Many of us know the classic Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise And The Hare. In the story, the hare ridicules the tortoise for moving too slowly. Frustrated, the tortoise challenges the hare to a race. Both animals take off, and the hare quickly leaves the tortoise far behind. Confident of his win, the hare lays down mid-race to take a nap. Meanwhile, the tortoise keeps plugging along and eventually surpasses the sleeping hare to win the race. Slow and steady wins the race!
What do quick but overconfident hares and slow, hard-working tortoises have to do with organic gardening? A lot, actually.
Organic fertilizers improve your soil over weeks and months
Organic garden products are tortoises. They will not green your lawn overnight nor force your flower garden to bloom in the middle of winter. They work more slowly in your garden than conventional fertilizers. So why is this important? Organic fertilizers will slowly and steadily nourish your garden by working with the life in your soil to provide the right nutrients at the right time. This will reward you handsomely with a vibrant, sustainable ecosystem that promotes life in your garden that will make managing and working your garden easier and more satisfying.
Organic garden products aren’t really focused on the plant, per se. They work by feeding the soil, the key to life in your garden. Beneficial bacteria, fungi, and microorganisms need to warm up to start converting organic fertilizers into plant available nutrients. As a result, warm weather plays a critical role in a process that can take weeks or months, depending on the time of year.
Slower is better for plants and the environment
A slow and steady diet of diverse nutrients is what’s best for your plants. It’s akin to people eating a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Plants nurtured in this way develop thick, strong cell walls that are not susceptible to pests and diseases. Healthy soil equals healthy plants!
Plants in an organic garden are growing at the ideal time of year for that particular plant and are dormant or only growing slowly at less ideal times of year. The soil organisms needed to convert organic fertilizers into plant nutrients simply don’t work when temperatures get too cold. This means a warm season lawn will not be vibrant green during the winter, no matter how much organic fertilizer you spread on it. And this is a good thing! Plants that are forced to ignore the seasonal rhythm of the year tend to be weaker. Pests and diseases thrive on weakened plants.
Slower is better for pets and backyard wildlife
Do you enjoy watching hummingbirds visit their favorite brightly-colored, tubular flowers? Are you delighted by bumble bees covered in pollen? The slow and steady organic approach encourages plants to do their thing at the right time of year. Hummingbirds migrate northward as favorite plant varieties begin to bloom. Likewise, bumble bees evolved alongside particular plants that have particular blooming habits. If your plants were blooming two weeks ahead of time, you likely missed the opportunity to marvel at these wonderful creatures.
The slower pace of organic gardening is better for your pets as well. Organic garden products help keep your soil healthy and populated with beneficial organisms. When soil is stripped of those beneficial organisms through constant use of synthetic chemicals, there is risk that pests will move in. Not just plant pests, but the pests that bother your pets as well. For example, soil that can no longer hold water because it has been over fertilized with synthetic chemicals may be susceptible to creating an environment for fleas.
Slower is better for people
There are so many lessons to be learned from nature if only we are willing to slow down, watch and listen. Hate to exercise but know moving your body is important? Do a little bit of physical gardening each day. Pulling weeds out by hand burns way more calories than simply spraying them with chemicals!
Garden work (in gardens with healthy soil) is also known to improve your mood. Researchers from Bristol University and University College London discovered that beneficial soil bacteria activate brain cells to produce serotonin which causes feelings of well-being and happiness. That rich soil not only feels good in your hands and smells good to your nose – it’s actually good for you!
Take it from Aesop, slow and steady will produce the kind of results desired, especially in the garden.