Ron's  column covers various aspects of what is more widely known as "organic gardening".  

Organic Gardening/Holistic Gardening

    "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 beauty."
                   ~Albert Einstein
    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 its parts.
   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 some slugs. 

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.
New 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.

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