Organic gardening & farming is the cultivation of flowers, fruit, vegetables and improving soil, without the use or minimal use of manufactured chemically-formulated substances. Manure and composting methods are used, such as fungi, bacteria, worms, and insects, instead of using artificial fertilizers, pesticides, etc.
Organic mulch, compost, and vermicompost can be produced by composting and vermicomposting. Rotted manures such as poultry and horse feces can be used, as well as green manure and bone meal.
Green manuring is the process of mixing green manure (specific grown crop plants) into the soil, to improve it. Bone meal is finely grounded animal bones and slaughter-house waste that can provide plants with phosphorous (in acidic soil).
These organic matters can be used to enrich or insulate the soil, reduce evaporation, prevent erosion, control weeds, keep the soil moist, help with drainage, act as fertilizer for plants and protect plants in winter.
Now, let’s take a more in-depth look at the seven key benefits of organic gardening & farming versus using commercially bought products, then look at the four disadvantages:
1. Helps to grow better plants
When you treat the soil with organic materials, such as compost or manure, etc you are improving the quality of the soil. Doing this will ensure that you have fertile soil, for plants to thrive healthier, and organically grown plants are better for the environment.
When plants are organically grown, you can be sure that they are grown naturally without any (or minimal) chemicals. The most important type of crop that this benefits you is when you are growing edible plants (for consumption) that you know have no synthetic substances, like pesticides or growth hormones, etc.
2. Provides healthier soil free from toxins
Adding manure and composted waste to the soil conditions the area naturally for your plants to grow, providing them with nutrients, and helps them to grow healthier. The long term effects of using artificial chemicals are damaging for the soil, and within time will make it too toxic for plants to grow.
You can keep using the same area each year knowing that your plants are being grown in healthy soil, free from any chemicals. If you have clay (heavy and wet) or sand (light and dry) type soils, you can add rotted manure, compost, or mulch with leafmold to improve these types of extreme soils.
3. Beneficial to the environment
Chemicals can increase air pollution, make the condition of soil poorer, kill off beneficial creatures, are toxic to animals, and water runoff can pollute rivers, streams, and water supplies. They are responsible for killing off millions of animals each year.
Recycling your garden and kitchen waste for composting eliminates these problems, as you are reducing the number of chemicals that will negatively affect the environment. Compost also encourages bugs to your garden, which are beneficial for killing off pests and encouraging other wildlife to thrive.
4. Prevents the needless death of wildlife
Organic materials, such as compost and manure have no (obvious) effects on wildlife, this is because it is natural and the way soil should be. Waste should naturally decompose, and animals should naturally poop on the ground, creating nutrient-rich soil. But we can go even further than that because we can compost in a way that provides the optimal mixture of green and brown waste.
Regularly putting chemicals into the soil does have an impact on wildlife, in the short term as well as long term damage, which can be devastating to the environment. It can affect various types of wildlife, from fish and frogs to birds and bugs. As irrelevant as bugs may seem to some people, they are still very important to the ecosystem, and chemicals can disrupt it, causing a negative domino effect.
5. Saves you money
When you compost your kitchen and garden waste, you save a lot of money (in the long run) on store-bought manure and fertilizer, etc. You can easily compost and vermicompost your waste, store it, and then use it whenever you need to. This method of gardening is a lot more practical and sustainable, rather than spending money on a quick fix and pumping chemicals into the soil.
You can be set up for quite a while after your first initial investment of tools, and you can also build your own composting bin/pile and worm farm if you don’t want to spend too much money on equipment. But this can be the opposite if you are farming on a much larger scale for profit, which I will explain more later on in the disadvantages section of this article.
6. More recycling means less landfill & no need for burning waste
Landfill contaminates the air with toxic gases and can pollute water sources. These pollutants are hazardous to our health, the environment, and add to global warming. When we recycle our compostable waste, we decrease the amount of waste going to landfill.
There are parts of the world that still burn unwanted/leftover crops and waste, but burning waste has a detrimental effect on the environment by polluting the atmosphere with toxic gases. A prime example of this is Northern Thailand, during the “smokey season” the quality of their air is awful.
This use to be a popular strategy adopted by many countries until we realized how hazardous it was to the environment. We can avoid doing this by composting our waste instead of burning it.
7. Gives soil and plants slow and consistent nutrients
Most commercial fertilizers don’t provide soil and plants with slow and consistent nutrients, but the ones that do, have to be applied at certain times of the year to be effective. Organic manure and compost are better for a more consistent supply of nutrients whatever the season.
When you treat the soil with artificial chemicals, they work well initially, but after a few heavy downpours of rain, those same chemicals can become diluted, and often washed away completely within time. Organic manure and compost can provide the soil, and plants with the slow delivery of nutrients that speed up as the temperature rises, this is ideal for spring and summer.
What are the four disadvantages of organic gardening & farming?
The disadvantages are additional time and effort, and if you are organically growing a larger volume of crops: cost and lower yield. It takes more time and effort to recycle instead of using store-bought products. You can make a compost bin and worm farm, so cost and lower yield are irrelevant for personal gardening.
It takes time and effort to garden organically because you have to prepare everything yourself from scratch rather than going to a store. You can easily go to the store to buy the products you need when you need it, and this will save you a lot of time and effort in preparing compost, etc. When you produce organic matter yourself, it will take time to produce because you need to wait for it to decompose into the nutrient-rich material, before putting it into the soil.
Some people say organic gardening is costly, but that isn’t true for personal gardening because you can make a composting bin or worm farm and you will save future expenses paid on compost and fertilizers, etc. However, it is true when farmers are producing organically grown produce because the cost of labor rises due to lower yield.
Growing crops organically does lower the yield for farmers because they are not pumping their crops full of chemicals. They have more risk of pests, and diseases lowering the number of crops that they can produce. This is not much of an issue for personal gardening because you’re growing for other reasons rather than profit.
Growing crops organically is beneficial to the soil, the growth of plants, the environment, and helps to preserve wildlife. If you are gardening organically on a small scale, you can save a lot of the costs by not spending money on commercial products. If you don’t want to invest too much cash on composting or vermicomposting, you can build your composter or worm farm.
The main disadvantage of organic growing is it takes more time and effort because you have to actively create your product, and it takes time to produce your compost. When growing on a larger scale, labor costs are higher and yield is lower.
My verdict: The pros of organic gardening outweigh the cons, especially when you are gardening at home. But if you’re a farmer growing for profit, using chemicals is a good way to produce a higher yield and keep labor costs down (but at the expense of the environment).