Martha's Vineyard Garden Club Report : Organic gardening
Paul Split - teacher, lecturer, and horticultural consultant - returned to the Martha's Vineyard Garden Club to speak on Organic Gardening techniques at the October meeting. "Sustainable was not a word in my vocabulary ten years ago," Mr. Split admitted.
The speaker drew on his recent experience at a Willie Nelson concert where there was extensive use of sustainable, compost-friendly paper cups, plates, and utensils at concession stands. In the garden, corn-based products that are biodegradable are recommended as a substitute for the black plastic bags that many gardeners use to contain lawn clippings and fallen leaves. Compostable bags are available at health foods markets and on-Island.
Mr. Split encouraged all passionate, occasional, and obsessive gardeners to "never forget why they are in their gardens." Using the metaphor of a slice of pizza cut from the whole, he postulated that insecticides and weed killers represent the missing slice and that there was "no way for the garden to be whole again." Throughout his talk, Mr. Split made the distinction between organic, sustainable, and natural materials, which in the long run are preferable to chemical, non-sustainable, and artificial methods of garden management. "Things that were once living," according to Mr. Split, can provide a natural way for nutrients to be returned to the soil. The tomato plant is a vine that doesn't need to be staked, and if left to die will fertilize the soil. "Whatever was living is good," he reminds us.
A healthy garden free of chemical pesticides is achievable by the use of companion planting. Instead of planting two tomato plants together, separate them and surround each plant with thyme, rosemary, or white clover, which inhibit pests and can, like white clover, give off nitrogen to the tomato plant.
Mr. Split says, "Thyme smells awful to insects." Herbs and well-chosen companion plants can take care of many problems.
Safer soap is one way to treat aphids, and ammonium D is recommended as an organic spray for insects. Mr. Split's natural solution of water, cayenne pepper, Dove hand soap, and garlic is another alternate, recommended method of pest management. The prudent organic gardener wants to monitor insects and bugs without killing all of the beneficial insects. Ortho's Sticky Whitefly glue paper patch is a non-chemical way to wipe out leaf-chewing insects. Wait until the temperature reaches an average of 55 degrees before attaching the sticky paper strips to threatened trees. You want to get the lily beetle "where it sleeps," recommends Mr. Split, and he suggests laying down a carpet of tarpaper so that the beetles can't get through the cover. An insect repellent like Neem from the Neem tree in India poured into the ground also helps in getting rid of the lily beetle.
Finally, the organic gardener must rely on mulch as the best way to ensure the natural health of one's garden. Aesthetically pleasing, mulch holds in moisture, feeds and keeps plants warm. In addition, mulch covers and protects the seed bed.
Mr. Split summed up his talk by saying: "Natural fertilizers, organic mulches and companion planting will bring our gardens to an organic state that we'll live with."