How to Choose Organic Gardening Supplies

Nine Methods:Understand Organic CertificationsChoose Environmentally Friendly ToolsSelect Recyclable Growing ContainersChoose Organic SoilSelect Organic Seeds and PlantsSelect Organic Pest Control ProductsChoose Organic FertilizersSelect Organic Weed KillersChoose Organic Water Conservation Methods

According to the USDA, organic is a term used to label agricultural products that have been grown or produced using approved biological, mechanical and cultural practices, promoting ecological balance and biodiversity. Products that are labeled as organic go through a rigorous certification program. To meet the growing demand for organic products, gardening retailers now offer many options in organic gardening supplies. Use these tips to choose organic gardening supplies for your garden.

Method 1
Understand Organic Certifications

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    Read all gardening supply packaging to determine if the product is organic.
    • Check for the USDA organic seal. In 2002, the USDA began the National Organic Program (NOP), which is a certification program for organic products. All products labeled with the USDA organic seal have been grown or processed using NOP-approved methods. Synthetic fertilizers, toxic pesticides, genetic engineering, sewage sludge and irradiation are not used in the production of NOP-approved products.
    • Evaluate the product for the Organic Material Review Institute (OMRI) approval. The OMRI provides independent product reviews for organic growers, suppliers, manufacturers and certifiers. The OMRI publishes an approved list of products produced, processed and handled with organic guidelines.
    • Look for the Organically Grown (OG) label. Gardening supplies labeled with an "OG" are organically grown but not necessarily certified by a national program or institute. OG products are typically locally grown or produced using organic methods.

Method 2
Choose Environmentally Friendly Tools

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    Select tools that are made with environmentally sensitive materials. While most basic gardening tools are not labeled as "organic," some gardening tools are made from natural materials using low-impact production practices.
    • Look for gardening tools made with wood materials, rather than plastic.
    • Consider bamboo brooms, rather than commercially produced brooms.
    • Select gardening materials that do not require gas or electricity. Choose manual pruning saws, trimmers and shears, rather than electric or gas versions.
    • Use wood baskets for collecting produce, rather than plastic bins.

Method 3
Select Recyclable Growing Containers

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    Choose growing containers made of natural materials. Start seedlings in organic containers that break down naturally, such as wood, clay, peat or paper. Organic containers can be planted directly in the garden, so the plant's roots aren't disturbed when transplanting.
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    Reuse containers for growing seeds. Grow seedlings in recycled containers like yogurt cups, egg cartons or milk cartons. Be sure to poke drainage holes in the bottom of recycled containers. Recycled containers can't be transplanted directly into the garden because they do not break down naturally.

Method 4
Choose Organic Soil

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    Purchase organic soil. Organic soil is generally made up of natural decayed plant matter, black humus and sterilized manure. It usually does not contain peat, which is a nonrenewable resource. It also should not contain any pesticides or fertilizers. Because of its rich content, organic soil can be reused in gardens or containers each year.
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    Amend your existing soil. Rather than purchase an organic soil, add necessary nutrients to your existing soil.
    • Test your soil. Using a shovel or garden spade, dig to a depth of about 6 inches (15.2 cm) in your soil. Place the soil in a zipper-sealed plastic bag, and bring the bag to a local agricultural laboratory, extension office or garden center for testing. The testing center will provide a report on what nutrients your soil needs to support healthy plant growth.
    • Add organic matter to amend the soil. Use your own resources to create compost for the soil. Save decaying plant waste, leaves, grass clippings and vegetable scraps from the kitchen to create organic matter.

Method 5
Select Organic Seeds and Plants

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    Choose seeds that are certified organic. In order to be considered organic, seeds must come from organic plants that have not been exposed to chemicals. Organic seeds should be labeled as Certified Organic.
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    Choose organic plants. Organic plants have been grown using organic production principles. They will not have been exposed to chemicals in the forms of fertilizers or insecticides. Organic plants should be labeled as Certified Organic.
    • Select local plants. A key principle in organic gardening is choosing local plants that thrive naturally in your environment. Native plants are naturally hardier because they are accustomed to the climate and pests in your region.

Method 6
Select Organic Pest Control Products

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    Determine the treatment based on the specific pest. Not all insects are harmful to plants, and some are actually beneficial. Determine what type of pest is harming your plants before selecting a pest control solution.
    • Move the pest. Often times, you can determine where the pest is coming from and then relocate the pest's home base.
    • Determine what will repel the specific pest. Organic baits, traps and nontoxic repellents can be used to safely remove pests. Some examples of nontoxic repellents include mineral oil, liquid soap, clove oil herbicide and hot pepper sprays.
    • Purchase organic pest control products at your local garden center. Seek advice from local garden experts before using any pest control products. When choosing an organic pest control product, make sure it is labeled as Certified Organic.
    • Build barriers to keep pests away from plants. Use row cover, which is a woven fabric, to keep pests away. The row cover allows air, light and water to reach plants without letting pests access the plants.

Method 7
Choose Organic Fertilizers

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    Select organic fertilizers from your local garden center. Organic fertilizers do not include harsh chemicals or pollutants, and they should be labeled as Certified Organic. Look for organic formulas rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK), with a higher phosphorus (P) number for root and flower growth.
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    Choose fertilizers based on your specific soil needs. Amend the soil, based on a soil test from your garden. A soil test will indicate what nutrients your soil is lacking and also will keep you from adding unnecessary nutrients to the soil.
    • Use bone meal if your soil lacks phosphorus. Bone meal is a natural material rich in phosphorus. It is ideal for container plants but also can be added to the garden to help build strong root systems in plants.
    • Use blood meal if your soil lacks nitrogen. Blood meal is ideal for flowers. It is high in nitrogen, so should be used sparingly.
    • Consider fish meal, seaweed, bat guano, alfalfa meal, earthworm castings and manure as organic fertilizers ideal for boosting nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Method 8
Select Organic Weed Killers

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    Mulch gardens to minimize weeds. Use organic materials in your yard, such as grass clippings, dried leaves and wood chips to mulch gardens. The mulch serves as an effective ground cover that smothers weeds and keeps them from spreading.
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    Use the solarization method to kill weeds prior to planting beds. Cover the garden bed with clear plastic. The sun naturally heats the plastic, killing off weeds in the upper layer of soil. Remove the plastic before planting.
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    Use vinegar as a natural weed killer. Spray full-strength vinegar directly on weeds as they emerge.
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    Select organic weed killers from your local garden center. Organic weed killers do not include harsh chemicals or pollutants, and should be labeled as Certified Organic.

Method 9
Choose Organic Water Conservation Methods

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    Use a rain barrel to gather water naturally. Harvest rainwater in a rain barrel and use it to water plants. Rain barrels are available commercially, or you can reuse an existing container to gather rain.
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    Water plants in the morning or evening. Evaporation is slower when the air is cool, so water plants in either the morning or the evening to conserve water.


  • Read all gardening supply labels carefully to determine in the product is organic.

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Categories: Gardening