Guidelines for Organic Gardening
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Guidelines for Organic Gardening

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Guidelines for Organic Gardening - Gardening Guides for Students + Teachers + Organic School Gardens

Guidelines for Organic Gardening - Gardening Guides for Students + Teachers + Organic School Gardens

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Guidelines for Organic Gardening Guidelines for Organic Gardening Document Transcript

  • Garden Organic Guidelines - for gardening Page 
  • Page 
  • Garden Organic Guidelines for gardening Contents Introducing the guidelines Using the guidelines Organic ratings explained Organic soil care Techniques Crop Rotation Bulky organic materials Organic fertilisers Plant raising and growing in containers Seeds and other planting material Growing media Plant raising and container growing Liquid feeds Garden and plant health Keeping the garden healthy Cleaning green houses, pots, etc. Managing pests and diseases Weeds in the organic garden Techniques Mulches for weed clearance and control Water use in the garden Wood and timber in the garden Energy use in the organic garden Page 
  • Organic Guidelines for all Whatever the style, size or location of your garden or growing space, the Garden Organic Guidelines will help you look after it organically. You may have a small back garden, an allotment, a community growing space, a conservatory or greenhouse, several acres or just a few containers – our methods are designed for every situation. Whether you are converting an established garden to organic, creating a new garden, or running an existing garden organically, there is advice here for all. Garden Organic’s Guidelines are for use across the whole garden – fruit and vegetables, flowers and grass, wildlife areas, shrub borders, hanging baskets, containers and more. They will help you to harness the natural cycles and processes that promote plant growth. You will create a sustainable garden or growing area using methods that minimize ecological damage and environmental pollution. Recycling and reusing resources cuts costs, greens your lifestyle and reduces your ecological footprint. These guidelines are not static, and may be ammended as cirucmstances change and knowledge develops. These guidelines are for beginner gardeners and for those new to organics, as well as experienced organic gardeners who want to keep up-to-date on any changes to organic methods. They aim to guide you through a journey towards ‘best practice’ organic. The Garden Organic Guidelines are a voluntary code of practice, conforming to the principles and practices as defined by International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and the national organic agriculture standards, but interpreted in a garden context. Signing up to them does not permit the sale of produce labelled as organic. Basic good gardening techniques are the mainstay of organic gardening. The Garden Organic Guidelines are designed to be used in conjunction with a good gardening book such as the Garden Organic Encyclopaedia of Organic Gardening. You can find a reading list at the back of this booklet. Note: when a guideline mentions ‘from the garden or allotment’ this is intended to mean ‘from within your immediate growing area (which might be neither garden, nor allotment), rather than brought in from outside. Page 
  • Using the Garden Organic Guidelines The Garden Organic Guidelines are divided into different aspects of garden care. Each section starts with an introduction to the general principles involved. It is worth making yourself familiar with these principles before moving on. The gardening practices, and the materials and products you may use in your organic garden have been categorised into four different ‘ratings’ depending on the level of organic ‘acceptability’ of the practice or product. Organic ratings - from ‘Best Practice’ to ‘Never Acceptable’ Each organic rating has a different ‘smiley face’, easy to interpret at a glance. Best organic practice - the first choice Acceptable organic practice Acceptable, but not for regular use Never acceptable in an organic garden Garden Organic factsheets It would be ideal if all gardeners used only ‘Best organic practice’, but this is a little unrealistic at present. The level of organic gardening you undertake is a personal choice, and will be governed, to some extent, by garden size and location, and personal circumstances. The two ‘Acceptable’ categories recognise this fact. As you gain experience, and your garden develops organically, your garden should become increasingly self sufficient. You will be able to move more towards and away from . If items in the category are used, a garden would not be considered organic under these Guidelines. This is not a comprehensive list of all unacceptable products and practices. Organic ratings explained The issues that we have considered when making our decisions are listed on the following page. Organic gardening doesn’t stop at the garden gate and to create a sustainable future we must also look to the wider environment. In some cases you will have to make your own value judgments. Do you, for example, consider an imported product with an organic symbol more acceptable than a local product, not organically produced? The ‘Never acceptable in an organic garden’ rating includes products and practices that may have previously been seen as acceptable, or are often mistakenly thought to be acceptable in organic gardening. Taking all these issues into account, we have aimed to ensure that the Garden Organic Guidelines describe a practical, manageable, system of gardening. Page 
  • Best organic practice - the first choice Acceptable organic practice Acceptable, but not for regular use Never acceptable in an organic garden Organic credentials Organically grown or from recognised organic sources, preferably with a recognised organic symbol From low input and low impact systems From non organic sources, but within certain limits Not organic and outside any limits set Ecological impact in use Enhancing and harnessing natural processes No particular environmental benefit Possible negative Ecologically impact harmful Low May kill organisms other than those targeted Unacceptably toxic, and/or persistent in the environment Sustainable May not be sustainable in the longer term Unsustainable Toxicity None Sustainability Sustainable Sources Garden/ allotment Local/ regional National/ imported Imported Materials Reused Recycled waste product New materials Highly processed Energy use Little or no fossil fuel energy required in use or manufacture Fossil fuel energy required in use or manufacture Fossil fuel energy required in use or manufacture Unacceptable fossil fuel energy required in use or manufacture Packaging Loose / no packaging Environmentally sound/ minimal packaging Non recyclable packaging Excessive non-recyclable packaging None required Disposal causes little or no environmental hazard Disposal may be hazardous to the environment Disposal hazardous to the environment and/or human health Disposal Page 
  • Organic soil care A healthy soil is the basis for growing healthy plants and healthy food. The soil is full of life - worms, fungi, bacteria and other microscopic creatures – which create its structure and fertility. When looking after your soil organically you will be improving the diversity, and supporting the activity, of these vital creatures. You will be avoiding activities and inputs that disrupt and harm the soil ecosystem. Techniques Activities and practices for organic soil care Best organic practice - the first choice Get to know the soil you are working with. Grow plants that suit the existing soil conditions. Where necessary, use organic methods to improve the soil, but don’t try to change soil conditions too drastically. Keep the soil covered with growing plants, green manure cover crops, or an organic mulch. This protects and improves the soil structure. Grow green manures to improve soil structure and to recycle, and add, plant foods. This includes clover in lawns. Maintain humus levels, biological activity and soil fertility by applications of bulky organic materials in appropriate quantities and at the appropriate season. Recycle organic kitchen and garden waste within the garden. Where appropriate, process it through a compost or leafmould heap before use. Use a crop rotation (see page 8) No dig techniques Acceptable organic practice NONE Acceptable, but not for regular use Rotavating, to clear ground or turn in green manures Digging between November and February, other than on clay soils to leave ground exposed to frost Page 
  • Never acceptable in an organic garden Using excessive quantities of nutrient rich manures and fertilisers Unnecessary digging, rotavating and other soil cultivations Growing food on potentially contaminated soils, such as brownfield sites, unless analysis shows that the levels of contamination are acceptable (see Garden Organic factsheet ‘Soil contamination’). Crop rotation Crop rotation is an essential technique for managing soil fertility, and for pest and disease control. Briefly, crop rotation means not replanting the same type of plant, or another of the same family, in the same site for a period of years. It is most often used with annual vegetables, but the same principles can be applied to perennial fruit crops and other plants. 4 An interval of at least 3 years, or more between plants of the same family, or longer if necessary where a specific problem is identified 4 Include a nitrogen fixing green manure in a vegetable crop rotation 4 In a greenhouse, where a 4 year rotation may not be possible, pay particular attention to building and maintaining soil health. 4 Alternate fertility building crops with those which take a lot from the soil 4 Alternate weed suppressing plants with those that compete poorly with weeds Garden Organic factsheets Composts and manures in the organic garden Crop rotation Know your soil Mulches: weed prevention and control Potential toxic contaminants in soils, manures and plant wastes What can I do with woody garden waste? Page 
  • Bulky organic soil improvers Bulky organic soil improvers are materials such as garden compost and strawy manure; they are bulky, as compared with a bag of fertiliser, and their ingredients are ‘organic’ in that they are of living origin. In an ideal world they would all contain only organically grown ingredients. Bulky organic soil improvers are generally ‘waste’ materials. Recycling plant and animal wastes in the soil imitates the recycling of nutrients carried out in nature, and is the mainstay of organic soil fertility. Bulky organic materials are high in plant fibre, which is a vital food for the soil life that builds and maintains the soil structure. They also contain plant foods, in levels that will vary between different types of material, and how those materials have been stored. Waste materials from your kitchen and your growing plot should be your first choice. Then try and source further materials as locally as possible. Manures, straw or hay should be obtained only from organic, or low input systems. When buying ‘commercial’ products, choose those with an organic symbol, or wording, from an approved organic certification organisation, where possible. Storing and processing plant and animal wastes Bulky plant materials and animal manures should be composted or left to rot down before use. The composting process stabilises the material, reduces or destroys pathogens and weed seeds, and makes the materials easier to handle and apply. Keep the heap covered to reduce loss of plant foods (which can be washed out by rain) and prevent weed seeds being blown onto the heap. Materials from non-organic sources should be left for at least 6 months before use. Rates of use It is important not to ‘overdose’ the soil with nutrient rich manures and composts. This is wasteful of resources, can cause pollution, and can encourage excessive growth that is more vulnerable to pest and disease attack. For reccomended rates of use see page 11. Page 
  • Bulky organic soil improvers - Plant wastes Best organic practice - the first choice Home made compost, and worm compost, made from weeds and plant residues; kitchen waste; low grade paper and card; other compostable household ‘waste’. Autumn leaves and leafmould Shredded woody prunings Lawn mowings, comfrey leaves and other fresh green materials. These make ideal compost activators. All the above should come from within the individual garden (or allotment , field, growing plot). Grow green manure cover crops Acceptable organic practice Autumn leaves from local parks, cemeteries and other traffic-free areas Bought in composts made from green waste and other materials approved in these guidelines. Ideally with a recognised organic symbol or conforming to PAS 100 standard. Straw and hay, from organic sources Shredded prunings from local sources Chipped or shredded wood - from wood not treated with preservatives Composted bark, from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forests, preferably organically approved. Sawdust and wood shavings, preferably from local sources, from wood not treated with preservatives Other local waste plant materials, such as bracken and spent hops, composted before use if not from a certified organic source Mushroom compost from certified organic sources Acceptable, but not for regular use Straw and hay from non-organic, non-intensive systems. Check with supplier as to what herbicides have been used; some may harm plants. Mushroom compost from non-organic mushroom producers, stored under cover, or composted, for six months before use Page 10
  • Never acceptable in an organic garden Peat or coir as a soil conditioner Leaves from busy roadsides and other polluted locations Leaves and leafmould collected from woodlands Any materials contaminated with excessive levels of potentially toxic elements. See www.gardenorganic.org.uk/guidelines or Garden Organic fact sheet Potential toxic contaminants in soils, manures and plant wastes Bulky organic soil improvers - rates of use Material Maximum rate of use Garden compost, home made Up to 1 wheelbarrowful per 5m2 per year Green waste compost Up to 1 wheelbarrowful per 3m2 per year Worm compost Up to 1 wheelbarrowful per 10m2 per year Poultry manure with bedding Up to one wheelbarrowful per 20m2 per year Strawy animal manures (excluding poultry) Up to one wheelbarrowful per 10m2 per year Leafmould Apply layer up to 2-3cm Horse manure on wood shavings Must be well rotted before use; use only as a mulch on established perennials. Horse manure on paper bedding Add to a good mixed compost heap to decompose Topsoil Acceptable, but not for regular use Where the layer of topsoil is inadequate thin, or nonexistant, bought in topsoil, conforming to BSI standards can be used, along with the materials listed in this bulky organic soil improvers section. Page 11
  • Bulky organic soil improvers - Animal wastes Organic farms, apart from some poultry farms, must recycle all their manure on the farm, so you are unlikely to be able to obtain certified organic manures. Try to source manures from ‘free range’ or low input farms/smallholdings. It is important not to use manures from factory farming systems or where animals have been fed genetically modified (GM) crops. The way in which these materials are stored, or processed before use, and the rates at which they are used is vital to their acceptability in organic growing (see page 9 and 11). Best organic practice - the first choice Well rotted manures and bedding from herbivorous pets, and any livestock kept in the individual garden (or allotment , field, growing plot). Acceptable organic practice Straw-based horse, cattle, pig and goat manures, from organic systems. It should be well rotted before use Acceptable, but not for regular use Straw-based horse, cattle, pig and goat manures, from non intensive systems. It must be well rotted before use Wood shavings based horse manure. This must be very well rotted before use. Poultry manures from non intensive egg and meat-producing systems. Commercially available, composted, straw-based animal manures, preferably with an organic symbol. Chicken manure pellets – see Animal based fertilisers pxx Never acceptable in an organic garden Manures, and processed animal by-products, from intensive farming Materials polluted with heavy metals and other pollutants that exceed the permitted levels. You will find details on our website www.gardenorganic.org.uk or factsheet. Products containing sewage Compost activators containing artificial fertilisers Manures from livestock fed on Genetically Modified crops Page 12
  • Organic fertilisers Composted plant wastes and manures, and green manures, are the main ways of adding plant foods to the soil. Organic fertilizers are only used where a soil or plant deficiency occurs which cannot be remedied otherwise, or where you cannot make, or bring in, enough compost or other bulky organic materials. Fertilisers suitable for use in an organic garden are of plant, animal or mineral origin. Most of them are waste products. The action of soil living creatures, or the weather, makes the nutrients they contain available to plants, in a ‘slow release’ way. The mining and/or shipping of some of these products can have an adverse environmental impact, so think carefully before use. Choose a product with a recognised organic symbol as first choice. Liquid feeds see page 18 Plant based fertilisers Best organic practice - the first choice Home grown nettle, comfrey and other leaves used in a planting trench or as a mulch Acceptable organic practice Wood ash, from wood not chemically treated after felling, recycled through a compost heap. Acceptable, but not for regular use Dried seaweed meal – from sustainable sources Fertilisers based on plant waste products and extracts, such as kali vinasse, lucerne, comfrey, cocoa shells Animal based fertilisers Best organic practice - the first choice None Acceptable organic practice None Page 13
  • Acceptable, but not for regular use Meat, blood,bone, hoof and horn meals, on areas where no livestock have access, and in growing media Chicken manure pellets, from organic sources only, with a recognised organic symbol. Wool based products, not containing pesticide residues. Mineral based fertilizers, and materials for raising pH (liming) Acceptable, but not for regular use Ground rock phosphate Aluminium calcium phosphate rock, where soil pH is > 7.5. Note : The cadmium content must be less than 90 mg/kg of phosphate. Calcium sulphate (Gypsum) Chalk, marl and ground limestone (natural forms of calcium carbonate). Magnesian chalk and ground magnesium limestone (dolomitic limestone) (Natural forms of magnesium/ calcium carbonate). These can also be used to raise the pH of a soil that is known to be too acid. Rock dust (stone meal), if a by-product of the quarry industry. Never acceptable in an organic garden Calcified seaweed Slaked lime Quicklime Soluble chemical fertilisers Guano, urea, Chilean nitrate Materials to supply trace elements Acceptable, but not for regular use Rock dust and stone meals if by-products of the quarry industry Seaweed meal and liquid seaweed extracts Sulphur dust or chips Calcium chloride solution, for treatment of bitter pit in apples Manganese sulphate Borax (for boron deficiency) Epsom salts, for acute magnesium deficiency Fertilisers and liquid feeds containing boron, copper, iron, molybdenum, cobalt, selenium, zinc, sodium Page 14
  • Plant raising and growing in containers Seeds and other planting material Start with good quality sowing and planting material to help ensure healthy plants. Organic seeds, plants, tubers and other planting material are available, but growing your own is ideal where possible. Best organic practice - the first choice Home saved seed, from disease-free parent plants Home-grown transplants, preferably bare root Seeds, tubers, sets, bulbs, plants and transplants with an organic symbol from an approved organic certification body Acceptable organic practice Seeds, tubers, sets and bulbs from non-organic sources, where not available as organic. They must not have been treated with fungicides after harvest. Container grown plants and transplants in peat-free growing media, but without an accredited organic symbol. Natural hormone products, such as seaweed extract, to promote rooting of cuttings. Acceptable, but not for regular use Container grown plants and transplants in peat-based growing media, but without an accredited organic symbol. Never acceptable in an organic garden Plants taken from the wild Genetically modified seeds and planting material, should they become available Seeds, bulbs, sets and tubers treated with fungicides after harvest Synthetic hormone rooting powders Cleaning structures and containers see page 20 Page 15
  • Growing media An organic growing medium – seed, potting, or multipurpose compost – has, as its main ingredient, biologically active material, such as composted plant wastes. Seed compost should be low in nutrients. Other mixes should provide plants with nutrients for as long as possible, to limit the need for liquid feeding. Best organic practice - the first choice Make your own growing media using bulky organic ingredients from those listed in the Soil Care section. Loan from the garden, pasturised (not above 80°C) before use, if necessary. Acceptable organic practice Organic fertilisers, including animal by-products, as ingredients of growing media Commercially available growing media, with an organic symbol, or wording, from an approved organic certification organisation Commercially available growing media containing materials listed in the Soil Care section of these guidelines. Acceptable, but not for regular use Coarse grade seaweed meal for moisture retention Sulphur chips to lower pH (increase acidity) Horticultural sand and grit Vermiculite and perlite Coir Bought in loam (topsoil) Never acceptable in an organic garden Growing media containing materials not approved in these guidelines, including non -organic fertilisers and peat Peat, other than recycled/ reclaimed peat Soil sterilisation (temperatures above 80°C). Garden Organic factsheets Make your own potting compost Make your own potting compost Page 16 Plant raising and growing in containers Hanging basket line
  • Growing in containers and raising transplants The basis of organic growing is a healthy, biologically active, soil, which supplies plants with all their needs. Plants growing in the restricted environment of a pot will always be more reliant on additional feeding and watering, and be more prone to pest and disease. Growing directly in the ground is recommended where possible. Best organic practice - the first choice Use an organic growing medium (see page 16) Use the largest appropriate container size to reduce the need for additional feeding, and the risk of drying out Home made paper pots, wooden trays, foodstuff and other reused and recycled containers Hanging basket liners made from recycled, biodegradable materials such as moss from your lawn, hay or a pure wool jumper. Cleaning containers with steam, hot water, scrubbing and high pressure hose Acceptable organic practice Reused plastic pots and trays; clay pots Biodegradable hanging basket liners Commercially available pots made from paper, plant wastes and other biodegradable materials, excluding peat Plant tonics and biostimulants as on page 20 of these guidelines Composted organic materials and organic fertilisers for additional feeding Organic liquid feeds (see p 18) Acceptable, but not for regular use Strong plastic pots and trays, preferably made from recycled plastic, th at can be reused many times. Never acceptable in an organic garden Tyres as a container for growing food crops, unless lined first Moss gathered from the wild for hanging basket liners Hydroponic systems Peat pots Page 17
  • Liquid feeds Organic liquid feeds provide nutrients in a more readily available form than composts and fertilisers, but do little to encourage soil flora and fauna. For this reason, in organic gardening they are only used on plants growing in a restricted environment such as a container - seed tray, pot, growing bag, hanging basket etc - or in a greenhouse or polytunnel soil border. The major supply of nutrients should always come from the compost or soil in which the plants are growing. See also : Plant tonics, stimulants and microbial products p 20 Acceptable organic practice Home made liquid feeds made from comfrey leaves, nettles and other plant wastes Liquid from worm composting systems Liquid feeds made from manures from livestock kept in the garden or allotment Liquid feeds based on plant products approved in these guidelines, preferably with an organic symbol, or wording, from an approved organic certification organisation Acceptable, but not for regular use Liquid feeds made from brought in animal manures that are acceptable under these Guidelines See page 12 Commercially available liquid feeds based on animal by-products approved in these Guidelines, preferably with an organic symbol , or wording, from an approved organic certification organisation Products containing trace elements to correct deficiencies that cannot be corrected in any other way - see page 14 Never acceptable in an organic garden Fish emulsion, unless based on waste products of organic fishing industry Products containing artificially produced nutrients. Page 18
  • Garden and plant health The idea of a healthy garden, rather than simply pest and disease free plants, is at the heart of organic growing. The first part of this section , Keeping the garden healthy, looks at ways of maintaining a garden with a diverse, vigorous, ecosystem that can, to a great extent, look after its own well-being. More specific action is only taken as necessary against particular pests, diseases or adverse environmental factors. This is covered in the section Managing pests and diseases, on pages 21-22 Keeping the garden healthy Use the information in all sections of these organic guidelines, combined with good horticultural practice, to help you create and maintain a diverse, active ecosystem in your garden, both below and above ground. General gardening Best organic practice - the first choice Create a fertile, biologically active soil. Composted organic materials can help reduce soil pests and diseases, and increase plant resistance. Use a crop rotation, minimum four year, for annual vegetables (see page XX) Grow plants that suit the location and soil type Start with healthy seeds, tubers, plants, fruit bushes, shrubs and other planting material, certified disease free where possible Grow varieties with some resistance to pest and disease Choose sowing and planting dates to avoid specific pests and diseases To reduce risk of diseases developing, prune trees and bushes, design plantings, and keep greenhouses and other protective structures well ventilated, to allow a good airflow When watering, apply water to the soil rather than the plant foliage Ensure plants have an appropriate supply of water Biodiversity Best organic practice - the first choice Provide a diversity of food, shelter and habitats for predators, parasites, and other wildlife Page 19
  • Leave some ‘relaxed’ areas, such as leaves under a hedge, weeds, or an area of longer grass and for example, to feed and shelter wildlife. There will always be ‘pests’ present, but they do not always create a problem. They are also a necessary source of food for valuable predators and parasites. Learn to recognise the many creatures, from hedgehogs to hoverflies, which consume pests, and disease-causing organisms, as part of their diet Where practical, grow a mix of types and varieties of plant to reduce risk of pest and disease infestation and spread. This includes companion planting Plant tonics, stimulants and microbial products Plant tonics and biostimulants may help to promote plant growth and boost a plant’s natural defences against pests and diseases. Home made compost ‘teas’ Liquid seaweed extract Microbial products, including mycorhizzae Cleaning greenhouses and other structures, and pots, tubs and other containers Best organic practice - the first choice Pressure-washing Hot water/steam and scrubbing Acceptable, but not for regular use Natural plant essences including citrus juices Natural cleaning products such as vinegar, bicarbonate of soda Garden Organic factsheets Crop rotation Water use in the garden Companion and mixed planting Various wildlife gardening factsheets See also : Guidelines on Soil care pp 7-14 Page 20
  • Managing pests, diseases and other causes of plant ill health Prevention is the key to success when dealing with plant problems. The section ‘Keeping the garden healthy’, pages 19 and 20 covers ways in which this can be done. When a specific problem arises, it is important to identify the cause, so you can decide if any action is needed (many plants can live quite happily with some pest or disease infestation) and, if so, to plan an appropriate strategy for dealing with it. Note that environmental factors such as waterlogging, frost, cold winds and ‘human’ factors such as strimmer damage or over-feeding, can also cause plant symptoms. Where problems are known to occur regularly, there are a range of ‘plant protection’ barriers and traps that can be used. There are a few pesticide sprays that can be used in organic growing, but they are not harmless, and you should keep their use to a minimum. If you find yourself having to use pesticides regularly, despite using the other strategies suggested, then perhaps you might consider growing something different. Biological and physical methods Best organic practice - the first choice Encourage biodiversity Learn to tell the difference between creatures that can harm plants and those that will not Check plants regularly, squashing or picking off pests and infected foliage as they occur Use other physical methods, such as shaking the plant or dislodging pests with a sharp jet of water Learn about the life cycle of pests and diseases to help develop strategies to combat them Use comfrey and other leaves as slug baits and barriers Acceptable organic practice None Page 21
  • Acceptable, but not for regular use Biological control agents. These are natural predators and pathogens that can be purchased for controlling specific pests. Plastic bottle cloches, home-made from used bottles Crop covers including horticultural fleece and fine mesh materials Netting, plastic and wire; gauge appropriate to size of pest Electric fencing Fruit tree grease and grease bands Yellow sticky traps, without added pesticides. For use in greenhouse or conservatory only, unless for monitoring pest presence Cabbage root fly mats, preferably home made Copper tape Granules, and other similar commercially available physical barriers, against slugs Pheromone baited sticky traps, not containing pesticides – for monitoring pest presence only Slug traps baited with beer or other attractants, not containing pesticides Barriers and crop covers can be very effective, and harmless to wildlife. The reason they are in this category is because of concerns over the energy used to make them, their lifespan, and how they are disposed of. Try to recycle waste materials, and avoid single use of new materials. Garden Organic factsheets Detailed factsheets on a whole range of pests and diseases are available. They can be found on www.gardenorganic.org.uk., or contact Garden Organic for a full list. Suppliers A full range of pest control traps and barriers is available from The Organic Gardening Catalogue. Page 22
  • Pest and disease control sprays Although less harmful than many pesticides, the products listed here can still disrupt the natural ecosystem, and may harm other creatures. Avoid their use where possible, and concentrate on using all the other available organic methods. Use only those products containing the ‘active ingredients’ listed below. Always follow the instructions for use on the product label. For pest control Acceptable, but not for regular use Plant oils and other plant based products with a physical mode of action Starch based products with a physical mode of action Natural pyrethrum products (pyrethrins extracted from Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium) Fatty acid potassium salt soaps Iron phosphate (Iron (III) orthophosphate) slug pellets Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) - note that products containing Bt are only available to professional growers For disease control Potassium bicarbonate (>99.0% w/w Potassium Hydrogen Carbonate (Bicarbonate)) Sulphur For rodent control Mouse traps Rodenticides, approved by the Pesticide Safety Directorate, used in tamper-proof bait stations Never acceptable in an organic garden Copper based fungicides. These guidelines recognise the environmental hazards of these products, and no longer recommend their use in organic growing. Any active ingredient/product not registered as a pesticide with the Pesticide Safety Directorate; this includes homemade pesticide sprays, washing up liquid, or any other household products Any other pesticide not included in the Garden Organic Guidelines Page 23
  • Weeds – ground clearance, management and control A weed is an opportunist plant that will rapidly appear in bare soil and can become a nuisance to gardeners, completing for light, water, nutrients and space with ‘desired’ plants. They may be wild plants, or cultivated plants that have spread too far. Weeds also bring biodiversity to a garden and some can be vital in to the survival of butterflies and other wildife. Where necessary, weeds can be managed using the range of methods outlined below. Prevention is the key and cuts down on the work in the long run. There are no organic herbicides for clearing weedy ground of perennial weeds, but there are other methods that can be used. It is worth allowing sufficient time (which could be months or even a year or more) to clear perennial weeds completely, before planting up with perennial plants such as fruit bushes, shrubs or herbaceous flowers. Clearing weedy ground Cover the ground with a mulch (Guidelines ‘rating’ will depend on material used) Cultivate by hand (digging etc) Use livestock, such as pigs, chickens, geese Mow/ cut to clear certain weeds Cultivate with a rotavator or other mechanical cultivator Maintenance Grow ground cover plants, including green manures Use close spacing (where appropriate), vigorous varieties, intercropping and undersowing to inhibit weed germination and growth Clear perennial weeds thoroughly before planting perennial plants Hand weeding, hoe, dig out. Cover the ground with a mulch (Guidelines ‘rating’ will depend on material used) Cut problem weeds, such as docks and thistles, to prevent them seeding Design the garden to limit areas where weeds can become a problem Keep soil disturbance to a minimum to avoid bringing dormant weeds to the surface Page 24
  • Crop rotation (see page 8) Stale seedbed before sowing Stale seedbed technique Use to reduce seedling weeds, where you are going to sow grass seed for a lawn, for example or clover as a green manure, or sow slow to germinate vegetable crops. You will need to prepare the seedbed at least 4 weeks before you want to sow the seeds. Prepare the ground, and rake it level. Water well, if dry, to encourage weed seeds to germinate. Alternatively cover the prepared ground with black plastic sheeting, avoiding the need for hoeing. After four weeks or so, very gently hoe off the weed seedlings that have appeared. It is important only to disturb the top 1-2cm of soil; anything deeper and you will encourage more weeds to germinate. Paths, drives and other hard surfaces Reduce shade from plants to discourage algae and moss Pressure wash, or clean with a stiff brush Construct paths, driveways and other hard surfaces well, to prevent weeds growing through from below, or taking hold on the surface Use regularly – surfaces not used regularly are more likely to grow weeds Hoe gravel Use a thermal/ flame weeder Weed killing sprays containing fatty acids, such as pelargonic acid, as the active ingredient ; for hard landscaping only Biodiversity Recognise that weeds can bring something positive to your garden Allow some weeds to flourish where they are not going to compete with your chosen plants Lawns Accept a certain level of ‘weeds’ in a lawn, and recognise their benefits Amend soil pH, drainage and fertility as appropriate to encourage vigorous growth Choose appropriate varieties of grass seeds for location and use Don’t cut grass too short, particularly in dry weather Page 25
  • Mulches for weed clearance and control See also: Bulky organic materials - plant wastes page 10 Best organic practice - the first choice Recycled plant materials from garden or allotment. Cardboard and newspaper Loose mulches, commercially available, with an organic symbol, or wording, from an approved organic certification organisation. Loose mulches, commercially available, made from recycled plant materials. Products from local sources, and those not packaged are preferable. Acceptable, but not for regular use Biodegradable mulch fabrics made from wool, hemp, paper and other natural materials; also biodegradable, non-GM, starch based materials. Bagged biodegradable mulches from non organic sources Inert materials such as gravel, slate waste, recycled glass – preferably from recycled and/or local sources. Consider environmental impact. Permeable synthetic materials - [polypropylene, polyethylene or other polycarbonates only] for ground clearance, long-term plantings and under paths, driveways etc. Impermeable synthetic materials, such as black polythene - for ground clearance only Never acceptable in an organic garden Any materials from unsustainable sources Carpet as a mulch Garden Organic factsheets Chemical-free plot clearance Mulches for weed control Organic Weed Management website For more detailed information on organic weed control, particularly for farmers and growers, but also of interest to gardeners, go to www.organicweeds.org.uk Page 26
  • Water Use The aim in an organic garden is to minimise the need for watering, and to collect rainwater as possible for use in the garden. Where watering is necessary, water should be applied in ways that make best use of it. Gardens act as valuable ‘soakaways’ for rainwater – an increasingly important function with the increase in heavy downpours. Do not pave or tarmac a whole garden. Even areas used for parking can incorporate some soakaway areas. Best organic practice - the first choice Where soil is light and free draining, grow drought tolerant plants Maximise water holding capacity of soil by adding organic matter (see page xx) Mulch the soil to reduce water loss see p xx Keep soil cultivations to a minimum Don’t cut lawn grass shorter than 2.5cm; leave it slightly longer in drought conditions Allow weeds such as clover and yarrow to grow in a lawn; they will help to keep it green in dry weather Ensure pond liners don’t leak, reducing the need for topping up Try to sow or transplant just before rain is forecast, rather than just before a spell of dry weather Protect young plants from sun and drying winds Collect as much rain water as you can Think before you water; water mainly to establish plants; many, particularly shrubs, trees and perennials rarely need watering Acceptable organic practice Make effective use of water by only watering at key points in a plant’s lifecycle, and then only if necessary Give the ground around plants a good soaking so that the water penetrates the soil, rather than just moistening the surface Apply water to the soil rather than foliage. A hand held hose or watering can will direct the water where it is needed If using an irrigation system, chose a drip system rather than sprinklers To minimise losses through evaporation, water in the evening, or at night, rather than in the heat of the day Page 27
  • Acceptable, but not for regular use Use ‘grey’ water, from baths, sinks and showers, to water non-food plants Never acceptable in an organic garden Ineffective and wasteful use of water Garden Organic factsheets Water in the organic garden factsheet Page 28
  • Wood (timber) in the garden Wood has many uses in the garden, including fencing, compost bins, support structures, bed edging and garden furniture. In an organic garden it is important to consider the source of the wood, to minimise the need for wood preservatives, and to use the least damaging preservative treatments if essential. The degree of protection that wood requires differs with the type of wood, and the situation it is being used in. Rotting is most likely in situations where the wood is in contact with both moisture and air, such as at the base of fence posts. Where timber is being used for structural purposes, such as decking, then safety takes precedence and it would be wise to use pre-treated wood. If wood is used for bed edging, or a compost box, it can be left untreated; it can last for years without any preservatives. Best organic practice - the first choice Coppice products, from your own garden or allotment – for plant support structures, bed edging, furniture and other appropriate uses Choose species of wood more resistant to rotting. Species vary considerably in durability. Accept that the wood will rot eventually, and replace it as necessary Acceptable organic practice Coppice products bought in from sustainable sources, preferably local – for plant support structures, bed edging, furniture and other appropriate uses New timber from sustainable sources, with an accredited mark to prove it. Look for accreditation, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) or the Soil Association (SA) woodmark. UK or European produced timber is preferable. Second-hand/reclaimed timber, though it can be difficult to know if it has been treated with preservatives Organically grown timber - only used for furniture at present Railway sleepers, not treated with creosote or other preservative treatment Builders scaffolding boards. Usually untreated, but always check before purchase. Linseed oil wood treatment Acceptable, but not for regular use Synthetic ‘wood’ alternatives, made from recycled materials such as plastics Page 29
  • Never acceptable in an organic garden Wood from unsustainable forests, particularly from tropical regions Wood treated with creosote, including old railway sleepers ‘Second hand’ wood treated with Copper Chrome Arsenic pressure treatment There are no approved wood preservative treatments for use in an organic garden, but for health and safety issues, there may be times when use of preservative treated wood is essential. For more information see our ‘Using wood in the garden’ factsheet. Garden Organic factsheets Using wood in the garden Timber sold for outdoor use may already have been treated with preservatives, but not labelled as such. Always ask before you buy. Timber sold for indoor use is more likely to be untreated. Page 30
  • Energy Use / Carbon footprint Energy use – in manufacture, processing, packaging, transportation, and final use – has been taken into account in every sector of these guidelines. The aim is, of course, to cut it to a minimum. But it makes sense to ‘think energy’ in all gardening activities including garden design and storage of garden produce. Your garden might also be used to harvest ‘green’ energy. Best organic practice - the first choice Grow nitrogen fixing plants Buy second hand, or sturdy, long lasting tools Recycle and repair tools were possible Use manual, rather than powered, tools e.g. push lawnmower, shears, lawn rake. Use solar energy for lighting garden paths and sheds, running water pumps, and greenhouse ventilation. Use non-electric automatic vents to ventilate a greenhouse. Use wood from the garden for stakes and supports, or firewood Use a lean-to green greenhouse where the back wall will store solar heat. Water filled tanks and bottles also store heat. Grow seasonally to reduce requirement for heating Insulate greenhouses Use manure based hot beds to provide low level heat for raising seedlings Use cold storage, clamps or other traditional preserving methods Acceptable organic practice Heated bench for additional greenhouse heating Use fleece to protect plants in greenhouse or cold frame from frost When store garden produce in a fridge or freezer, use A++ appliances, set to the minimum temperature necessary Where engine or lubricant oils are needed, use plant-based oils (bio-diesel, biolubricant) as they are fully biodegradable Use the garden to harvest energy, such as ground source heating systems or solar hot water panels mounted on a pergola or a garden shed Page 31
  • Acceptable, but not for regular use Petrol and electricity driven tools until they can be replaced by alternatives Fossil fuel to heat greenhouses, where essential and with care to minimise losses Never acceptable in an organic garden Inefficient and wasteful use of fossil fuel derived energy Fossil fuel fired patio heaters Page 32