In the Garden:
Middle South
July, 2004
Regional Report

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Native plants like this white milkweed are naturals for an organic garden, a place where people and plants grow together.

My Organic Opinion

Three decades back, when I declared myself an organic gardener, I defined it simply. I would not use pesticides, and would help plants grow by providing them with soil and sites that pleased them. Since then, my gardens have taught me countless lessons that have deepened my appreciation for what gardening is all about, and I am beginning to see the light. Organic gardening -- or any type of gardening, for that matter -- is not about what the gardener wants. It's about aligning oneself with the grandeur of the green world.

Take soil, for example. I've started several new gardens in the last few years, and there is never a question of where to begin. You start at the business end of a shovel. Soil loves to breathe and eat and enjoy the peace to be found beneath a comforter made of mulch. We gardeners ask so much of our soil that it is only right to give it what it wants. Manure, compost, and most of all, plants.

Nature loves plants. Leave a spot alone, and it will heal itself over with weeds. Install a suitable plant, and when the time is right it will bear flowers, or tomatoes, or the delicate raspberries I ate for breakfast. The world wants to be beautiful, productive, and diverse. I work for it, and it works for me.

Sometimes I must assert my desires. Yesterday I killed a woolly caterpillar that was eating the basil. Tomorrow I will pull up what remains of last year's parsley (hundreds of little wasps are finished having their turn at its nectar), and replace it with beans. Granted, I am manipulating things to get what I want, but the garden will get what it wants, too. Older and wiser, I know that this sharing of purpose is the essence of organic gardening.


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