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You are here: Home ›› Learn ›› Resources ›› Sustainable Landscapes ›› What is Organic Gardening?

What is Organic Gardening?

An introduction to the history and basic concepts used in organic gardening.

Carey Thornton, Adult Education Coordinator and Garden Hotline Educator

Organic gardeners work in harmony with nature to grow plants while maintaining the health of the soil, water supply, people and even insects in the environment. 

Until World War II, all gardening was done naturally, without the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Petroleum-based chemicals involved in munitions and nerve gas production during the war evolved into many powerful pesticides. These chemical products have yielded environmental problems such as chemical pollution and pesticide resistance in damaging insects.Pesticide Free Zone

Organic gardeners avoid the use of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers on plants because these can be harmful to beneficial insects, people and other elements of the ecosystem. Instead, they use other techniques to control pests and disease and to keep their plants healthy.

One of the primary practices of organic gardening is to continually build the health of the soil by adding organic matter in the form of compost, mulch or by growing cover crops.  The soil is alive and filled with millions of microscopic organisms that break down organic matter and make it available as nutrients to plants. Organic gardeners recycle plant waste from their gardens and kitchens and return the nutrients back to the soil by making compost.

To keep plants healthy and happy, organic gardeners strive to grow the right plant in the right place. For example, a water loving plant would be planted in a naturally wet section of the garden and a more dry-adapted plant in a drier section of the garden.  Both plants are healthier and a precious resource such as water can be conserved.

By creating gardens with a diversity of plants and encouraging beneficial insects, birds and other critters, organic gardeners create a mini ecosystem that is well balanced.  There are many helpful insects that pollinate crops and help control populations of damaging insects.

In veggie gardens, techniques such as crop rotation can help to keep diseases from building up in the soil and guard against nutrient imbalances.  Other tools organic gardeners use to control pests and disease are applying physical barriers, monitoring insect populations, growing pest-resistant varieties and using botanical pesticides or minerals.


Seattle Tilth's Maritime Northwest Garden Guide
Seattle Tilth's Your Farm in the City
Our Farms & Gardens
Organic Gardening Magazine 
WSU King County Extension

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