‘Eco-friendly,’ ‘environmentally friendly’ and ‘organic’ are terms you often hear these days, but what does it mean to ‘go green’ in the garden? “Simply put, organic gardening is about using sound gardening principles and materials in their most natural form,” says Charlie Nardozzi, horticulturist with the National Gardening Association.
Why go green
There are many reasons to transition to organic gardening. The top benefits of using organic techniques are clear: better health for you, your pets and the environment. And even though organics usually cost more than conventional products, since organic products function by building up the soil’s biology, the results are longer lasting and applications are less frequent.
Building safe soil
Organic fertilizers give a boost to your lawn and garden and ensure that your soil stays healthy long-term. Unlike synthetic fertilizers, which dissolve over time and actually leech into the water supply, organic elements become part of the soil, meaning that an organic garden gets better with time. Organic amendments—such as compost, animal manures and cover crops—also minimize landfill debris and are great for your soil.
Picking perfect plants
Making proper plant choices is an organic garden’s best practice—choose appropriate native or drought-tolerant plants adapted to the local growing zone and soil. Another organic-gardening principle is reducing the amount of turf in your landscape—less grass means less mowing, which causes harmful emissions, and less watering, which conserves water.
Zoning (placing plants with similar water requirements together) and drip irrigation, rather than a conventional sprinkler system, are good conservation techniques. Rainwater harvesting is another option. Using mulch, a natural barrier of shredded leaves, straw or bark, aids water retention.
Though it may take a little longer, the long-term payoff of organic gardening is lowered costs, easy maintenance and a safe, beautiful yard.
how to compost
Composting is an easy way to transform your landscape trimmings and kitchen scraps into an enriching soil amendment. Composting structures can be created from wire hoops, wood-and-wire bins or lidded buckets (a great option for small homes). The basic composting recipe is as follows:
1. Chop compostables for faster decomposition.
2. Mix 2/3 dry, brown material (dead leaves, straw, shredded wood) with 1/3 moist, green material (grass clippings, fruit and vegetable scraps, weeds).
3. Add water to maintain the moisture level so the pile is as damp as a wrung-out sponge.
In 12 to 18 months, the material on the bottom half of your structure will be dark, crumbly compost. For faster composting, you can cover your pile with a sheet of plastic and turn the pile frequently (1-3 times a week). This method produces compost in 1 to 3 months.
For more information on composting, including what you can and cannot compost, contact the Georgia Department of Community Affairs’ Home Composting Program at (404) 679-4940 or download a free guide to composting at home at