Gardeners in Northwest Arkansas are using organic gardening techniques to grow fruits and vegetables for their families. Composting, integrated pest management and selecting varieties that grow well in this area are all important components of organic gardening.
Soil in Northwest Arkansas is clay based. This type of soil holds water and nutrients in the soil. Adding compost to the soil and using compost as mulch will loosen clay soils and feed the plants. Proper composting techniques will give Arkansas gardeners the best garden soil possible.
Build your own compost bin or purchase a manufactured one. Add equal amounts of dry brown matter such as dead plants and green matter like vegetable scraps from the kitchen or grass clippings. This will allow the pile to heat up. It is the decomposition of the items in the compost pile that turns it into compost. If the balance between brown and green items is unequal, the pile will not heat up properly and the compost will take longer to decompose.
There are certain things you should not put into a compost pile, especially if you are using organic gardening practices. Never put meat, chicken or fish scraps into the compost pile. It will attract flies and rodents. Cat, dog and human waste should never be used in a compost pile as it creates a health risk. For organic gardeners, magazines should not be used as there is cause for concern about the content of the coated paper. Oil or grease should not be put into a compost pile. Any type of dish soap should be avoided as well.
A great free composting guide is available to Arkansas residents at their local County Cooperative Extension Office. Just ask for the Composting guide.
Integrated Pest Management
Gardeners in Northwest Arkansas face a variety of garden pests. Japanese beetles, cucumber and squash beetles, and parsley worms are just a few of the pests that will eat a garden. Integrated pest management or IPM involves striking a balance between the crop eating bugs and your plants. It allows for some minor plant damage. Organic pest management will include using insecticidal soaps, predatory insects, hand removal of pests, and row covers. For Arkansas gardeners who want spring and summer greens and cabbage, row covers are a must. Flea beetles attack greens and cabbage with gusto. Row covers prevent the beetles from attacking the plants without using harsh chemicals that could damage the environment.
Choosing the right variety of plants helps makes a gardener’s job a little easier. Organic gardeners in Northwest Arkansas use varieties that are disease resistant. This includes resistance to blights, fusarium wilt and other plant diseases. Other choices are varieties that are known to grow well here. Arkansas black apples are one such variety. Mortgage lifter tomatoes are another heirloom variety that does very well in this area.
One of the best resources for Northwest Arkansas gardeners is the master gardener program. Contact your local county cooperative extension office and ask a master gardener for advice about any gardening issue you may have. In Washington County, 4H is running a Junior Master Gardener program for kids. As part of the program a community garden is being created at the Washington County Cooperative Extension Building. Contact the Cooperative Extension Office in Washington County for more information.
Organic gardening in Northwest Arkansas is increasing in popularity as more people become aware of the negative environmental impact of petroleum based chemicals and fertilizer. Here in Arkansas, the Natural State, we value our environment. Organic gardeners help to preserve it for future generations.