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10 easy tips for an organic garden for Earth Day

Written by Doug Oster on .

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Just about everybody was an organic gardener before WWII. There's really no reason to use chemicals to grow plants if you don't want to.

My epiphany came when as a toddler my son walked barefoot down the garden path searching for snow peas after I had just covered cabbage plants with Sevin dust. I went cold turkey that day, never looking back and I'm glad I did.

Here are 10 ways to make the switch and have your best garden ever.

Feed the soil, not the plant. Adding organic matter like compost, well-aged animal manure or dehydrated manure will improve the soil and give plants everything they need.

Speaking of compost, make your own. Everything that once was living will eventually turn to compost. The kitchen provided lots of great stuff like eggshells, vegetable peelings, coffee grounds and more. It's a great way to recycle, what you harvest from the compost bin is gardener's gold.

Mulch the plants to keep the soil moist and to prevent diseases.

Let the good bugs eat the bad bugs. When a chemical pesticide is used to kill a pest, the good bugs are killed too, throwing off the balance of nature.

Don't panic when trouble comes. If plants are affected by pests or diseases, diagnose the problem and deal with it specifically.

Stop using herbicides on the lawn. 2,4-D is the main broadleaf herbicide used to kill weeds in the lawn. Get the four step organic program from a good nursery. 2,4-D is a derivative of Agent Orange, I know that I don't want to be around it, you shouldn't either.

Get a soil test. Whether it's a lawn or garden, plants won't grow right unless the pH and fertility is correct in the soil. The Penn State Cooperative Extension sells the test cheap. The results also will tell you what to do to get the soil right.

Your Post-Gazette is a great weed blocker. Today's newspaper is printed with soy and water based inks. Place eight to 10 pages thick on a garden bed, spray with water to keep them in place and mulch. Poke planting holes for transplants and you'll have a nearly weed free season.

Grow disease resistant plants. Breeders are always working on new varieties that fight off disease, you can find them everywhere.

Water smart by soaking the lawn or garden once a week in the morning when needed. The plants only need one inch of water a week when we don't get rain. A weekly soaking promotes good root growth.

Creating an organic garden is easy, it just takes a different way of thinking and some different products. Remember, we all live downstream.

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