A layperson’s perception is that an organic garden is one that is free from chemical fertilizers and pesticides. However, there are some wider issues involved. The basic organic approach to gardening (as well as farming) is to recognise the inter-connection between living organisms and the earth, and to work within this delicate balance, in total harmony with nature.
The organic approach to gardening upholds recycling and re-using. It does not uphold buying off the shelf, consuming, burning and dumping — all these actions go towards depleting the earth’s finite resources. Organic encourages a sustainable future and the use and re-use of natural products, replenishing what one takes from the earth.
 Natural Fertilizers
Use compost to fertilize your garden; set up a compost pit and use garden by-products, household and other natural waste to make compost. Make leaf mould instead of burning the leaves in your garden and opt for using green manure, which is plants grown to improve the soil, such as alfalfa, buckwheat, beans and clover. If you have access to organic animal manure, compost it and use it in your garden.
 Natural Pest Control
Organic gardening uses natural ways of keeping away pests. As part of the food chain, all creatures have others preying on them — organic gardening uses this principle to encourage certain ‘garden-friendly’ insects and animals that keep away pests. It also uses methods such as crop rotation and companion planting with certain beneficial and pest-resistant varieties of plants.
 The Soil’s Factory Workers
Nurturing the soil in a natural manner is essential to organic gardening, as it encourages the living creatures in the soil to thrive. The moving force behind enriched organic soil is the millions of little creatures and micro-organisms that live in the soil and produce food for plants. They break down the compost or manure you add to your organic garden and convert it into nutrients for your plants.
 Ethical Concerns
Animal welfare and humane treatment of living creatures is an essential part of the organic philosophy. Organic gardeners make it a point not to use manure or any by-products from factory farms. Some organic gardeners even choose to keep their garden completely animal product-free, as it is possible to use plant-based fertilizers and nitrogen-fixing plants to enrich the soil. Similarly, humanitarian concerns extend to people too, with recognition of fair-trade principles applying to anything used or grown in an organic garden.
 Healthy Approach to Organic Gardening
- Keep your entire garden organic, the lawn, ornamental plants, vegetables and fruits.
- Give great importance to nurturing the soil and use organic fertilizers.
- Make re-use and recycle your two basic mantras.
- Practice rainwater harvesting.
- Use organically grown seeds.
- Don’t go in for genetically modified plants.
- Make your garden ‘wildlife friendly’. Know pests from predators.
- Don’t light bonfires to get rid of waste — it’s not waste in the first place.
You can apply all the principles of organic gardening to container gardening, if you don’t have enough space.
 Animals That Control Garden Pests
- Ladybird larvae prey on aphids, while adult ladybirds prey on greenfly and blackfly.
- Common birds, such as blue tits, will hunt on the caterpillars in your garden.
- Centipedes feed on slugs and slug eggs.
- Lacewing larvae feed on aphids.
- Some species of wasps collect insect pests to feed their young, others lay eggs in pest larvae and the wasp young act as parasitic killers; for example, Apantales glomeratus predates on the cabbage white butterfly larvae. You can even buy these wasps at biological control shops.
- Spiders predate on insects.
- Lizards kill insects, slugs and snails.
- Frogs, toads and newts prey on many pest species.
Source: DK Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening; Editor-in-chief: Pauline Pears