Organic. It’s become a commonplace buzzword in the past decade or more. Organic produce, organic milk and eggs, organic gardening. Even an entire way of life that eliminates harsh chemicals that poison our air and ground water, substituting natural pesticides, fertilizers, and feeding our commercially-raised animals natural feeds. Organic gardening isn’t limited just to your vegetable plot or berry patch, it extends onto your lawn, to shrubs, plants, flowers, and trees, too.
Organic care of the trees on your property, whether they are fruit, nut, ornamental, or shade trees, begins with their planting. If you are the property owner fortunate enough to do your own tree selection and planting, start here. Select the type of tree(s) that will grow well in the soil in which they are planted. Then, as you are planting, be sure to follow the planting instructions, but here is where you can substitute organic fertilizers or other recommended organic materials for the chemical versions. Understanding how to care for your trees utilizing proper irrigation methods, caring for the soil, and mulching will put you on the right path for organic tree care.
Along with the organic materials you use to get your newly planted tree off on the right track, practicing good gardening methods will also ensure that your tree will grow properly and give you years of enjoyment. Proper pruning, aeration of the soil, and proper watering are all a part of the organic care of your tree. A wholistic approach to caring for your trees will ensure a healthy environment for both you and your trees, and long life for the trees.
If you have inherited grown trees, you can still care for them organically by choosing only organic materials with which to nurture them. A good organic mulch around the base of the tree will help to keep the soil moist to provide water to the roots. Organic mulches can include grass clippings, animal manure, sawdust, hardwood bark and wood chips, peat moss, shredded leaves, and mushroom compost. Done properly, with the right mix of mulch components, it can also look attractive, adding to the beauty of your yard. It will also control weeds from growing around the base of the tree. You’ll benefit two ways—having a way to recycle these “waste” materials, and nourishing your trees with healthy nutrients, and often for free.
Another way of organically caring for your trees is to bring in helpful insects that will destroy the damaging bugs. This eliminates the need for chemical insect sprays. Just one ladybug will eat 25 damaging aphids every day. A dozen of these little polka-dotted bugs will put a big dent in your aphid infestation in no time.
By introducing beneficial insects, you not only accomplish the goal of eliminating the harmful pests, but are also creating a natural balance in this realm also. Another trick for eliminating aphids is to plant garlic around the tree or plant that is infested with them. A side benefit is harvesting your own fresh, delicious garlic to use in cooking.
If you have a wood stove or fireplace, you know you have to dispose of the ashes regularly. A good place to put them is to mix them in with your mulch or compost to put around the base of your tree. This benefits you both ways—disposing of the ashes and nourishing your tree.
Other benefits of caring for your trees organically include using products that are not harmful to the total environment—air, water, vegetation, animals, and most importantly, humans. In fact, rather than being harmful, organic materials often benefit more than just the tree or plant you are directing them to.
You will create a healthy balance of pathogenic and beneficial organisms. Chemicals can destroy not only the harmful pests or diseases you are targeting, but also the good organisms in the soil, the plant or tree, or the ground water. By increasing the good microbial organisms, you are creating an environment that has less room for the harmful organisms. When you are nourishing your tree with organic materials, that tree’s root mass will increase naturally, which means long-term benefits for the tree. The tree’s life depends on a good, healthy root system. Feeding these roots with organic matter will help them to grow strong and healthy, maintaining the health of the tree.
When the soil and the root system are healthy from being treated organically, the soil and the tree both will have an increased capacity for holding water. This means that you may have to water less often, because when you do water the trees, they will better absorb the water and it will last them longer.
Feeding and nurturing a tree organically gives a boost to the tree’s own immune system. When it is receiving the proper nutrients that organic material provides, the tree’s own immune system is stimulated. This means less disease for you to try to treat, and a healthier, more attractive tree.
Because organic fertilizers and other products are made from natural sources, greenhouse gases and carbon-burning fuels are severely limited in their production. Many large corporations won’t produce organic materials because they don’t want to waste time and resources that frankly don’t sell as well as the chemical products. So much of the organic products that are available for purchase are made and sold by small, local businesses. The local nursery or feed store from which you buy your organic fertilizer or pesticide just may be owned by your next-door neighbor, or even your brother-in-law. When people buy locally, they are not only helping the small business owner, but they are in fact helping themselves by helping their local economy. Organically caring for your trees, lawn, and garden is a win-win situation for all involved.
Last, but by no means least, when you care for your trees with organic materials, you are helping to preserve your land, and the environment at large, to pass on to your children and grandchildren. Isn’t this a legacy worth leaving them?