A Dialogue on Natural Gardening Techniques
By Don Trotter

Hello and welcome to the land of Organica, an ethereal place where everyone is in tune with and is respectful of the Mother. Here in Organica it is a misdemeanor to use chemical fertilizers and a felony when pesticides are applied to the precious earth...

HOLD IT!!!, no waxing poetic you romantic dirt scratcher!

OK, now that we've taken care of that momentary slip of the schizophrenic keyboard, we're back on track. My name is Don Trotter and I am an organic gardening consultant. I listen to the ailments gardeners have and fix them with natural/common sense solutions that are environmentally friendly and simple to understand. The generous folks who publish Awareness Magazine think my dogma may be of use to those of you who are interested in tending your gardens naturally. I am grateful for this platform upon which I shall evangelize and espouse the glorious rewards of gardening sans industrial gurge.

HOLY SMOKES, not again

Sorry, I slipped. My goal is to show the readers of this fine publication that gardening naturally is easy and less actual work than the other way. So let's get to it...

As the main focus for my first column, I chose one of the most frequently debated issues regarding organic gardening vs the Miracle-gro devotees. The issue is that organic fertilizers take forever to start working and they are outrageously expensive to use. To those individuals, my educated response is . . . OH YEAH. As the information stored within my medula colongatta is disseminated upon this papyrus, you will see that you can feed your garden organically for about half of what it costs to poison it with chemicals. In addition, you will see that the frequency of fertilization is cut drastically as well, thus leaving more time for the pursuit of happiness, which of course, is every American's right. Before we continue I would like to take an opportunity to do some science. This is the stuff of which Awareness is made.

Most people can't avoid everyday pollutants, but they can take steps to protect their health. Simply put, we're poisoning ourselves. Annual production of synthetic chemicals increased from approximately 1 billion pounds in 1940 to more than 387 billion pounds in 1990. Toxic chemicals and hazardous waste contaminate our air and water. Our homes and workplaces are saturated with synthetic materials that release chemical vapors into the air we breathe. Toxic metals such as lead, aluminum, cadmium and mercury pervade our environment. Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, fumigants and fertilizers seep into the water table and are absorbed into our food supply, and into the ocean doing damage that we may never be able to repair. We're waging a chemical war on ourselves, and we're paying the price‹ in illness and sometimes death. This behavior is not logical, and gardeners can and should be a first line against the usage of these poisons. The Earth is a finite place, I don't think it's advisable to find out where the point of no return is. Now that I disgorged the scary part, let's get to the fun.

The feeding of a garden is not nearly as complicated as the experts would like you to believe. (It is how they justify their contribution to society.) I see fertilization as a process by which the soil is fed and becomes a nutrition reservoir for the plant life it is tasked to sustain. Doesn't it seem logical to feed the soil and then let the soil feed the plants? That is the way that nature intended it to work in most cases, and it's not nice to argue with Mother Nature.

Natural/Organic fertilizers last longer and are released more evenly by microbial activity within the soil itself. As these microbes break down the fertilizers, they convert the nutrients via digestion into forms that plants can use. In this natural system the soil is enhanced at the same time the plants are fed. Chemical fertilizers degrade soil quality and can be directly traced to salinization of agricultural soils, rendering them sterile. Less than 25% of the total volume of a chemical fertilizer is actually used by the plants to which it was applied. That means if you were to buy a 100 lb. bag of a chemical fertilizer, less than 25 lbs. would actually be used by your garden. The rest (75 lbs.) is either lost into the storm drain system and eventually to the ocean, or it is volatilized into the atmosphere to wreak havoc on air quality. Enough depressing statistics, my point is made. Chemicals suck, so let's feed your garden now, naturally.

I feed ornamentals with a simple fertilizer furnished by those beer drinkers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The product is called Mil-Organite, and is available at any garden center. I use it only three to four times a year on lawns, trees and shrubs. That is alot less than every 30-45 days for chemical fertilizers. More time for the beach! Mil-Organite is also widely used by golf courses that are trying to use fewer chemicals to keep the greens green.

For those of you who like to grow your own food, I have a super mix of fertilizers that you only need to apply twice a year to the fruit trees and three times a year to the vegetable plot. The recipe goes like this...

1 part Kelp meal, 2 parts Cottonseed meal, 1 part Fish meal, 1 part Bird/Bat guano, 1 part Hoof and Horn meal.

Apply this mixture at a rate of five pounds for every 50 square feet of vegetable garden or two pounds for every inch of fruit tree trunk diameter. After application water thoroughly. Your garden will grow so fast and healthy that it will be a topic of discussion for the neighbors. After the second feeding with this concoction, you'll begin to notice a significant increase in the earthworm population in your garden as well. All of the ingredients named in this recipe are easily found at any garden center or agricultural supply store.

Got questions? Call Don anytime at (76) 599-7662, or e-mail him at or; or visit the web site : or; the gardening advice is always free of charge.

Don Trotter is a consulting horticulturist and an award-winning garden designer. He is the owner/operator of The Organic Gardener's Resource and Design Centre in Encinitas, CA., where people interested in natural gardening techniques find information and supplies.

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