We all love to garden usefully. We love to eat fresh food from our gardens that we have grown from seedling or seed. We care about what we put in our bodies, and how it came to be. We spend so much time making room for our edibles. We water and compost our gardens. We weed… WAIT! Stop right there. We what!?!
Hundreds of poisonous volatile organic chemicals (VOC’s), like ammonia, benzene, and formaldehyde (the most commonly found toxin in indoor air), can be released into indoor air by furniture, carpets, and building materials. These chemicals are then trapped indoors by the energy-conserving, closed ventilation air temperature regulating systems installed in many homes and offices. The effects on health can range from respiratory and allergic reactions which are collectively called “sick building syndrome”, to asthma, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and neuropsychological problems.
What do we want from our gardens? That’s easy… healthy plants!
Unlike other animals, insects do not generally eat healthy plants… they simply lack the enzymes necessary to digest the complex sugars, carbohydrates and proteins healthy plants turn simple sugars, minerals and whatever other base stuff into. It is the same for fungi… the mildews, molds… and the viruses that are carried by plant eating insects that sometimes plague our plants… they cannot digest, and are not attracted to, healthy plants. This is so important a concept to understand because when you realize that a garden is only as healthy as its soil, you begin to think differently about the role you play in your garden.
Slugs are a constant annoyance to many gardens, but they are especially threatening during springtime… when your plants are at their most vulnerable… when they are seedlings. Most of the slugs in your garden will be underneath the soil surface at any given time. Some species will eat seedlings before the seedlings emerge from the soil, and some will even eat seeds… so begin dealing with slugs before you plan to have your seedlings emerge.
When most people think ‘vegetable gardens’ they immediately think ‘food’… but in order for an organic garden to be about food, it first needs to be about soil. Understand that organic vegetable gardening is really ‘soil building’ and you will have the healthiest plants possible. The food your garden produces is only as good as the soil it grows from. Compost is your friend; use it always, whenever you replace a “weed” plant with a more useful species, and whenever you see a spot unoccupied by a plant.