What would encourage you to make your garden organic? For Howard Garrett, it was his baby daughter.
“She was out on the porch with me, picking up things and putting them in her mouth,” he says. “I didn’t want to use anything toxic around my baby girl. I had no earthly idea of what organic gardening even was at that point.”
Garrett, 74, is a Dallas-based horticulturist, author and YouTuber known as the Dirt Doctor (or just “Dirt” to his golfing buddies). Since the episode with his daughter 35 years ago, he has made a career of convincing people that gardening organically is safer, easier and less expensive than using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.
For example, when gardeners concentrate on keeping soil healthy and rich in organic material, it retains more water, Garrett says. “Just the watering alone, when you go the natural organic route like we recommend and teach people to do, you save somewhere between 40 and 50 percent on your water bill.”
If that’s not enough inspiration, consider Theresa Martz. By concentrating on soil and mulch, Martz, who describes herself as “close to 80,” spends only 10 minutes a day weeding her flowers and the 2,500-square-foot vegetable garden she’s maintained in northern Virginia for decades. Martz blogs about organic gardening at TendingMyGarden.com and is the author of Organic Gardening: Cutting Through the Hype to the 3 Keys to Successful Gardening. She is puzzled why anyone wouldn’t garden organically.
“I don’t use all this chemical stuff,” she says, instead enriching her soil with leaves, pine, straw, plant residue and any other organic material. “It’s just so easy if you follow nature’s way.”
If you’re considering making the switch from conventional to organic, it can help to have patience, says Mark Highland, founder of Organic Mechanics Soil Co. of Modena, Pennsylvania, and an instructor at the Mt. Cuba Center, a botanical garden near Wilmington, Delaware.
Don’t expect a beautiful organic garden the first year — there will be a transition period, Highland says. “I think humans put too much pressure on themselves to be perfect,” he says. “No garden is ever perfect.”