Controlling these pests in an organic way can be very simple. First, beforethe problem even arises, chose a variety of squash or bean that these insects tend to avoid.Squash bugs prefer members of the Cucurbit family which includes cucumbers, yellowsummer and winter (Hubbard) squash, and pumpkins. Instead, of these vulnerable speciestry butternut, royal acorn, zucchini or patty pan squash. The Mexican bean beetle eats theleaves, stems and young pods of bean plants and prefers garden beans, cowpeas andsoybeans. Planting early with fast maturing verities and picking pods as soon as theymature may help to reduce crop damage. Bush beans are slightly more resistant than polebeans, snap beans and lima beans, which the insect seems to prefer.If yellow squash or pole beans are an absolute must, and these horrible insects are anestablished population like at Northwest Park, control methods must be taken into effectbefore the crop is totally destroyed. Before the major destruction has taken place floatingrow covers can be placed over the crop. These covers can be purchased at any gardensupply company, but they must be removed to allow pollination to occur which in turnmay let some of the bugs in. Companion planting methods can also be used to helpcontrol an established population. Catnip, tansys, radishes, nasturtiums, marigolds, beebalm and mint help to repel squash bugs when planted as a companion to squash. Dill,parsely, sweet clover, fennel, buckwheat, golden rod, wild carrot and amaranth can act asa trap crop for squash bugs. Once the plant is spent it should be tilled into the ground orcompletely removed and burned or buried to eliminate over-wintering sites.Other methods of natural control involve the use of natural enemies. Tachinid flies and aparasitic wasp, Pediobius foveolatus, parasitize the Mexican bean beetle and squash bug.They may not help with a current crop but will limit the amount of surviving pests for thenext growing season. Unfortunately the wasp, which is not native, cannot survivenorthern winters and must be re-released each growing season.Another major pest of Northwest Park’s garden is deer. Deer are wonderfully elegant andbeautiful creatures that can destroy an entire garden over night. The best way to avoiddeer damage short of a ten foot tall fence is to plant species that deer avoid.Unfortunately, deer seem to love every plant that people rely on for vegetables and fruit.The next best thing would be to try a deer repellent. Deer-Off is a repellent that can besprayed onto garden plants to give off an odor that is repulsive to deer but hard forhumans to smell. This repellent can be home made. Blend 2-3 eggs with one quart ofwater, add this mixture to a container and add enough water to make one gallon of spray.Spray on plants and watch the deer turn their heads. The noxious smell of rotting eggs isenough to make the deer look elsewhere but is undetectable to humans.
Companion PlantingCompanion planting is the practice of planting two or more plant species together toachieve natural methods of pest control and higher yield crops. Companion planting canbe established with a number of different methods. In the Demonstration garden theThree Sisters method will be used along with raised beds that also incorporate companionplanting methods. The end of this packet will contain a chart of crop plants and theircompanions.Three Sisters MethodThe Three Sisters method of companion planting has been used for thousands of yearsand is based on the Iroquois creation myth. Corn, beans and squash are grown together sothat each benefits the other. Corn, the tallest of the three, provides a natural pole for thebeans to climb. The beans are a legume plant (like peas and clover) and are able to fixatmospheric nitrogen by the way of Rhizobium bacteria in nodules on the roots. Nitrogenin the soil is essential for healthy plant growth, and the beans provide this nutrient. Thesquash lies at the base and shades the ground for the other plants. This shading keepsweeds from taking over and prevents the rapid loss of soil moisture. The spiny vines ofthe squash plants also discourage predators from destroying the corn and beans.To plant a Three Sisters garden mound, start in mid-spring in a sunny area. First weedand remove large stones then form a mound three feet in diameter. Cover the mound witha few inches of compost or well rotted manure and turn in the compost, the mound shouldthen be watered well. The planting starts in late spring. First the top of the mound shouldbe flattened and a small lip can be made in a ring around the fattened area to help withwater loss. Plant four corn seeds in a ring pattern in the center of the mound and waterwell. The seeds should be one inch under and six inches apart. After the corn has grownabout ten inches mound up dirt about half way up the stalks, this will make the plantsteadier in the wind as it sends down more roots. Plant four pole bean seeds in a ringpattern six inches outside corn stalks one inch under the soil; pat the top and water well.One week after beans sprout plant three to four squash seeds in a ring 12-15 inchesoutside of the beans one inch under the soil; pat down and water well.The beans will begin to wrap their way around the corn stalk. The beans may need a littlehelp being wrapped around the corn stalk. Squash vines may also need some directionand the vines should be turned in towards the center of the mound.
Natural Water Collection Collecting rain water is an economically friendly way to water plants. Anyrainwater that is collected can be used to water plants but is not appropriate for drinkingunless it has been properly filtered. In order to collect rain water a building with gutters isneeded. Here at Northwest Park, none of the buildings have gutters and so this techniquecannot be demonstrated. A rain barrel can be placed under a gutter downspout to collectwater. The water can be collected in more complex systems by connecting all of thebarrels and downspouts by the way of PVC pipes and pumping it into a larger collectionbin. The barrels must have a cover of some sort to prevent children and small animalsfrom getting inside and to prevent the collection of leaves and other containments. Thematerial in which the roof was made with needs to be known. Some roofs that have beenmade with old tar and gravel, asbestos shingles, or treated cedar shakes will contaminatecollected water and is not safe for harvesting. After it has been established that the water collected will be safe, it is time tocalculate how much water will be collected. The amount depends on the area of the roofthat is to be used. For every 1000 square feet of roof, 600 gallons of water can becollected for every inch of rain. The measurement of the roof is the same as the squarefootage of the building, plus the extension of any eves. Don’t expect to get this muchwater though, most collectors run at an efficiency rate of 70%-90%. The barrel that is going to be used is very important. The internet address belowleads to a website in which rain barrels can be purchased. Most rain barrels can runaround $150-$300. A heavy duty barrel can be used, but may not withstand the pressureof large amounts of water. Most trash barrels cannot withstand the pressure and cannot beused. The barrel must be placed on even ground to prevent spills. The barrel should bestored upside down in winter to prevent cracks and to prolong the life of the barrel. Stored water can come with its own problems; one of the worst is biting insectinfestation. To prevent mosquitoes and flies from using the water as a breeding ground arain barrel should be completely covered in between uses. If this is not possible, or anthere are already larva present, empty the water every 10 days and allow the barrel tocompletely air dry before allowing it to refill. Mosquitoes take about 10 days to go fromlarva to pupa and adult. Emptying will kill any larva present, just make sure the waterdoesn’t pool up anywhere. Also organic larvicides can be used. Mosquito Dunks aretables that can be placed in a water container and contain Bacillus thuringiensisisraelensis (B.t.i.). B.t.i. is a bacterium that kills Mosquito and black and psychodid flylarvae. These can be purchased on the same website posted below for purchasing rainbarrels. Most of these products can also be found at area garden supply stores.Link to purchase rain barrels: http://www.cleanairgardening.com/rainbarrels.html
Raised Bed Construction Plan 10’ 4’The above bed is what is used in the Northwest Park Organic Demonstration Garden. Thewidth of the bed is built at a maximum of four feet to allow for easy access to plantswithout having to stand in the bed. The height is kept at 12 inches to keep the moundfrom becoming too heavy and bowing the wood. Only un-treated wood is used for thisproject due to the concern over chemicals leeching out into the soil. Cedar or another rot-resistant wood can be used but this may become too costly. Regular dimensional woodthat is water sealed is the most economical approach if recycled material is not available.Old railroad ties, rocks, or cement blocks may also be used to create a raised bed garden.Materials • 4 – 2”x6”x10’ • 4 – 2”x6”x4’ • 16- 2”x6”x2’ support stakes (shaped to point at end) • 8 – 6” Corner Braces • 1lb- 2” 10d galvanized nails • 2lb – 2” galvanized screws • Exterior water seal. (suggested: Thompsons® 1 Gallon Exterior Water Seal Plus Clear Wood Protector, Lowes $14.96)Directions • Shape the last six inches of the 16 2”x6”x2’ support stakes into points. • Lay two 2”x6”x10’ flat and place them together so that a 2”x12”x10’ board is formed. Screw in two 2”x6”x2’ support stakes in the center of the 2”x12”x10’ board and screw in one support stake at either end of the board. Repeat this step for the other side and both 2”x6”x4’ sides.
• Bring the four sides to the location where the raised bed is to be placed and mark where each of the pointed stakes are to go into the ground. Dig a hole for each stake rather than forcing the stakes into the ground, and stand the side up right with each of the stakes in its designated hole.• Screw in the 8 corner braces on each corner as shown in the picture above to form a 4’4”x 10’ rectangle as shown in the picture above.
Beneficial BorderPlant BenefitBachelors Button or Cornflower High sugar contents in nectar and highly attractive to flower flies, ladybugs, lacewings, and beneficial wasps. Usually reseeds itself.Sweet Alyssum Low growing, annual, weed smothering ground cover. Can interplant with vegetables. Highly attractive to aphid-eating flower flies.Borage Annual, herb, edible cucumber flavored flowers, over 100 beneficials’ in one square yard. Attracts green lacewings to lay eggs on.Cup Plant 6-8 foot perennial. Leaves wrap all the way around stems and forms deep cup that collects dew and rainwater. Beneficials and birds use it as a landing pad and drink from cups. Can be difficult to grow.Anise Hyssop Perennial. Attractive to butterflies and pest eating beneficials.Golden Marguerite Perennial. Attractive to ladybugs, lacewings, flower flies, tachinid flies and mini-wasps. Thrives in poor soil. Remove spent flowers to promote re-bloom.Fennel Highly attractive to nectar feeding beneficial. Host plant for anise swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. Perennial. Seeds and leaves are edible.Mountain MintsPussy Willows Produce pollen early when beneficials are first emerging.Ornamental Grasses Summer shelter and over wintering sites for ground beetles, and ladybugs. 1,500 predators per square yard.Corn Corn tassels produce large amounts of pollen.Trees and shrubs Willows produce pollen early and make for over wintering sites. Forsythia, firethorn bush, potentilla, ceanothus, four-winged sage bush, euonymous, Texas sage.Cover crops Clovers and soil building crops provide pollen and nectar. Alternate insect pray and shelter. Crimson clover and buckwheat.Permanent plantings Perennials, trees, shrubs and dense low growing ground covers. Certain perennial flowers with woody stems and/or dense crowns. Yarrows, comfrey, and cone flowers. Highly attractive for hibernation sites for spiders. 240 spiders per square yard.