Sofias Country Gardens
Five reasons I chose organic gardening
Ever since I first started gardening while in my twenties, I have always gone down the organic route. As I had the choice, I decided to follow a life sustaining approach and do my best to create a healthier environment rather than deplete it. While gardening in England I was of course much more affected by what happened around my two acre garden, and there was no way I could control pollution or pesticides seeping in from the surrounding area. But on my own farm that lies on a peninsula in the Finnish archipelago I have the perfect opportunity to create a tiny eco-paradise. The sea surrounds us on all sides, which provides the perfect surroundings safe from neighbouring pesticide use. Here I have listed the five main reasons I think that you too could be inspired and turn to the good side
1) It's a question of control
It may seem counter intuitive to claim that going organic is a matter of control, as most people would probably worry about all the pests and plant diseases they can't control without chemical warfare on the garden. However, it depends on what one wants to control.
Although I try to do my bit for the environment by recycling religiously, using public transport or walking whenever possible and avoiding consumerism, I have come to accept that I can't save the world nor control the amount of environmental pollution my family or I am exposed to. But, I can save this tiny little corner of Snappertuna and do my damnedest to ensure it is as much of an eco-paradise as possible. On my little farm I can control the amount of chemicals the land is exposed to, and I have chosen to go for zero. No spraying, no artificial fertilisers. When my children were little and spent much of their time outdoors, it felt idiotic to prevent them from eating fast food and sweets while poisoning their playground. Instead I tried to create as healthy an environment as possible both indoors and out, and to bring a holistic approach to our fairly organic lifestyle. Away from home I had no control of the environment, but in our own little sanctuary it felt good to be green.
2) We are a family of fussy eaters
The term fussy eaters is normally associated with kids who will not touch their spuds and prefer additive laden sausages to broccoli, but in my family it is the opposite. Ever since they were little my kids have had an awareness of what goes on in the world around them, and growing our own food has most certainly taught them where crops come from and how it is produced. A piece of meat or a pale tomato on the shop shelf has a point of origin, and making sustainable choices is one of the few ways we as consumers can impact our world. If you have ever watched a documentary on intensive farming and poultry production you will sympathise with the thought of wanting to eat more wholesome food! Most people worry about a few wrinkles in their skin when they should be thinking about what they consume and pay far more attention to the chemicals that are regularly used in food production. Going organic in my own garden was the most obvious choice as regards health and food production, because I really believe a chemical free but wonky carrot is healthier than a perfect looking specimen grown in poison.
3) I was interested in self sustaining gardens
Gardens do demand a lot of time and enormous commitment if they are to look their best, but in creating self-sustaining environments I have managed to take a few shortcuts by enlisting the help of Mother Nature. The truth is that wildlife feeds on wildlife, so by creating a self sustaining eco system I have less of a problem with pests and disease. Hoverfly larvae prey on aphids and are therefore great for biological pest control, as are ladybirds larvae that feed on both aphids and scale insects. I have as yet not had any problems with snails, but then again my gardens are teaming with frogs, toads and birds - all of whom feed on those slimy buggers! Dragonflies and damselflies are my favourite creatures and we have hundreds of them! They are predatory with nymphs feeding on a range of freshwater invertebrates and adults capturing insect prey in the air. Mosquitoes can be terribly annoying in summer, so all insects that prey on them are welcome! Conversely any break in the natural chain will result in less beneficial wildlife that feeds on pests, which is why I do not tamper with the eco system in my garden. I find that when left alone it tends to sort itself out naturally. Of course I help it along by feeding the soil with organic compost and try my best to keep the weeds at bay, but a lot of the work is done for me by Mother Nature herself.
4)I'm too lazy to water flower boarders
On the note of taking shortcuts, I am a pragmatic gardener and I like solutions that work from the start. I get bored enough with watering the kitchen garden every day, so when I extend my cottage garden borders I prefer to do it in a way that makes my own life simple. What I have found is that that the best solution to most problems is to prepare the soil well and select plants that thrive in given conditions. In organic gardening a lot of effort is spent in the beginning, while digging out or making a new no-dig bed, and improving the soil with compost before planting. Afterwards, it is mostly a question of topping up with layers of mulch. I have no wish to impose artificial conditions or force plants to grow where they will not thrive, and as I only fertilise by improving the soil condition it makes the plants grow naturally strong and hardy. Consequently I hardly need to water the plants at all after their initial few weeks. The only exception to this is newly planted trees and perennials if it is a very sunny (first) summer. This means that all my flower boarders are self sustaining, which lessens my workload considerably! The only place I water is the kitchen garden, which has its own shallow well dug by hand back in the days when there was no running water at Stensund.
5. It gives me joy
I am a great fan of nature and find wildlife fascinating, so of course I wanted to attract as much wildlife as possible into my gardens. To me, it is more entertaining seeing wildlife in action than anything found on Netflix. One important aspect is therefore to provide the best possible habitat for the insects, birds and small mammals that visit my sanctuary. This includes not only keeping harmful substances far away from my gardens, but also providing a constant flow of nectar rich flowers and fruit bearing bushes in order to feed visitors for as long a season as possible. To make this work I aim to have a steady stream of blooms from early spring to late autumn, which has the added bonus of giving plenty of colour to the gardens. The spring will begin with bulbs that then give way to perennials, and all summer long there are shrubs that flower at different times. It has become something of a game I play, to find nectar rich flowers for the whole season to delight both myself and the other inhabitants of my gardens. And it does pay off! At Humlegård we even find firefly that nowadays are rare in our part of the country since they apparently adore the sedum carpet behind the house, which thrills me to bits as I remember how plentiful they were when I was a child. The great joy I get from developing my garden year by year and finding new species moving in is more than anything I have ever felt while shopping.