column covers various aspects of what is more widely known as
"A human being is part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a
part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts
and feelings as something separated from the rest - a kind of
optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of
prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to
affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free
ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to
embrace all living creatures and the whole [of] nature in its
The term "Organic
Gardening" may be better expressed as “Holistic Gardening.” In
the first place the word organic implies something about carbon or
relating to compounds of carbon; instead of the notion of wholeness.
Holistic comes from the word whole, meaning entirety, where the sum of the
parts is lesser than whole. All parts of the whole are interconnected,
thus affecting each other. So something that is done to one part effects
all of the other parts in different degrees and in different ways.
Understanding this premise is key to understanding the value of holistic
or organic gardening.
Let us consider the beginning, when man first
arrived. It does not matter how you believe that mankind got here. In the
beginning, our world was more pristine; waters, air and soil were not yet
contaminated by man's silly attempts to play God. All things living and
non-living interacted with each other in ways that were often beneficial
but sometimes inhibitory or destructive.
The complex interactions of all things eventually
reach equilibrium or a stable level. This equilibrium fluctuates as some
populations expand and contract or natural forces such as fires, floods,
and storms contribute to change. For instance, one season there may be an
excess of particular insects,
which in turn provides more food for other creatures, such as birds, and
then their populations increase.
The rises and falls of populations of all kinds
are cyclic as well as interdependent on each other along with the
environment. However, the entire system continues to reach toward
equilibrium over and over. Imagine a seesaw with two kids of equal weight
on either side. At first, they are balanced and level, but if one gains or
loses some weight then the seesaw is off balance.
| This is
how the idea of Holistic Gardening works; all factors work together
to try to reach equilibrium or balance. Sometimes events, or
population increases in different species throw the system out of
balance, but it will continue to equalize itself.
Those who practice "Organic or Holistic
Gardening" try to help the system maintain and regain its
balance, starting with the gentlest ways. Using products that were
not here in the beginning is a harsher way to reset equilibrium,
because they were never intended to be part of the original scheme.
For those who wish to lean more towards the holistic approach, the
key to success is to promote healthy interactions between all
things, living and non-living. To holistic gardeners, the soil is a
living thing. It is a masterful mix of creatures, elements, and
chemical compounds all interacting with each other on several
different planes, nurturing itself as it goes.
The healthier the soil, there will be fewer
problems with imbalance in all other areas. Creating healthy soil
means making topsoil at the fastest pace possible. To do this,
compost is produced. Well-made compost is the basis for a healthy
garden of any type. There are many ways to make compost; they will
not be explored at this point.
|| If you would
like to move down the path to holistic gardening, begin with
compost. Create rich soil, full of organisms, micro and
macronutrients, elements and compounds that help to produce a stable
environment for your plants and beneficial insect buddies. The
second step is to stop polluting your garden and home with those
man-made products that do not fit into the natural scheme of things.
Keep your seesaw balanced.
In your mind's eye, see all things linked
together as they are, each needing the other for life and for the
benefit of all other things. The whole is greater than the sum of
Organic or Holistic Gardening is not a process of
working the "carbons." It begins with a change in
philosophy and one's personal connection with our planet.
Understanding that balance in all areas is of utmost importance,
realizing that overkill or over population can create chaos in other
areas and other populations.
Using nature instead of abusing it is key. A simple example would be
using beneficial predatory organisms to control populations of unwanted
organisms. Decollate snails will devour slugs and not feed on live plant
material; this is less likely to harm other organisms and more likely to
decrease the target population (slugs). Problem populations, those that
create havoc and frustration for gardeners do not have to be completely
eradicated. They merely have to be reduced in numbers. The system's
equilibrium will then be able to use the forces of nature to keep the
target at a "balanced" level.
From my own personal experience, many years ago I was having
slug problems and did not want to throw my garden's equilibrium
off balance. One day, while visiting the local farmer's market,
I talked with a vendor, who was selling a variety of organic
pest control products. He told me about decollate snails. I had
the normal questions starting with, " Will they eat my
hostas?" and ending with "Do they winter over or do I
need to replace them each season?" He told me that they
only eat slugs, snails and decaying vegetation. They winter over
just like slugs and do not need to be replaced.
As long as there are slugs they will feed on them; when the slug
population gets too small they will move on to greener pastures,
perhaps my neighbors' yard. Now had I tried to introduce them
after using iron phosphate with metaldehyde in it, then there
would not be sufficient numbers of slugs for them to eat and
reproduce. The metaldehyde would kill the snails as well. For
many years, I have only had minimum slug damage. I have not
added more snails, since their reproduction depends on having
A decollate snail (left)
attacks another type of snail.
| The decollate snails are
not allowed in certain states, and most companies will not send
them to you if you are in those states. I feel safe in thinking
that I have not harmed other species, which may help to eliminate
slugs as well.
Firefly larvae devour small slugs but will not
visit areas where the slugs were wiped out the previous year by
harsher methods. So in order to build a balanced garden full of
predators, some of the pest species must still be present in
manageable numbers. Birds, which often feed on slugs, are also safe, because the slugs they eat are not contaminated.
Commonly, holistic gardeners do not rely on
only one method to reduce problem populations. They tend to
combine several methods all based on remaining in the holistic
mindset. This web address will give you thirteen holistic methods to
fight slugs - click HERE.
If you want to become more holistic, try a
combination of these to get started. Beer traps are not very
effective alone, so pick and choose. I recall a speaker at Hosta
College who claimed that putting romaine lettuce out for the
slugs, then collecting and disposing of it was very
effective, because the slug preferred it to hostas.
Seeing your garden as a total
package, a whole, will allow you to make changes in your practices that
will benefit the health of your garden, as well as your own health.
Understanding that you are an integral part of the garden, as well as
your hostas, is a move in the right direction. Knowing that the sum of
the parts is lesser than the whole, and that which affects one part, in
some way affects all parts is the philosophy to seek.
Author Bio - Ron first became interested in
organic/holistic gardening in the mid-seventies, when he grew
edible landscapes and organic vegetables. He has continued to
garden holistically since that time. While walking in his
neighborhood, Ron had a chance meeting with Stuart Asch, a
friendship developed and Ron was inspired to hybridize hostas in
1996. This began a passion that he pursues with enthusiasm and
success, leading to widespread acclaim. A number of his hosta
creations have been for sale by nurseries with more to come.
After spending 35.5 years teaching science in
Detroit, Ron retired, and during the last five years has had more
time to concentrate on his hobbies. In addition to hybridizing
hostas, dancing, stained glass; computers, hiking; photography,
running and working out with weights are ways he likes to spend
time. Ron is a big fan of nature.