Gardening: What is “Organic”?

“Organic” is one of those terms that are often touted, but little understood. We’ve seen fruits and vegetables being labelled as “organic”, but what does it actually mean? How is organic gardening different from the regular one? Here’s a quick explanation…

What is organic gardening?

Organic gardening can be defined as gardening with no synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, says Charlotte Glen of North Carolina Cooperative Extension. This means replacing the manmade, chemical-based products with natural ones, such as self-made compost and helpful predators (e.g. ladybugs, which consume crop-eating insects).

Is organic gardening better than the conventional one?

It is still up to debate.

Proponents of organic gardening believe that it will have more positive effects on the environment, and its produces will be healthier, safer and more nutritious for consumption.

The former claim has been analysed by scientists from the US Department of Agriculture, who found that organic gardening indeed uses less energy, locks more beneficial carbon in the soil, makes the soil more fertile, and makes more profit for farmers due to decreasing expenditure on chemicals. However, a report by the Washington Post argued that conventional gardening also has its own advantages, such as less erosion and more yields.

“On farms, in academic institutions and in regulatory agencies, I’ve found that nearly everyone thinks there is value in having farmers employ and improve all kinds of practices,” wrote columnist Tamar Haspel.

While it is advisable in farming to diversify the systems, you could reap some environmental benefits from organic systems in personal, small-scale gardening.

The latter claim, however, has been largely refuted by scientists. Studies found that while organic produces on average have more antioxidant, they are also lower in protein and fibre. While no chemical pesticides are used in organic gardening, the organic pesticides can still be toxic to human body.

 

Organic gardening can be a welcome change to your green life, especially because of its environmental benefits. However, do not overestimate its effect on body health – sufficient consumption of fruits and vegetables is more important than the organic-ness of said produces.