Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern Coasts
July, 2004
Regional Report

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Good garden sanitation includes cleaning up fallen petals and flowers.

Cleanly Organic

Think it's hard to go organic? Start simply, creating better growing conditions by improving sanitation in the garden. Think "clean" to prevent problems and thus reduce the need for using chemical pesticides. You'll be looking toward organic approaches once you're convinced it works. The impact of sanitation on garden health is a powerful place to start.

Defining Terms
Sanitation means cleanliness, particularly weed control and removal of plant debris from growing areas. Its purpose is to remove potential sources of infection and infestation; fortunately, it has side effects that enhance the way the garden looks. For example, deadheading spent flowers promotes continuous blooming in many annuals and also removes their rotting remains from the garden.

Whether that plant debris is flowers that harbor petal blight or the perfect leafy habitat for spider mites, its removal deters the troublemakers and can prevent the need to use chemical pesticides to control these routine problems. Alternative controls, when necessary, are preferable from an organic gardener's point of view for two reasons: they are derived from naturally occurring resources and generally have less longterm impact on the backyard environment.

Deal With It
Common weeds and uncontaminated plant materials, such as spent annual plants and lawn grass, make great compost. Recycling them for home use this way helps to keep the landfill less full and creates the best organic fertilizer you'll ever use. Growing healthy plants reduces the need for chemical pesticides; ironically, perhaps, well-grown plants attract fewer pests than ones in stress.

Room to Move
Crowding (whether from weeds or desirable plants) contributes to stressful growing conditions and to more difficulties in organic success. Sanitation includes controlling that weedy patch along the back fence, the scruff of grass that comes up between your house and the next one, all the plants you don't want to grow but grow anyway. Keep those weeds out of the picture by pulling, mowing, or trimming them to reduce hiding places for slugs and worse pests.

Proper spacing of individual plants encourages their health by reducing competition for nutrients, water and sunlight. Plan your garden design with mature plant sizes in mind, and plant for room to grow with good air circulation between plants and structures. Stay on top of sanitation: keep the garden clean and compost what you can, and burn or throw away the rest.

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