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Re: Fertilizing


   Let me preface what I am about to say by pointing out that, although I am 
a "hard core" organic gardener on a personal level, I am not a wild-eyed 
zealot intent on bringing the "better living through chemistry" heathens into 
the light.  Organic gardening is not for everyone ---- it is time consuming, 
labor intensive (check the price of organically grown produce at the local 
grocery store) and involves quite a bit of "learning the hard way."  

   Continued and heavy applications of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides 
do have an extreme and lasting effect on the health of the soil.  They burn 
and eventually kill off all of the microorganisms essential to good soil 
health and structure --- the soil is now barren and the plants grown there 
are dependent upon the continued application of chemical fertilizers in order 
to grow and thrive --- if the feeding regimen is stopped, 
the plants will probably die long before the soil can "rebuild" itself.

   The discussion of monoculture did get just a tad out of hand --- and a bit 
One of the reasons monculture works so well for food crops (aside from the 
fact that the feeding regimen can concentrate on a particular plant's 
nutritional and moisture needs) is that high production is dependent on high 
fertilization rates (fertilization as in the setting of fruit, not feeding).  
In the ordinary home ornamental garden, this is not an issue.

   A couple reasons why I believe monoculture in the home ORGANIC garden is 
not a prudent practice ........

1.  Different plants have different nutritional needs.  A garden bed of any 
single type of plant is going to use up certain types of nutrients during the 
growing season and "ignore" others.  In the organic garden, you simply cannot 
apply enough organic material to the soil during one season to replace what 
is being depleted.  Even if you could, soil dwelling creatures may not be 
able to process it quickly enough to match the needs of the plants.  A 
variety of plants with a variety of needs and benefits helps to alleviate 
such problems.

2.  In monoculture, plant-specific pests and diseases might wipe you out in a 
single season.  Plant a hosta with foliar nematodes in a bed full of hostas 
and, within a year's time, they will all be infected.  Nematodes are really a 
poor example because they do affect some other plants as well and there is 
still so much that we don't know about them --- but I think you can 
understand what I mean.  There has been a tremendous explosion in the use of 
hostas in the home garden in recent years.  Who knows what problem pests and 
diseases may be imported or simply develop in the future.

  And from a purely aesthetic perspective, nothing makes for a more 
beautiful, textured shade garden than the combination of assorted varieties 
of our magnificent hostas with heucheras, carex, liriope, ferns, brunnera, 
pulmonaria, Japanese maples, asarum, etc, etc.

   For what it's worth ...

Sandie Markland 
Lorton, Virginia 
Zone 7 
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