Canadian County OSU Extension Service

Maintaining a Healthy Environment

Recently, I was a victim of the dreaded winter cold. It wasn’t that big of a deal as one is lucky if they get through the winter without a case of the coughs and sneezes. However, as I was coughing and sneezing, I, like many gardeners, suffered from my back going out. 

I had told myself that the next time it happened I was going to try a chiropractor rather than going to a regular medical doctor. I made this decision for a few reasons: (1) because after the doctor gives me medicine it still seems to take a couple of days to get over it, (2) because it seems to only be a temporary fix until the next time I did something that cause it to go out, (3) if you are suffering from back or neck pain, you will try anything for relief. 

I have to admit that I was a bit of a skeptic and a little nervous the first time, but after he took an x-ray and explained to me the process, I better understood what was going on with my body and why I was in pain. The previous doctors had simply told me I had a pinched nerve, gave me some muscle relaxers, and sent me on my way. 

This experience got me thinking about the healthy approach and as with everything, I related it back to gardening. Making the decision to go to the chiropractor to get relief and potentially long-term health without medicine seemed similar to deciding whether to incorporate organic gardening methods.

With today’s green movement more and more people are becoming interested in organic gardening and are becoming more aware about what chemicals are being used to produce  their food. I think most people would say that it is probably better for the environment to use natural materials rather than synthetic, but what is the real difference between using organic vs. inorganic materials. 

I had used the synthetic approach to fixing my back and although it eventually provided relief it did not necessary add to my overall health. The chiropractor showed me the root (no pun intended) of my neck problem and has continued to adjust me to provide long-term relief. This more “organic” solution did not introduce anything synthetic into my body/environment and will provide me with a better situation down the road. Organic gardening like chiropractic offers a natural approach to fixing a problem. Furthermore, it can enhance the long-term health of the soil/environment.

For the person that is interested in getting started in organic gardening, I say the best way is to ease into it. Don’t think you are going to be completely organic from the very beginning and successful (especially if you have Bermuda grass nearby), but instead begin looking for the organic solutions first – whether it be mulch, fertilizer, seed, or pesticides.

It is a little bit easier to organically maintain the first two, mulch and fertilizer; however, when it comes to pest (weeds, disease, or insects) going with the organic solution can be a little more difficult. 

Depending on your situation, the value of your crop, and the severity of the problem, you may do a little “experimenting” or “trial and error” with different organic solutions to find which works best. Sometimes these solutions may take a little longer than the chemical alternative and that is when you have to weigh the value of not introducing synthetic chemicals into the environment. 

I am not necessarily promoting one method over another, organic vs. inorganic or chiropractic vs. medicine, only pointing out the similarities of maintaining a healthy environment, be it one’s body or their garden. This is a decision that each person must make for themselves based on their particular situation. 

In fact, there are many things you can do to keep yourself healthy that are similar to keeping plants healthy. 

Sanitation – Everyone has heard the doctors say washing hands helps to prevent the spread of the cold and flu. Well sanitation and cleaning up plant material is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of plants diseases.

Open wounds – Open wounds are an invitation to infection, that is why we put ointment and band-aids on cuts. Well, this is true for plants also. No, not the ointment and band-aid, but the open wound and infection. Anytime you prune a plant or a plant is damaged in a storm it creates an opening for insects and diseases to enter. Like a doctor that knows how to properly operate on people it is important that someone who is going to prune their plants knows how to properly do it in order to reduce the likelihood of infection. 

Maintaining a Stress Free, Health Lifestyle – Every doctor will tell you maintaining a healthy, stress free lifestyle through a healthy diet and exercise aids in preventing other health issues. This is true for plants as well. By maintaining healthy plants with proper fertilization and the appropriate environmental factors (i.e. sunlight, soil, water, etc.) your plants will be less like to be infected by a disease or insect and will recover quicker. 

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