Sunday, 11 February, 2001
Debra and I are slowly reducing the amount of grass around the place by replacing sections with planted beds. This involves quite a bit of work: digging out sod, tilling the soil, adding compost and mulch, and planting. The end result will be worth it, though: less grass to take care of. In addition, the grass that's left will benefit from more attention, and the new beds require less water and much less work than grass. This is a long-term project that we started last summer. If we add a couple of new beds every year, we should have the place the way we want it in 5 to 10 years. We're not going anywhere.
We're also committed to organic gardening here, preferring natural methods over chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Our reasons for going organic are purely pragmatic. First, for our lawn and gardens, it's simply cheaper to use organic methods. Chemicals are expensive. More importantly, chemical herbicides and pesticides are poisons, plain and simple. I'm not real keen on putting on my plants (especially the vegetable garden) something that's labeled "Hazardous, keep away from children."
Chemical fertilizers are another matter entirely. Assuming I didn't mind spreading hazardous materials (just read the fertilizer bag) in my garden, why else would I not use chemical fertilizers? Two reasons. First, there's really no need. Proper application of compost and mulch is much cheaper and easier. Second, chemical fertilizers just aren't as effective as natural methods over the long term. Fertilizers are like speed: effective for a quick "pick me up," but not something you want to use on an ongoing basis. Fertilizers have many of the nutrients (nitrogen, mostly) that plants need, but they lack organic matter that's necessary for continued soil health. Also, fertilizers typically release too quickly: giving plants an overdose or allowing nutrients to drain out of the soil. Compost, on the other hand, releases slowly and also contains abundant organic matter.